It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that people who like unusual gullwing cars are people who like unusual gullwing cars. There are a number of car enthusiasts who own both DeLorean DMC-12 and Bricklin SV-1 cars and there appears to be a sense of camaraderie as well between DeLorean and Bricklin enthusiasts. I first realized this when visiting the Lingenfelter Collection, which includes both of those cars in a collection that’s focused primarily on Corvettes, American muscle and Ferraris. Then, more recently, a couple of Bricklin owners decided to take in the Woodward Dream Cruise, sharing the same north Woodward vantage point where DeLorean owners gather each year.
It makes some sense, the two cars share a remarkable number of similarities, besides those distinguishing upward opening doors. Both were the brainchildren of automotive entrepreneurs with egos and hubris to match whatever talents they had, John Z. DeLorean and Malcolm Bricklin (to be fair, DeLorean was an engineer with an accomplished record at Packard and General Motors, Bricklin is a hondler). Both cars are sporting two-seaters based on wedge styling, with fastback rooflines and sail panel C pillars that have inset windows for visibility.
Both cars feature unique body materials layered over fiberglass panels, in the case of the DeLorean, stainless steel, in the case of the Bricklin, color impregnated acrylic. Both cars were assembled from a melange of off-the-shelf components shared with other manufacturers.
Both cars were built in factories located in geographic places that formerly were not associated with the traditional auto industry and both of those factories were established through regional government funding, intended to create jobs. The DeLorean factory in Northern Ireland was funded by the government of Northern Ireland and the Bricklin factory in New Brunswick was financed by that Canadian province’s government. Both companies went out of business after those governments pulled the plug and would not continue to finance operations. Both the DeLorean and the Bricklin have endured in enthusiasts minds and are supported by active collector communities. Both cars may be more popular now than when they were sold new.
Still, for all their seeming similarities, the two cars are completely different. One is powered by a French V6 mounted in back, while the other has an American V8 in a conventional front engine rear wheel drive layout. The DeLorean could accurately be described as a rear engined Renault V6 powered Lotus Esprit with a stainless steel skin hung on the fiberglass body. The Bricklin could likewise be characterized as a composite bodied American Motors Hornet, with either Ford or AMC V8 power.
Getting back to the similarities, enthusiasts of both brands don’t seem to be purists who look down on people who modify their beloved cars. One of the DeLoreans at the gathering was mounted on top of a 4X4 monster truck chassis. Another otherwise stock looking DeLorean had a prop “flux capacitor” from the Back To The Future movie franchise, complete with flashing LEDs, mounted to the rear bulkhead. That car also wore 1PT21GW vanity plates, another reference to the movie (1.21 gigawatts).
Both of the Bricklins that were there had their exceptionally slow door lifts replaced with remote controlled pneumatically powered cylinders and one of them had a rather nice full custom interior. The stock Bricklin interior, with a gear selector identical to the one you’d see in a Gremlin, hardly hides the AMC origins of many of its parts. Though a supply (or payment) issue caused Bricklin to switch from the AMC 360 V8 to Ford’s 351 Windsor engine partway through the 1974 model year (Bricklins were made for 1974 and 1975 model years), most of the rest of the SV-1′s running gear was still AMC sourced.
One other similarity between Bricklin and DeLorean was obvious, the problems that small manufacturers have meeting the kind of uniform quality big car companies routinely put out. DeLorean never got the plastic on the front and rear fascias to properly color match the stainless steel, nor did they ever get the front trim to fit just right. On both Bricklins you can see that the company had some kind of issue getting the passenger side of the rear hatch to lay down completely flush. Small manufacturers also will often make running changes in the middle of a model year, like Bricklin switching engine suppliers or the fact that the original DMC-12 cars had a small gas filler door inset in the front hood of the car, while later versions made owners open up the entire hood panel to fill their tanks.
Still, those are the kinds of flaws that endear a car to its enthusiasts. There were lots of smiles as the DeLorean and Bricklin owners showed each other their cars’ special features. Sometimes you go to a car event and it’s just a little too “clubby”, not very inviting to outsiders, but there was none of that with the DeLorean and Bricklin owners. Approachable and willing to share. When I mentioned the low mile barn find DeLorean that The Smoking Tire‘s Matt Farah just bought and is having slightly restomodded for performance, the DeLorean owners knew about it and were enthused about it, not jealous. Bill Schafer, who owns the green Bricklin pictured here, told me that he was “honored” that I wanted to publish photos and video of his car. I suppose that it’s hard putting on airs when you collect a famous failure.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS