In late 1974, with production of the 1974 and 1975 Bricklin SV-1 imminent, John Z. DeLorean, then head of Chevrolet, visited the Grey Ghost in Livonia. He negotiated with Bricklin, offering his services to source parts and smooth the way with his numerous Detroit contacts.
But Bricklin wouldn't meet his price, so DeLorean founded a company to develop an Irish-built car with a gull-winged stainless steel body and more than a passing resemblance to the Grey Ghost. Later, when his company failed amidst allegations of drugs, payoffs, and federal entrapment, DeLorean passed into history.
Bricklin, the quintessential promoter and salesman, signed his name in a brochure, saying that "When we decided to build the BRICKLIN, we knew that it could not be just another car. We dedicated ourselves first and foremost towards building a car that would be as safe as we could possibly make it. A vehicle that would provide people with greater protection from the havoc of our highways. Our car also had to be beautiful to look at, durable and easy to maintain."
Bricklin put together a promotional video of his car to use in his search for investors. It didn't take the charismatic Bricklin long to find believers in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. The province not only anted up a goodly sum of cash, but provided a plant suitable for automobile manufacturing and subsidized the hourly rate paid to the local workers.
One of the many employees to view the premises was the new manufacturing engineer lured away from Ford with the promise of two Bricklin cars and "a chicken in every pot." The site of the empty body plant when Terry Tanner arrived on March 3, 1974, was -- at its very best -- bleak. Without the necessary tooling readily available, how were they to produce a car by June 1974?
Enter Adolf Dubil, the new Head of Plastics Engineering and Tooling. Formerly a Chrysler toolmaker, the Polish-accented survivor of a German World War II concentration camp graduated from the University of Detroit with a 4.0 average at the age of 40, while working full time. Dubil had the inside knowledge needed to deal with suppliers and considered every setback a new challenge. Within weeks, the factory was starting to fill up with machinery and equipment.
Quality control was a constant problem on an assembly line screaming for organization. Most of the assembly line workers were hired in a province suffering from an unemployment rate approaching 25 percent. Unfortunately, because of their previous occupations, the workers cleared out as soon as hunting season opened. At times, only two women were left holding down the line in an otherwise deserted plant. Lessons were learned and changes implemented.
One of the most important start-up men at GVI was also Bricklin's right-hand man, Dick Volmer, Vice-President. He was the one who negotiated the first batch of engines from AMC. All 1974 Bricklins boasted a 360-cubic-inch V-8 with four-barrel carburetor, AMC Hornet suspension, transmission, and rear end.
Reportedly, 137 cars (of the 772 1974s) were equipped with a four-speed manual transmission. Performance figures rated favorably against the contemporary Corvette, which most auto magazines used as a point of comparison.
The 1975 SV-1 (2,100 built) came equipped with Ford's 351W (Windsor) V-8 with a two-barrel carb and Ford FMX automatic transmission, this due to AMC's reported inability to produce engines beyond its in-house needs for 1975. No manual transmission models were made for 1975 because Ford Motor Company didn't receive EPA approval for manual gearboxes mated to the 351W.
To read more about the problems with the Bricklin SV-1, see the next page.
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