Malcolm Bricklin

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Malcolm N. Bricklin
Malcolm at the Peninsula.jpg
Born (1939-03-09) March 9, 1939 (age 76)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Florida
Known for known for his self-named automobile company, importer of foreign cars
Spouse(s) Sania Teymeny

Malcolm N. Bricklin, born March 9, 1939, “is recognized as one of the automobile industry's leading entrepreneurs, innovators and visionaries. He has over 50 years of experience in designing, engineering, manufacturing, remanufacturing, importing, distributing and marketing automobiles.” [1] Identified as one of the World’s 60 Greatest Minds by Mike Wallace,[2] he is one of four men in the United States after World War II to design, manufacture and sell his own car.[3] “But he did much more than manufacture his own car, he is somewhat of a visionary, able to spot future trends long before anyone else. He was one of the first auto industry mavericks to recognize that thrifty, inexpensive Japanese cars could be big in the United States and created Subaru,” [4] which is currently ranked 10th in US automobile sales.[5] The Bricklin SV-1 gull-wing safety sports car was the first of its kind in utilizing acrylic and fiberglass panels, and a chassis capable of withstanding a high velocity impact without deformation.[6] Its goals of blending style with safety and performance are as relevant today as they were when the car hit the market for the 1974 model year.[7] He is the only automobile entrepreneurs to import 5 automobiles into the United States: Subaru, Bricklin SV1, Bertone, Pinanfarina, and Yugo.

Handyman America[edit]

He joined his father’s established building supply business in Orlando in 1958.

"Bricklin has proven to be something of a visionary, able to spot future trends long before anyone else." [8] To take advantage of the growth of the suburbs and the increased homeowners’ interest in doing repairs themselves, Bricklin created Handyman,[9] neighborhood franchised hardware stores utilizing the most current computerized “just in time” inventory distribution.

Handyman’s first chain of central Florida stores was supported by a centralized warehouse. Each day trucks delivered inventory to replace products sold the day before. Inventory tracking and replacement was done using IBM “punch cards” - each item was represented by a card, and cards were picked up a night for inventory replacement the next day.[10]

The efficiency of the “just in time” inventory control system allowed individuals to enter the business without having to invest in stocking large inventories. Individual franchise fees were $15,000.

Handyman had approximately 147 stores. These included company owned and operated stores, franchise operated stores, and stores and licenses in process in Florida and other territories including Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Bricklin sold his interest in Handyman to Dixie Paint and Varnish,[11] a paint company in Brunswick, Georgia that was private labeling paint for the Handyman stores. After purchasing the Handyman chain, Dixie Paint and Varnish changed the concept from hardware stores to just paint stores.


In the mid-1960s, after he sold his interest in the Handyman chain of hardware stores, Bricklin moved back to Philadelphia. When he was exploring establishing a network of gas stations that would rent scooters, he went to Japan to meet with the manufacturer of the Rabbit scooter, Fiji Heavy Industries, to arrange for the purchase and importation of their scooters. But Fuji was getting out of manufacturing and was concentrating on their car business.

At the meeting, Bricklin saw Fuji’s Subaru 360 mini-car, which got up to 60 miles to a gallon of gas and didn’t require federalizing in the United States because it was less than 1,000 pounds [only 960 pounds].[12]

Bricklin was able to secure an exclusive Importation Contract with Fuji Heavy Industries to import Subaru cars and trucks into the United States. He formed Subaru of America – the first and only US Independent importer to exclusively own the distribution of cars in the United States.[13] “He was one of the first auto industry mavericks to recognize that thrifty, inexpensive Japanese cars could be big in the United States.” [14]

The first Subarus to enter the US were:[15]

1968-1969: Subaru 360. 1970 Subaru Star. 1000cc, FF-1 1300 Star with a 1100 cc engine and front inboard brakes. The Star had front wheel drive, the first car company to bring all its cars into the US with front wheel drive until Subaru of America added all-wheel drive to all Subarus.

Less than six months after the company formed, they became a public company and have been from 1968.[16]

Subaru of America went on to become the only import car company that was publicly traded; it made small fortunes for its two co-founders, Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm.[17]


Bricklin SV1 Bricklin's next venture was his own car company, General Vehicle, started with funding from the sale of his Subaru of America ownership.

The Bricklin SV-1 is a two-seat gull-wing door sports car. "SV" stands for safety vehicle, and Bricklin applied standards far ahead of anything the United States government was imposing in the 1970s.

