By on September 6, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Stereo pics of the DeLoreans here, and the Bricklins here. Like cutaway engines, gull winged cars were made to be seen in three dimensions.

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

 

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40 Comments on “Bricklin SV-1 and Delorean DMC-12: So Alike Yet So Different...”


  • avatar

    To be fair, that lifted 4×4 Delorean was already like that when the current owner bought it. I remember seeing the Autotrader ad before Rich W. (the “D-Rex” owner now) took it under his wing. He also made a Delorean hovercraft before Monster Garage (remember that show?) had their failed attempt.

    Let is also be known, the Delorean is also a roomier car than the Lotus Esprit it shares a chassis with. John Delorean wasn’t a small man– at 6’4″, he wanted a car he could fit in. The gullwings helped since there’d be less crouching and less space needed to open them (around 14″ is all the gap you need). It’s not fast, but it’s comfy. A friend of mine now owns the one that was shown in the beginning of Wheeler Dealers a couple years ago– not the same one they bought to fix up.

    But yeah, the Delorean and Bricklin crowd do seem to get along. The EuroSunday organization (slowly growing across the U.S., starting in Sacramento) had a few Deloreans and a Bricklin in the same area. They are definitely not rivals like the MG/Triumph sometimes can be… think Camaro/Mustang gone tweed and mustaches and you’re good.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Having had the luck of life too have spent some time in both cars, the DeLorean was by far the best car, though, slower.

    A friend of mine, a single, city planner, who had to have the best of everything(Bang & Olufsen, etc.) on his decent, but hardly generous city salary, bought the Bricklin and then later the DeLorean.

    The Bricklin was a chunk compared to the DMC-12, and handled like one. Both had their issues and I became a firm believer in the absolute over the top uselessness of gullwing doors, especially in the wet Winter weather of the Northwest.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Looks like the Bricklin lifted the entire dashboard out of a first-gen Sunbird. I’d say the SV1 made more sense, what with its conventional FE/RD setup and more desirable major components, although the overall execution strikes me as kind of kit-car-ish, like a super deluxe Bradley GTII. If you overlook the utter impracticality of an unfinished SS body and the complete lack of performance credibility of a Volvo V6, the DMC12 was a much more sophisticated, better engineered machine.

    Oh, BTW, happy new year, Ronnie. Handshake?

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Actually given the Bricklin’s part AMC origins the dash looks like it is out of the last generation Javelin. Just like other AMC cars and Jeeps of the era they used GM steering columns and Chrysler torqueflite automatics.

    • 0 avatar
      dmcox1

      @jpolicke – what do you see as a problem with the unfinished stainless steel body? I’ve owned my 83 Delorean for more than a decade, and have never had any problems wit the stainless. It doesn’t require any maintenance and I just wipe it down from time to time to get rid of dust and fingerprints. The biggest problem has been fingerprints – people just feel compelled to touch it. The crown of the Chrysler Building, in NYC, is clad in stainless steel and has been exposed to the weather since 1930, and it still looks good, so SS obviously wears well.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Obviously you have the good fortune never to have to park or drive it where it could be damaged. I’m referring to the complete un-repair-ability of unfinished metal. From a distance the Chrysler building looks great, but if you got a close look, I doubt that you’d want that condition on your vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          dmcox1

          My Delorean and my motorcycle go in the garage, and my wife’s car sits in the driveway, so yes, it does get protection most of the time – except for the lady who didn’t see me and turned in front of me (even though the sun was in my eyes and at her back, and I could still see her just fine) Luckily no injuries and only minor damage – she ripped off a corner off the front fascia and dinged up the right front quarter panel. Repairs consisted of replacing the damaged panel with a new one – easy and done! Yes, stainless is tougher than the sheet metal found on most vehicles, so some garage monkey with a hammer and some bondo can’t fix it. I’m told that it can be worked after heating it, but the heating destroys the grain, so that must be reapplied. There are places that do this, so unless your panel is completely destroyed, they just swap out the panel and put your old one back in inventory once it is reworked. Here’s a video showing a stainless trunk lid being repaired http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28SljwnxSqQ

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I have no first hand experience with stainless on a car, closest I come is cursing as I wipe kids fingerprints off my fridge every day, but I have to say I have seen some crappy looking DeLoreans and even the worst of them always had a nice looking finish.

        I would probably paint it though, I have seen a couple red ones that looked good but I imagine they would look really great in black. And lowered, God they make them sit up so high from the factory! I have seen a couple with about a 2″ drop and it completely changes the look of the car… from metallic armadillo to something Aston Martin may have designed.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      That would be “l’shana tova”….i’m kind of an honorary member of the club according to some of my friends…

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you. This is a good opportunity to wish you and the rest of TTAC readers a happy and healthy Jewish new year. May we all have a year of sustenance, health and joy, a good and sweet year.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    It’s cool that DeLorean and Bricklin owners can share each others’ enthusiasm. The SV name of the Bricklin stood for Safety Vehicle, and I believe some forward looking claims were made for its occupants’ survival in accidents. I’ve looked at a couple that held up quite well, but I’ve seen others advertised that had issues with bodywork changing shape from sun damage over the years. These days I see more DeLoreans. There was a guy that commuted in one recently in San Diego, but some ‘undocumented’ immigrant cleared the barrier of a freeway ramp and fell from the sky on it in an F150.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Have seen at least one, maybe TWO DeLoreans prowling the streets of the Toledo, OH area, and one may have even had Ohio vanity PL8s “88 MPH” or some variation thereof! :-)

    They do age very well! (I thought there’s a company back east that has various rights to be able to rebuild these cars, or even very limited NEW cars, as “kit” cars. Too lazy to Google it now.)

    • 0 avatar

      Delorean has ground-up restorations and lots of spare parts, and are ever expanding. It started in around 1999 in Houston Texas, then opened a branch in Florida (which another Delorean owner friend worked for at one point), and I think they have expanded yet more. I’m actually very curious about Matt Farrah’s Delorean, now.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    What’s the story on the stereoscopic pictures that pop up on this site? Leave them in the 1870s where they belong.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      ++ This

      Or at least give us those groovy 3-D viewers on ivory handles they had back then.

      If you really want to lose your lunch go to carsindepth.com

      So much cool stuff so annoyingly presented. Like offering the collected works of Beethoven on wax cylinders.

      • 0 avatar

        Kenmore,

        All of the original content on Cars In Depth (and thanks for spelling the domain name correctly) can be viewed in 2D. The Flash, HTML, and HTML5 players we use for photos all have 2D options. So does the YouTube 3D player we use for videos.

        Most people don’t have 3D capabilities on their computers yet. It’d be silly to run a site that offered 3D content without a 2D option. The home page does have anaglyph 3D photos, but then it is a 3D site and 3D enthusiasts are looking for that.

        The idea is to have a site with cool content that takes advantage of 3D, but that could still be enjoyed in 2D. 3D is a natural for cars. They just look differently in person than in photos. There is a reason why car companies use very sophisticated 3D and virtual reality tech when they’re designing cars.

        I think eventually 3D will be the standard and when it becomes the standard, Cars In Depth is where people will go for 3D content relating to cars and car culture. I stopped counting at 10,000 image pairs and hundreds of videos and figure it’s the largest archive of stereo images of cars anywhere.

        Nobody has to go to the site. I look at working on it as sweat equity. Maybe it will pay off. In the meantime I can use mono versions of my photos for a lot of my paid writing and the site has helped me get some writing gigs.

        Speaking of Beethoven on wax cylinders, I’ve found archives with stereo photos of Model T assembly at Highland Park, vintage Packards in places around Detroit and the assembly plant Chevy set up for the Chicago exposition in 1933. The Keystone View company and its competitors took literally million of stereo photos all around the world and they have great historical and archival value.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for asking. As far as I know, no stereo pictures pop up on this site, if they do, please let me know. I don’t know how that could happen since all the photos I uploaded are mono versions. I do provide links to my own site in case people want to see the same images in 3D, but you don’t have to click on those links. Those links are provided with the approval of the TTAC Editor in Chief and Managing Editor.

      The way the photos and video that I use to illustrate my TTAC posts end up here is as follows: I shoot everything with 3D rigs, and decide which photos and video to use while I align, crop, and process the image pairs into a side by side 3D format. Once that’s done I use my 3D editing software to save a left or right set of photos to use as mono images which I upload to TTAC’s servers. In the case of videos, after alignment, cropping and 3D formatting, they get resized to work with YouTube’s 3D player, which has a 2D function. So nobody has to look at anything in 3D if they don’t want to.

      It occurred to me that you may be talking about those videos, which as I said use YouTube’s 3D player, which play a variety of 3D formats as well as 2D. Just click on the 3D icon in the player menu bar and you can turn off 3D.

