Maybe it’s because it was built in Canada. Maybe it’s due to my love of oddball vehicles. But the Bricklin SV-1 is one of my favourite cars of all time despite it being a terrible, terrible vehicle. The name SV-1 stood for safety vehicle one, as the car featured a lot of innovative safety technologies, like an integrated structure that worked as a pseudo roll cage.
But other than being safe, the SV-1 wasn’t much good at anything else. It wasn’t a performance car (although it wasn’t too far off a base Corvette in 1975), it wasn’t efficient, and it is the furthest thing from practical as a car could get.
The gullwing doors and high side sills did offer occupants a lot of side impact safety but made ingress and egress a nightmare. And that was when the doors would actually open as the hydraulic cylinders were prone to failure. Even if they worked, it still took a reported 12 seconds for the nearly 100 lbs. doors to open.
Despite its wedgy, exotic shape, the SV-1 is actually a front-engine car. Straight line performance was respectable thanks to a pair of V8s. First year cars got a more powerful, more temperamental AMC V8 that could even be matched to a manual transmission. Second year models received a less powerful Ford 351 V8 that only came with a three-speed automatic.
And the second year is as far as the SV-1 would go. Horrid build quality, skyrocketing pricing and a general lack of interest in the car kept sales to a minimum. The car was introduced in 1974 and dead by 1976.
But I Still Love It
Despite this laundry list of flaws, I can’t help myself – I love the car. When I see one of these cars, restored to pristine condition, I can’t help but smile. It’s such a cool ‘70s design, that was available in a fantastic colour palette. Those who don’t know car are never quite sure what it is. A Ferrari? A Datsun? A DeLorean?
I’d love to own one, although I would probably never have it in running condition due to my minimal mechanical abilities. My ultimate goal would be to have one with a LS swap of some kind, and mechanically actuate doors.
But that is just a pipe dream and I will continue to admire, adore and respect these cars…from a distance.
*Cool fact: the SV-1 was leased to the Scottsdale, Arizona police force.