The Bricklin was delivered to the customer without paint. A vacuum forming process bonded color-impregnated acrylic to each fiberglass body panel. Minor scratches would be buffed out and had its unique “safety color” molded in to the acrylic body.

The car exceeded U.S. crash protection standards. It protected occupants with a tubular steel perimeter frame and roll cage and a chassis capable of withstanding a high velocity impact without deformation.

As the SV1 was designed to include every option as standard equipment (except a cigarette lighter and ashtray, as Bricklin viewed smoking while driving as unsafe)[18]

Manufactured for the US market, the Bricklin SV1s were produced in New Brunswick, Canada, a location chosen because the government of New Brunswick was seeking ways to address their high unemployment, which in the mid-’70s was pushing 25%.[19]

New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield supported the Province’s involvement of the Bricklin venture as a way of establishing a manufacturing base that could provide steady, high paying jobs and attract interest in the Province through the publicity the car provided.[20]

Production at the plants began in mid 1974 and continued through late 1975, employing over 1200 people in the St. John and Minto, New Brunswick.runswick Bricklin plants.[21]

The car garnered strong, mostly positive, coverage from car magazines and consumer media that Hatfield was seeking.[22]

In Car & Driver's comparison test, a '75 Bricklin with the Ford engine proved to be nearly a match for a '75 Corvette in every performance category--and the Bricklin's power-operated gullwing doors maxed out the all-important "coefficient of cool" metric, the Bricklin was not doing too badly for a rookie. Car and Drive concluded that despite some build quality and ergonomic deficiencies, and a price disadvantage, the Bricklin was "a tangible threat to the Corvette."[23]

In September 1975, after building 2,854 cars, and General Vehicles having set up over 400 US automobile dealers with 40,000 back orders, the Province refused to provide any more financial assistance and forced the company into receivership. ) [24]

The Bricklin SV1 may not have been a commercial success, but its goals of blending style with safety and performance are as relevant today as they were when the car hit the market for the 1974 model year. ***

Canada Commemorates the Bricklin [25][26][27][28]

Stamp - Canada issued a Bricklin SV1 stamp on June 8, 1996 as part of a series commemorating Historic Land Vehicles. It had a face value of 45¢

Silver Coin – In 2003, the Royal Canadian Mint commemorated the historic car with a $20 sterling silver coin. This coin features the Bricklin SV-1. This futuristic car’s unique design is captured on this coin in gold gilding.

Bricklin SV1 Fan Club - Bricklin International Owners’ Club [29]

An estimated 1500 Bricklin SV1s still exist today. Bricklin International (BI) reports 570 active members with cars on the road and in restoration.[30]

The Bricklin is Displayed in Museums Worldwide

The Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, Ontario owns a white Bricklin SV-1 (Artifact no. 1975.0622) There are only a couple of Bricklins in the Southern hemisphere. One of note is resident in Christchurch, New Zealand. Another was up for auction in Australia in November 2006. An orange Bricklin is on show as part of the Haynes International Motor Museum collection in Sparkford, Somerset in England. A white Bricklin is on show as part of the permanent collection of the Western Development Museum's location in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. An orange Bricklin is on display as part of the permanent collection of the LeMay America's Car Museum, located in Tacoma, Washington, USA. A green Bricklin is a part of the collection owned and displayed at the Musee De L'Auto located in Les Jardins De La Republique Provincial Park in Edmondson, New Brunswick. The car sports 1976 New Brunswick license plates bearing the DS (Dominion Service) designator, indicating that the vehicle was owned by the provincial government. This may have been the vehicle that was driven by then-premier Richard Hatfield.

A fully restored Bricklin used to be on display in the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, New Brunswick, however, after a first floor flood, it has been taken to an archives site and is under re-restoration. A tan Bricklin is on display at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, California, a museum that originally contained primarily Ford models and engines but now exhibits a cross-section of all marques. A tan Bricklin is on display in The American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida. In 1976, the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto exhibited a model that was cut in half in order to show design elements unique to the vehicle.

A white 1975 Ford powered Bricklin is on display at the Kraftfahrzeugmuseum (motor vehicle museum) in Sigmundsherberg, Lower Austria.

