May 17, 2017 4:26 pm
Updated: May 17, 2017 6:22 pm

New Brunswick man says Canadians should be proud of the Bricklin – Canada’s first sports car

WATCH ABOVE: The Canadian-born sports car called the Bricklin first rolled off the assembly line in Saint John in 1974. It was a symbol of innovation and pride for the province. It was a novel idea that backfired after only two years. But as Global’s Shelley Steeves reports, the Bricklin still sets the pulse of the hearts of car enthusiasts.

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Moncton’s Kevin Campbell says he’ll never forget the first time he saw the doors swing open on a Bricklin sportcar  back in 1975, when New Brunswick’s premier Richard Hatfield rolled into his dad’s gas station driving one on the campaign trail.

“Everybody loved the car and I decided at that time I wanted to own one of those cars someday. I have reached that goal,” said Campbell.

He says he’s become a little obsessed with the Canadian born sports car that hit the assembly line in Saint John back in 1974.

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“At one point I owned four at the same time,” said Campbell.

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With its innovative style, space aged like gull winged doors and sexy design, the Bricklin was supposed to put New Brunswick on the world’s automotive stage says James Upham, a historian with Resurgo Place Moncton.

“Herb Grasse designed the Batmobile and designed the Bricklin. That curve on the hood was his girl friend’s hip. She was a playboy bunny,” said Upham.

But it was a business man from the United States, Malcolm Bricklin, who convinced the province’s premier to invest millions into manufacturing the country’s first sports cars.

“You got to understand this is the sexiest car going in 1974-1975. Hugh Hefner had one, Johnny Carson had one. Like this was the thing to have even though there were bugs,” said Upham.

Those quality issues — and high production costs — brought the mismanaged company to a grinding halt.  The province shut down production after only two years and only 2854 cars were assembled.

Upham says that the Bricklin proceeded to transform from a provincial gem, to an embarrassing symbol of failure for the province.

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Critics viewed the Bricklin  as either a colossal failure or an awful piece of junk that wouldn’t run properly

For Upham, that could not be further from the truth. He and Campbell both believe the innovative car was rushed to market and was ahead of its time.

Campbell says the rare green model he now owns is the last one ever produced in 1976. He has had the model authenticated by a Bricklin historian in the United States.

“It was assembled in the US after the factory closed.  So Bricklin guys consider it an illegitimate child,” he said.

But Campbell says it’s authentic and just as throaty and powerful as the day it was made.

“When you produce something this innovative in their province and I think Canadians should look at this car with pride,” he said.

 

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc

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