      On a historical note, I’m pretty sure that stereoscopic vision goes back a bit farther than the 1870s. I’m how we see the world. Stereo photography, though, was figured out almost as soon as they figured out chemical photography and mechanical shutters. Dr. Brian May, the astrophysicist who played guitar for Queen, has written a bit onthe history of 3D and I think it dates to the 1840s. Matthew Brady took 3D photos of Abraham Lincoln. You can see them online at the Smithsonian site.

      As for leaving stereo photography in the past, I personally find the most amazing thing about 3D to be that people find it amazing (or annoying, in your case). We’re so used to mono photography and other mono imaging that it’s 3D that looks unusual, when in fact it’s flat imagery that is forcing you to look at one part of the image through forced perspective and playing around with focal planes and depth of field.

      It’s possible to create crappy 3D, but generally if the pairs are properly aligned and certain rules are followed, people shouldn’t have a problem viewing it, and when done well it takes photography a step beyond. I figure that Martin Scorcese knows more about photography than I do and he only shoots in 3D now. When done well, it’s very effective.

      Frankly, when people can buy a 3D TV set that doesn’t need glasses, 2D will become a bit like black and white.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I go DeLorean. Hell, I’m wearing a DeLorean T-shirt right now as I type this. A local guy got a DeLorean somehow and he wisely takes it out very rarely. People around here aren’t the best drivers and replacement parts would be expensive and have to be flown in, so you do not want to risk getting your DeLorean smashed by some idiot in a battered pickup truck.

    I wonder if I can find a good quality 1:18 or 1:24 DeLorean replica that’s not the Time Machine.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I still think the DeLorean is a beautiful car. The Bricklin is incredibly ugly in my opinion.

    I’m glad both cars were made, but it’s also a “teachable moment” about how worthless and ultimately destructive these private/public partnerships are.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The DeLorean was designed by Giugetto Giugaro.

      The Bricklin was designed by…Malcolm Bricklin.

      It’s like comparing Ansel Adams to some idiot with an iPhone.

      • 0 avatar

        Herb Grasse (who apparently designed the Batmobile when working for George Barris and later was in charge of styling for Ford Asia-Pacific) did most of the styling for the Bricklin SV-1, though the drawings that I’ve seen look better than the finished SV-1, the battering ram bumpers are less extreme. Of course, as Howard Payne, who had a hand in the 1961 Lincoln Continental, told me, designers still have to satisfy the people they work for.

        Giorgetto Giugiaro indeed styled the DeLorean.

        FWIW, the finished DeLorean was nothing like the original concept that had a radical composite monocoque. More or less in desperation to get the production car made, John Z turned to Colin Chapman. It’s said that if Chapman hadn’t died of a heart attack, he probably would have been indicted for siphoning off millions from the DeLorean venture.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I found two within 5 miles of each other. One was in the show room of a car lot (eastex motors) in New Caney. The other was a classic car junk yard that I wrote about on curbside classic.
    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/junkyard-cruising-east-texas-style/ Guess they really do hang close even when are about to depart this world.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    It seems impossible to believe now but I distinctly recall a two car , fibreglas sport-car comparo in Road and Track or Motor Trend or some similar back in 1974 or 5 comparing a new Corvette to a new Bricklin and the Bricklin won tho IIRC the article did admit that the gull- wing doors were gimmicky and took a long time to close .I know Corvettes were down on power back then , and the car magazine guys were swept up in the excitement of a new car but still …My main DeLorean memory was a flight to London in 1980 and seeing 5 or 6 times in the course of the flight a long , long ad for the exciting new DeLorean .Then on the way back to Houston seeing the same ad repeatedly , even tho I was on a different airline .

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Cool cars, especially the Delorean. I recently saw one at our local “Cruise Weekend” show. The guy also had a near-bare chassis (with drivetrain) parked beside it. Seeing the engine mounted behind the rear axle was a surprise. I didn’t realize it was the same bones as the Esprit.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’d go Delorean all day long. The Bricklin just looks like a bad kit car. Though that said, I’d rather have the engine and more robust drive train from the Bricklin.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I too would take a DeLorean over the Bricklin all day long, in spite of the lackluster powertrain. I had a part in restoring an SV-1 for a customer when I worked in the body trade. The only thing exotic about these things was the fibreglass body and hydraulic (we converted it to pneumatic) gullwing doors.

    They’re built on a rudimentary C-channel ladder frame that the body shell sits in (not on). An AMC solid rear axle on leaf springs (not even a panhard bar, and conventional SLA front suspension and recirculating ball steering. The thing moved pretty well after waking up the 351, but the rest of the car was pretty underwhelming. It looked cool in the shade of Lamborghini green we finished it in, though, and got looks wherever it went.


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