The Bricklin SV1 is featured in Movies, and Musicals and Songs

CBC Bricklin Musical [31]

International Automobile Importers (IAI)[edit]

International Automobile Importers (IAI) In 1982, with Fiat leaving the U.S. market, Bricklin created International Automobile Importers (A1) to import the Italian Fiat 2000 roadster, renaming it the Pininfarina, and the Fiat X/1-9, rebadging it Bertone.[32] The company was profitable. But when Cadillac made a deal with Pininfarina, IAI was told that Cadillac didn’t want a $14,000 Pininfarina being sold next to its $55,000 Allante, they gave IAI six months before they cancelled production of the cars to give us time to find an alternative import.[33]

Yugo, Global Motors[edit]

Yugo, Global Motors Bricklin wanted to import a simple, low cost car to the U.S. market, was introduced to Zastava located in Kragujevac, Yugoslavia. Zastava had begun producing cars in 1953 under a license from Italian Fiat. In 1984, the entire Yugoslav car industry produced 236,000 cars, 58,000 of which were exported.[34]

Bricklin, Senior advisor, Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Under-Secretary of State and Yugo Board member, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Global Motors executives met with Zastava. Bricklin agreed to import the Zastava Koral, the Yugo.[35]

Bricklin and his engineers suggested some 600 changes in the Yugo for export to keep the Yugo competitive with other cars in its class, a 1.1-liter, 4-cylinder engine, in the U.S. Those changes included improvements in the anti-pollution system, comfort adjustments, safety devices and special carburetors for lead-free gasoline. In addition to the main Kragujevac complex, about 200 smaller Yugoslav factories produce parts for ZCZ cars.[36]

Bricklin had his own people at the plant to monitor the effort, constantly stressing the need for high quality. A team of British quality experts sent a cadre to Kragujevac to study the factory and recommend improvements.[37]

The first shipment of the Yugos sailed from the Yugoslav southern Adriatic port of Bar for Baltimore in July 1985.[38]

Sales The Yugo was the fastest-selling car ever from Europe…163,000 in three years.[39] The Yugo was the least expensive new car sold in the United States.[40]

At first, five models of Yugo were sold in the United States for the 1987 model year: the basic entry-level $3,990 GV (for "Great Value"), the GVC with a glass sunroof, the nearly identical GVL and GVS with minor trim and upholstery upgrades, and the race-inspired GVX with the 1300 cc engine, five-speed manual transmission and standard equipment including a plush interior, ground-effects package, alloy wheels, rally lights, and a centre high mount stop lamp. The Cabrio convertible was introduced in 1988.[41]

Sale of Company Malcolm Bricklin sold his interest in Yugo in 1988 for $20 million dollars.[42]

1992 United Nations Sanctions and US Bombing May 30, 1992 United Nations sanctions were imposed, severing Yugoslavia from world trade.[43]

The effects of the United Nations sanctions on Yugoslavia forced Zastava to withdraw the car from every export market. After embargoes stifled production, the coup de grâce was NATO's 1999 bombing of the company's automotive division, instead of Zastava's arms manufacturing division.[44]

Yugo Critics and Defenders The Yugo was subjected to derision by critics who pointed to its use of old-generation Fiat technology and to alleged issues with build quality and reliability. The Yugo was voted Car Talk 's worst car of the millennium. [45]

Defenders of the vehicle have counter-argued that the Yugo's reputation suffered due to an issue that also appeared with initially inexpensive cars as the Chevrolet Chevette, Rambler, Crosley, and others — dealers were finding that too many owners were considering inexpensive cars as "disposable", and were failing to perform basic maintenance such as oil changes. Some Yugo owners have reported that regular oil changes and appropriate maintenance allow the cars to remain dependable and trouble-free.[46]

Popular Mechanics surveyed 1,000 Yugo buyers and published the report in June 1987. In terms of quality and workmanship 78% said the workmanship was good to excellent. [25% giving it an unqualified excellent.] 42.4% would buy a Yugo again [36% maybe] Only 5% said poor.[47]

Electric Vehicles[edit]

In the 1990s, Bricklin turned his attention to the idea of producing environmentally friendly vehicles. He studied battery technology and went on to form an electric vehicle company.

Bricklin thought electric vehicles were the wave of the future. Of course, he was right — just about fifteen years ahead of his time.[48]

After trying to get electric cars off the ground for a time, Bricklin formed a partnership with Dr. Malcolm Currie. Currie is the former Chairman and CEO of Hughes Aircraft, GM Delco and former Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.[49] In Bricklin’s and Currie’s view, the electric bike was a promising first step to winning people over to the idea of electric cars.[50]

They formed Electric Bicycle Company and developed an infrastructure through car dealers to sell the bikes.

