By on May 28, 2009

You may remember Malcolm Bricklin as the man who unleashed the Yugo on an unsuspecting American public. Or as the car guy who brought automotive enthusiasts the mid-engined rust bucket known as the Fiat X1/9 (re-badged Bertone). Or, infinitely more forgivably, you might know Malcolm as the entrepreneur who gave Subaru its start stateside. Moving up the car nerd food chain and deep into the realm of delusion, Bricklin’s name is reasonably synonymous with his eponymous car company, Canadian manufacturer of the ill-fated SV-1. For those of you who have never heard of a Pet Rock (and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want one), Bricklin’s broken ass deal to import Chinese Cherys into The Land of the Free (Perkins, IL excepted) may be the freshest factoid. Moving on to today, Malcolm Bricklin has revealed his desire to end his career in ridicule. Which, of course, starts here . . .

The Boston Herald reveals Malcolm Bricklin’s latest, not to say last, scheme:

In a nutshell, Bricklin is proposing his company, Visionary Vehicles, buy up to 300,000 new vehicles a year from GM and Chrysler, upgrade the interiors “from standard to luxury,” and install “hydrogen hybrid” engine technology he says could double fuel mileage.

In a nutshell, indeed. The hydrogen automobile thing is dead. Kaput. Over. Finished. Once someone figured out that you’d need 56 gazillion dollars to build a sufficient “hydrogen economy” infrastructure to support the technology, and the price of “normal” gas tanked, all interest in water-powered transportation evaporated. Jeremy Clarkson may be the only person on planet Earth that still thinks it’s a good idea. Other than Malcolm.

Bricklin stresses his proposal is preliminary, and he admits there are multiple details to work out, including the funding for the project. Bricklin said he expects to have a working prototype within 90 days, and once he has proven the concept, he’ll start looking for support.

“I really believe this is why I was put on this Earth,” he said. “All those mistakes, and all those lessons, and all those experiences have led me to know exactly how to take advantage of this technology.”

Or not.

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33 Comments on “Malcolm Bricklin Is Insane...”


  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Oh wow. Hasn’t learned a damn thing. Why doesn’t he just buy Saturn instead?

  • avatar

    The odds of this succeeding, in my opinion, are slightly worse than my winning the powerball. It’s odd, because he seemed, at one time, to have some business sense and now he just moves from one crazt scheme to the next.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    Maybe he can find another retarded provincial/state government to finance his latest scheme? Didn’t it work last time?

  • avatar
    pariah

    Where does he keep getting the money for all this shit?

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Maybe he’s hoping his company will be acquired by a larger manufacturer to get those sweet CAFE credits.

  • avatar

    Two key words… Take, and Advantage. Just pointing that out…

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Deity complex. Get over yourself, Malcolm.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Bricklin is crazy like a fox. He has made a damn good living talking people with more money than brains into investing in his automotive schemes.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    I thought this was a “Curbside Classic” for a moment….

    Moedaman: He’ll probably come to CA. where spending money you don’t have by an out of control ruling body is the law.

    Of course he could always put it up as a ballot initiative……

  • avatar
    menno

    I think his idea has more to do with trying to fuel cars 50% on water split onboard turning it into hydrogen which would fuel the IC engine alongside with less gasoline.

    The IC engine would rotate, providing electricity via the alternator to the hydrogen splitter.

    In other words, a fancy word for a partial “perpetual motion machine.”

    Perhaps the Chinese put something in the water to get rid of him when they decided to tear up a legal contract with Visionary Vehicles and go have a tryst with Chrysler (how’d that work out for you, Geely?)

    Of course, we Americans can no longer point fingers and laugh at nations which regularly tear up legal contracts by caprice with no legal consequences.

    Can we, Mister Barack Hussein Obama?

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    Anyone want to buy into the New Edsel with me?

  • avatar
    Sigsworth

    I second “crazy like a fox.” If he paints them all white, he can probably get California to buy them all. My brother-in-law has a Bertone. It’s…um, a car…made in Italy, and, uh, orange. That’s about the best I can say about it…

  • avatar
    menno

    Sorry for Geely read Chery. It was Chery that Visionary Vehicles had a contract with.

    You know, a Chinese contract. Worth less than a blank piece of paper.

    Kind of like a US bond.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Hydrogen is not dead, just give it about 20 years.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Or, infinitely more forgivably, you might know Malcolm as the entrepreneur who gave Subaru its start stateside.

    NOOOOOO! Mr. Bricklin damn near killed Subaru before they ever got started here. The Subaru’s that he imported in 1968 were Subaru 360’s – a 10 year-old tiny micro car that had weighed less than 1,000 lbs and had only 25 HP. It took 36 seconds to reach 50 mph… it couldn’t -ever- reach 60. This was was unbelievably tiny.. 2.5 inches shorter than the original Mini.

    They were so small that they didn’t have to meet Federal Safety Standards because the U.S. Government didn’t regulate cars that small. Nobody in America could imagine a car that tiny… it was like regulating leprechans or fairies.

    So, they were sold through Miller’s Department Store in my home town for almost a year.

    In 1969 Consumer Reports declared them “the most unsafe car in America”. Sales collapsed.

    It was 1975 before Subaru could get anybody in America to look at their cars again.

    All this just goes to show – there ARE NO EXCEPTIONS to “Malcolm Bricklin is insane” rule.
    http://www.cartype.com/pages/3342/subaru_360__1958

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Bricklin said he expects to have a working prototype within 90 days

    MEGA LOL… this is just ridiculous.

    I still think hydrogen is in our futures.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @moedaman :

    Maybe he can find another retarded provincial/state government to finance his latest scheme? Didn’t it work last time?

    What’s that Obama Car Czar’s name?

    Honestly, Bricklin is a genius. He’ll probably take $50 mil out of this US government wetting their pants in fear of the 3% of CO2 mankind adds to the atmosphere (hell, they should spend $$$$$ just re-foresting the globe so that trees can do the job AlGore wants).

  • avatar
    fallout11

    The US DOE itself has declared that hydrogen is dead. It never made any sense, just like Malcolm Bricklin. But it may still be in our “futures”, as Stingray cleverly pointed out.

    Everything you didn’t want to know about Hydrogen-
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/2401
    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5101
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026841.900-whatever-happened-to-the-hydrogen-economy.html
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2397
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/07/31/2320064.htm=3fsection=3dbusiness

    As for Bricklin, he is and clearly has been the consummate salesman, with a gift for the grift.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    I still think hydrogen is in our futures.

    Why, yes! Hydrogen will be in every breath my child takes…. even in every glass of water!

  • avatar

    Bricklin is a handler, a hustler. For all his crazy schemes, the guy can point to a couple of solid successes, the introduction of Subaru in the US and the launching of the Yugo. Yugo had a better launch than Hyundai, they sold something like a quarter million the first year.

    Okay, so the idea of selling 70s vintage Fiats made behind the Iron Curtain was a little risky qualitywise, but a man can dream can’t he?

    It’s ironic that for all the deals he’s tried to make that Global Vehicles, which has tried to import Romanian SUVs, will probably beat Bricklin to the market, since they’re now representing Mahindra.

    One reason why Bricklin never completely goes away is that he’s a great pitchman and he knows how to work media. I mean the guy takes one of the great automotive disasters, the Yugo, and spins it as a success. I’ve seen him work journalists and he’s a master at it.

  • avatar

    Lokkii,

    Subaru was perfectly happy with Bricklin bringing in those 360s.

    The way Bricklin tells the story, he got into the automotive business from the closeout biz. He’d gotten a shipload of Vespa or Lambretta scooters, sold them all and was looking for a new deal. He decided to try and import Japanese cars to Israel and went to Japan looking for a deal. He discovered that Toyota and Nissan observed the Arab boycott of Israel but Subaru couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a new market so Bricklin got the franchise for Israel. He did a decent job – to this day Subaru is still a very strong brand in Israel, and Subaru asked him to be their US importer.

    Or at least that’s the story according to Malcolm.

    I put Bricklin in the category of “charming rogue”. He’s had enough “success” to point to that he’ll always be able to find folks to back him with some money.

    Either way, the new car brand biz has an checkered history, to say the least. Tucker, Delorean, Bricklin’s SV1 project, CHAMCO’s plan to import pickups and SUVs from China’s ZX (with accusations of fraud), etc. It remains to be seen what will be with Tesla and Fisker. If I was a dealer, notwithstanding the desire to get in on the ground floor, I’d wait to see an actual production vehicle before I put any money down.

  • avatar

    Bricklin sold much of his interest in Subaru of America to his partner Harvey Lamm but retained an 8% share of the importer. Lamm stuck it out and got the brand established in the 1970s, using AWD as the major marketing tool. Though Fuji eventually bout Lamm and Bricklin out, Lamm continued to be associated with SOA until 1990. So the 360 fiasco was not completely fatal to the enterprise Bricklin started.

    Likewise with the SV1. Whether it was a Tuckeresque scam (if Tucker was a scam artist), or not, Bricklin actually got 2,800 SV1s built.

    Whether he’s a complete con artist or not, I have no idea, but he can point to things he can paint as successes, blame the failures on others, and keep getting investors for his latest project.

    I happen to think he got screwed by Chery. The plans may have been grandiose, but I think Chery decided they’d rather play with the big boys like Chrysler than with a hustler like Bricklin.

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    Short note of Bricklin engineering kwality–
    A co-worker of my dad’s bought a new SV1. Constant severe water leaks. Couldn’t send it thru a car wash.

    After several episodes of quality time at the dealership which, by the way, accomplished nothing the dealer finally advised him (now I am not making this up!) “You might try drilling some holes in the floor to let the water drain out.” True facts!

