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With the arrival of summer and in honour of that beloved bittersweet beverage, lemonade, from now until fall, we shall present a look back at some of the most memorable lemons of yesteryear on a weekly basis. We're talking design disasters, marketing misfits, engineering errors and aesthetic abominations. In short, a car owner's nightmare but a technician's dream come true.
This week, let's all collectively hold our noses as we present that all-Canadian stinker: the Bricklin SV-1. The best thing one can say about the Bricklin is that aesthetically-speaking, the sports coupe still has a futuristic vibe to it some 35 years after the last one rolled off a New Brunswick assembly line.
Alas, looking back in the rear-view mirror of 20/20 hindsight, good looks are all the Bricklin had going for it. By any other measure - from structural integrity to return on investment - the Bricklin was a made-in-Canada disaster.
According to the Bricklin International Owners Club, company founder Malcolm Bricklin made his initial fortune in hardware/plumbing supply franchising in Florida before he was 25. He should have stuck to two-by-fours and toilets. Instead, the smooth-talking entrepreneur somehow convinced the New Brunswick government to put up the lion's share of a multi-million dollar investment to build the SV-1. Two Bricklin plants were opened in Minto and Saint John and hope abounded that a Canadian sports car would soon emerge as a world-beater.
But problems soon emerged. For starters, there was the price. The idea was to have the Bricklin sell for $4,000, but cost overruns caused the price to spike to $7,490 by the time the first 1974 model rolled off the line. By 1975, the price tag further inflated to $9,980. This made the Bricklin uncompetitive on a price basis versus competition such as the Chevrolet Corvette.
But even those who had enough scratch to purchase a Bricklin were soon full of buyer's remorse.
The fibreglass body panels were notoriously poor in quality and had a tendency to warp and crack. The whiz-bang electro-hydraulic gull-wing door system was prone to failure (sometimes trapping the Bricklin's occupants inside - in an age before cell phones.) Even the door weather-stripping would tend to leak.
The Bricklin was no terror under the hood, either. The 780 cars produced in 1974 featured a 220-horsepower AMC V8. Because of supply problems, in 1975 a switch was made to the 175-horsepower Ford 351V8 for the 2,062 cars produced that year.
Alas, by September of '75, the New Brunswick government had had enough and pulled the plug on further funding. The company promptly fell into receivership, and so ended the Bricklin saga - a Canuck car fiasco from start to finish.