After three years in development, in 1996, the EV Warrior electric bicycle was born.[51]

The rider could pedal unaided by the motors, or could activate them with a thumb switch on the handle bar. That smoothly, quietly and quickly takes the bike to 20 mph if the rider pedals, or to 15 mph with no pedaling before it needed a charge. Among the special features were high-tech turn signals and brake lights on the two rear-view mirrors.

It came in seven colors, resembling s a mountain bike with a steel box behind the seat that straddles the rear wheel. Inside the box are two 24-volt electric motors powered by two rechargeable 12-volt lead-acid batteries. The suggested retail price was $1,400 to $1,900, depending on options, the "EV Warrior".[52]

“It was an idea that had a great deal of merit… But we were also saddled with a bunch of weird regulations. Turns out if you slap even a low-powered motor on a bike it becomes a “vehicle.” We had to create VIN numbers, meet Department of Transportation regulations, which included having headlights that were as powerful as car headlights, and riders had to wear motorcycle helmets and typically get special motorcycle licenses in order to ride the things. We’re talking bikes with little motors, here, and all this rigmarole just about killed the idea before it started. The bikes were very top heavy, the drive mechanism was finicky….” [53]

Car and Driver asked Bricklin, “ once again you were ahead of your time with the EV Warrior, an electric bicycle, in the early 1990s.” [54] MB: When you drove that bicycle, it was fast, it was fun, you could pedal or not pedal—it was cool looking. But I made two mistakes. One was selling it through car dealers for a $50 commission, and two, when you drove it around a parking lot, you loved it—but on the street, with cars all over the place, it scared the hell out of you!

When the company folded, Electric Bicycle company was purchased by Lee Iacocca who renamed the company EV Globlal. That company no longer exists.[55]

Currie founded Currie Cruisers and co-founded Real Spirit USA, to further develop the electric bicycles.[56]

Bricklin began exploring Fuel Cell vehicle technology.

Fuel Cells[edit]

In 1998, Bricklin started EVX, Inc. and was also Chief Executive Officer of Fuel Cell Companies, Inc.[57]

Bricklin worked closely with Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California to explore Fuel Cells with the stated desire to demonstrate the first commercially viable Fuel Cell vehicle system in the United States.[58]

Fuel Cell Companies, Inc. was acquired by TechSys Inc. of New Jersey for stock with the declared value of $1,021,800 in 2001.[59]

Bricklin then began his search for a manufacturing partner that could help him create another value brand in the US.

The search for the global car[edit]

Beginning in 2002, Bricklin began his search for a manufacturing partner that could help him create another value brand in the US. He thought briefly with the idea of Yugo again, but the factories were in disrepair and he didn't feel he could create a quality vehicle there. Bricklin embarked on a three-year journey around the world to find a manufacturing partner. He looked in the United Kingdom, India, Poland and finally decided to work on importing cars manufactured by China-based Chery Automobile instead. Bricklin's deal with Chery was signed at the end of 2004, and the inexpensive vehicles were announced to be available in the United States in 2007 from his newly named company, Visionary Vehicles LLC. Bricklin sued Chery in July 2008, claiming he lost $26 million in start up costs and $14 billion in expected profits. According to the lawsuit, the deal with Chery fell through in November 2006. Chery subsequently sought to partner with Chrysler and Quantum LLC.[60]

On July 15, 2013 a federal jury awarded Bricklin's V Cars LLC (known as Visionary Vehicles LLC before 2008) $2 million in damages from KCA Engineering LLC. The suit stems from Visionary Vehicles' failed venture to sell Chery vehicles in the United States.[61] As of July 2013 V Cars still has two other lawsuits regarding the importation of Chery vehicles pending, one against Israel Corp seeking $30 million and one against Chery Automobile Co.[62]

Documentary film[edit]

The documentary film entitled "The Entrepreneur" was filmed and directed by Bricklin's son, Jonathan Bricklin. The film documents his father's business meetings around the world as he tried to secure a contract with a manufacturing plan to offer a luxury sedan at a lower price than other automobiles offered in the United States.[63]

