1974 Bricklin SV-1
A rolling chassis was used to make sure the new federal five-mph bumper standards were met for the 1974 Bricklin SV-1. Jeff Neal's group testing the first prototype mule car included a volunteer, Glenn Nutting, who would be abused as the human "test dummy." He was tied to a box behind the steering wheel and instructed to keep it in a straight line.
Lacking the funding for sophisticated facilities, test equipment, or basic tools for conducting legitimate crash tests, the group loaded boxes with rocks to equal the weight of a completed vehicle. They then pushed the mule as hard as possible down a loading dock ramp with Nutting aboard. Hanging on for dear life and likely questioning his own sanity, he and the test vehicle slammed into the dock with a resounding crash.
Amid the cheers and back slapping from the engineers, there came a wail of pain emanating from the cloud of dust settling around the crashed chassis. Seeing Nutting upright on his wooden box, everyone had assumed that all had gone well. Upon closer inspection, however, they noticed a large six-inch splinter protruding from Nutting's derriere.
Without hesitation, they dropped his drawers and removed the offending splinter with needle-nose pliers. After all the figures, specifications, and the splinter were in, the test was hailed a resounding success.
New York's exclusive Four Seasons restaurant hosted the premiere unveiling of the first Bricklin released to the public. This initial showing was held to quell the uneasiness spreading among investors eager to see Bricklins rolling off the still uncompleted assembly line. The showing also served to stem the rising tide of public anticipation that had been building since the car's first announcement.
In Livonia, the show Bricklins had to be drained of all fluids and the interiors still needed to be installed. The latter arrived just one hour before the planned departure time to New York. Fortunately, the trip itself was uneventful. When the crew arrived at 2:00 a.m., however, they discovered that entry into the restaurant was up two flights of stairs, through a doorway two inches too narrow, followed by a left turn squeezing past a million-dollar Picasso, and onto a rotating platform fabricated on a raised fountain in the center of the room.
To get to the turntable required building a set of guide tracks, rotating the car on its side, and strong-arming it through the corridors. When the doors opened the following evening at 6:00 p.m., the car sat high with the gull-wing doors opened; it appeared ready to take off in flight.
Out West, a red Bricklin -- prototype number three -- was trailered for its debut at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, where it was displayed in a private room for West Coast dealers and investors, as well as Bricklin's Scottsdale staff. Accent lights dramatized the car's black-out bodyside moldings, trim, and absence of gaudy chrome or stainless steel emblems and bumpers -- which would eventually become the standard look of the 1980s.
Invited guests, who walked past armed guards and metal detectors, were lucky enough to meet famed race-car driver Bobby Unser and Hollywood's leading man, Paul Newman (neither of whom were actually involved in the Bricklin venture).
To learn about the formation of General Vehicle, Incorporated, which manufactured the Bricklin SV-1, continue to the next page.
For more information on cars, see: