With a push of a button, the gull-wing doors open and Murray Arsenault is in the driver’s seat, ready to hit the road in a piece of family and automotive history.
The Whitehorse resident has owned his 1975 Bricklin SV1 for a month and as he looks at the car on a sunny June afternoon, he says it still feels surreal to own the same model that was part of his childhood.
“It’s something I’ve got a lot of pride in,” he said, as he recalled he and his brother begging their dad to take them to hockey in the two-seater sports car rather than the pickup truck that was used by the family day-to-day.
Aresenault’s is the only Bricklin in the Yukon and one of about 1,500 believed to still be around of the less than 3,000 ever produced.
The story of the short-lived Bricklin car has been recorded in song, musical theatre, a specially-released coin, on countless websites and more.
Malcolm Bricklin, who was known then as the first to bring the Subaru to North America, started his own car company in the early 1970s. Its production facility was opened in New Brunswick thanks to funding from the provincial government with assembly happening in Saint John and the body panel shop located in Minto.
The gullwing doors were a defining feature of the Bricklin, before they were also adopted by DeLorean vehicles in the early 1980s. The Bricklin also had safety features not standard in most cars at the time including a built in roll cage, side guardrails and shock absorbing bumpers. There were no cigarette lighters in the vehicles and also no room for a spare tire. In fact, the SV in the name stood for safety vehicle.
The 1974 to 1976 models were produced before the doors to the plant shuttered in 1975 when Bricklin went bankrupt.
As summed up on the bricklin.org website of the Bricklin international owners club, “Since the drive train, suspension, and many other components were from Detroit, Bricklin was continually fighting a losing supply battle.
“It became increasingly difficult to obtain more money from the New Brunswick government for manufacturing when the production volume just wasn’t going up. The lack of additional capital, along with poor quality and high scrap count body panels, the troublesome electro-hydraulic door system, leaky door weather-stripping, and generally inferior manufacturing quality when compared to Detroit, all lead to the demise of the Bricklin as a production car.”
Arsenault was six when his father came home with a white Bricklin, similar to the one Arsenault has now. Arsenault recalls his father telling him it was the fourth-last one off the production line.
“His rarely moved,” Arsenault recalled, though he noted there were special drives in the sports car to ice cream stands and occasionally to other communities nearby his hometown of New Glasgow, N.S.
“My dad showed me what it can do,” Arsenault said with a smile.
It was clear though that the Bricklin was not for day-to-day errands.
Not an especially sentimental man, Arsenault’s dad would eventually sell the vehicle before Arsenault or his younger brother were old enough to get their licenses and drive it themselves.
His father, who passed away a number of years ago, would probably be laughing now about him buying a Bricklin, Arsenault said, again smiling as he remembered his dad.
Over the years, Arsenault has worked to track down his dad’s vehicle and the last he had learned of it, it had made its way from Vancouver to Thailand.
At one point through the years, when he was close to getting some leads on it, he had turned down an opportunity to purchase another Bricklin, hoping he would be able to buy his dad’s.
Others have also come up, but it just wasn’t the right time or there had been too many alterations made.
“I wanted the Bricklin,” Arsenault said, pointing out this particular one is largely intact with just a minor change that saw headlights replaced with after-market ones that Arsenault intends to paint white, as the original would have had. There was also a bit of work by Yukon Radiator after it arrived to deal with some rust on the fuel tank.
“This is just how it rolled off the line in New Brunswick,” he said, also pointing out that it came to him with only 10,000 kilometres on it.
The steering wheel, dashboard and car interior are a throwback to the 1970s.
“It’s gaudy and cool all at the same time,” Arsenault said.
When this car came up on Kijiji, Arsenault decided he was tired of waiting and pursued the purchase from an owner in Olds, Alberta, getting to know the owner over a couple of months before, as Arsenault described, he sent a big cheque and hoped the car would show up.
It took some doing in the midst of a pandemic, but thanks to a trailer being available through Arsenault’s work, the vehicle was able to be moved to Whitehorse.
When the Bricklin arrived in the territory, Arsenault was quick to text a picture to his brother and the pair shed a few tears together as they remembered their father.
While Arsenault says he never plans to let his Bricklin go, he also admits it did feel like a bit of a “frivolous” purchase given that it, like his dad’s, isn’t likely to see a lot of miles on the road.
”It’s a bit of an expensive lawn ornament,” he said with a laugh.
Given the tendency for Bricklins to have leaky roofs it’s not a vehicle you want to take out when it’s raining, he said.
Arsenault admits he’s a little more sentimental than his dad was.
He plans to continue searching for his father’s vehicle and hopes to one day purchase it as well.
In the meantime, he said he will likely look at joining the Klondike Cruisers on some of their drives around town, showcasing the only Bricklin in the territory.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org