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ Preston Thomas Tucker did it in the 1940s, and John Z. DeLorean accomplished the feat in the early '80s and Elon Musk. Orlando Sentinel, June 16, 1996
  4. ^ Orlando Sentinel, June 16, 1996
  5. ^ USA Auto Sales Brand Rankings - May 2015 YTD By Timothy Cain
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  8. ^ Richard Truett –Orlando Sentinel June 16, 1996
  9. ^ The Handyman, a chain of company owned and franchised hardware stores established in the early 1960’s and whose main office and warehouse was located in Central Florida.
  10. ^ Handyman Hardware, Assistant to President and Bookkeeper, Marge Tingley, February 1963-August 1964 – 1 year 7 months This was an early model of "Just-in-Time" inventory using a computer with punch cards to track inventory, record sales and make daily deliveries. My responsibilities included keeping the books for retail stores and the main office. I met with potential franchise purchasers and arranged for site visits.
  11. ^ Dixie Paint Co. was purchased by the South Bend, Ind.-based O'Brien Co. and again by the San Francisco, company W.T. Fuller Paint Co. W.T. Fuller Paint Co. is the largest paint manufacturer in the West. For years, Fuller Paint operated the Fuller and Dixie paint companies as separate entities, then changed the Brunswick plant's name to the Dixie O'Brien Co. while operating three different paint brand names nationwide. Eventually, all the paint companies were consolidated under one name, the Fuller O'Brien Paint Co.
  12. ^ Bricklin was planning to use the Rabbit, a scooter built by Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan. The moped craze was dawning, and Fuji wanted to get out of scooters but into cars. Realizing that Fuji's tiny Subaru 360 micro car didn't have to be federalized because it only weighed 960 pounds, Bricklin secured a contract to bring them to the United States.
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  14. ^ Orlando Sentinel
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  20. ^ Cars of Futures Past- Bricklin SV1 Kurt Ernst December 26, 2014
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  30. ^ NORM CANFIELD says: December 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm I SERVED AS PRESIDENT OF THE CALIFORNIA BRICKLIN OWNERS TWICE AND 3 TERMS LATER ON AS PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL BRICKLIN INTL OWNERS CLUB. OVER SOME 20 YEARS I OWNED A LATE ’75 LATE JOINED BY A 4 SPEED ’74. WITH THE AIR DOOR ADD ON FURNISHED BY TERRY TANNER THE CAR WAS FINE AS A DAILY DRIVER. BOTH MYSELF WHO SURVIVED A 50 MILE IMPACT ONH THE LEFT FRONBT QUARTER DUE TO A SPINOUT IN FRONT OF ME AND MY DAUGHTER WHO ALSO HAD ONE AND T BONED A DRUNK WHO TURNED HIS FULL SIZE MOAR IN FRONT OF HER,, SAW THE SAFETY ELEMNT FIRST HAND. I DROVE MY CAR TO THE OFFICE AFTER MNE BUT HAD TO HAVE THE FRAME PULLED A BIT AND A NEW FRONT BUMPER. MY DAUGHTER SURVIIVED AND HER CAR WAS REPAIRED WITH A NEW HOOD AND FENDER. WITH BOTH OF US WE SURVIVED WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN A FATAL ACCIDENT IN A CONVENTIONAL CAR. THE DIFFERENCE WAS THE HEAVY FRAME OF THE BRICKLIN. I DROVE THEM FOR OVER 250000 MILES HAPPILY. 63riviera says: December 27, 2013 at 12:12 pm Mr. Bricklin is an undervalued car guy mostly because his story has so little drama. Thank goodness for him or else we might not have had the experience of Subarus, Yugos and Bricklins. Bob H. says: July 27, 2014 at 7:52 pm Bricklin #2080 has been mine for the past 2-1/2 years. It is a 75 with the Ford drivetrain. They are like nothing else on the road. When the gullwing doors go up it draws a crowd whether you want one or not. Sure they have their quirks, but once the car is sorted out they are much more fun than trouble. I would be much more comfortable doing a cross country trip in the Brick than in a Delorean, figure a better chance of getting there and back under my own power. I would love to have one of each color offered, but not enough room.
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  33. ^ Car and Driver July 2009 Steven Cole Smith
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  42. ^ Car and Driver July 2009 Steven Cole Smith
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  60. ^ Strumpf, Dan (2008-07-21). "Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles sues former partner Chery". USA Today. Associated Press. 
  61. ^ Shaya, Isabella. "Bricklin's V Cars wins $2 million settlement in fraud suit against former employee". Crain Communications, Inc. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  62. ^ Dannon, Itzhak; Lichterman, Joseph (Oct 23, 2013). "V-Cars LLC Seeks $30 Million From Israel Corp For Alleged Bad Faith In Joint Venture Arrangement With Chery Automobile". Jewish Business News. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  63. ^

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