  • avatar

    Ya know, New Brunwickers are still a little bit sore from the whole SV-1 debacle. To summarize – Bricklin took the NB government’s money, used it to develop the car (poorly) when he was supposed to be building a plant, when he did build the plant it was overbudget and they lost 11000$ per car, and when a corruption scandal threatened the government’s ongoing funding to the company it went bust and was sold off. People still talk about what “might have been”. What might have been was several more years of corruption and mismanagement and a sub-par product that still cost too much to build.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    Hydrogen isn’t crazy, just horrifyingly inefficient with today’s technology.

    Biomass (NOT CORN) is the way to go.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    So I can get a Yugo with interior upgrade and hydrogen technology?

    But I have to admit that I have toyed with a variation of his idea if only to get the talk going after too many drinks: Banning the production of “complete” cars, and allowing only drivetrains and replacement bits. Sort of high-end Cuba meets Blade Runner. The idea being you could take your restorable 1939 Cadillac, 1965 Citroen, 1984 Chrysler K-car or Ferrari with a blown engine chassis/body and then have specialist firms install whatever is the current state of the art electric or hybrid system.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    @Robert: Why is that thing sticking out its tongue at me?

    I finally got my mind off the Altoid Hummer, and you bring it right back again.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    “…I still think hydrogen is in our futures.”
    Agree but not in the way you are thinking.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “…1939 Cadillac, 1965 Citroen, 1984 Chrysler K-car or Ferrari with a blown engine chassis/body and then have specialist firms install whatever is the current state of the art electric or hybrid system.”

    That reminds me of a bit I saw in an old Popular Mechanics or Popular Science magazine. A guy in Germany inherited a 1949 Buick (probably when its former owner rotated stateside) and in the interests of economy he pulled the straight eight and Dynaflow and substituted a sub-2-liter Opel engine driving through two manual transmissions.

  • avatar
    SpaniardinTexas

    OMG, I still remember the people who bought Yugos en Western Europe… the old Fiat/Seat 127 were pretty good cars in the 70’s… but not refurbished into a cheap nineties car.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    I think Hydrogen is the way to go and if we spent half of the bailout money on infrastructure, we’d be golden.

    I also know that in my and my childrens lifetimes, hydrogen will not be the solution since all the politicos are in the pockets of the big oil, big agro, big banks.

  • avatar
    warren currier

    Robert Farago:

    The truth is that on-board hydrogen production/utilization for transportation is way further ahead than many (thinking) people know today… It’s amazing how in two days a poorly informed writer / written article / can attract so many poorly informed readers.

    For certain Big Oil will keep smiling down on all of you in the years ahead.

  • avatar
    justtobeclear

    It’s interesting to read your derisive comments about Malcolm Bricklin. Insane, crazy, really people How about not too chicken s*** to take a risk.
    He and his good friend Hap Hirsch Loved the little fiat automobiles And decided to import them. It was a great success. They were never meant to replace the big 3 commuter car business. They were just a less expensive fun to drive european sports car. As Far as the comment about them being rust buckets I see more rust on new american cars in minnesota than on almost all foreign cars. You’d think that the big 3 being based in the rust belt Would have solved this problem. Main public image problem fiat had was timing the engines. At the time american auto mechanics could not make any sense of an engine with less than 6 cylinders. For years car and driver ranked that fiat engine as one of the 10 best engines of the world. Importing fiats was a brilliant idea and it was very successful.
    As far as importing are Yugo being a failed experiment, your quite mistaken. It was a great success. Hap and Malcolm were able to deliver a brand new car for under 3500 dollars!? They intended it to be a first car for college students, an inexpensive new car for a single mother, and an inexpensive new car purchase for low income families to help build their credit. It did exactly that.
    As far as the bricklin sv 1, That too was a great success. If I remember correctly malcolm bricklin won a federal grant to develop a limited production safe car. Being the cowboy hotrodder that he was he jumped at the chance. If memory serves me correctly we can thank the bricklin sv 1 for many of the safety features that are required on all cars today. I believe that includes side intrusion bars in doors, the 35 mile an hour bumper and retractable seat belts. I believe those innovations were given to the big 3 for free.
    Now concerning hydrogen powered cars , they already exist and work perfectly well. In 1984 I pulled over an 80 year old man in central kansas driving a volkswagen rabbit powered by water. He designed built and patented the device under the hood that cracks water into hydrogen and oxygen and fed it through the intake. Everyone in histhe small town knows the old man and knows where he got the millions of dollars from. He sold his patents to mobile or chevron I can never remember which. The hydrogen power projects that were taking place around 2001much that included and installation in west sacramento california were actually funded by oil companies from texas. The old man in kansas is not an urban myth. I met him I talked to him and I looked under the hood. The only reason we don’t have water powered cars today is because of oil companies buy them up everytime they’re designed.
    Sit back and watch malcolm. if he says he’s gonna sell hydrogen powered car he’s gonna sell of hydrogen powered car. If there’s a problem, it’ll be a railroading like the ones they gave John Delorean or Jerry Wiegert.

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