Jim Arace’s Bricklin SV1

Malcolm Bricklin introduced the Bricklin SV1 to the world in 1974 at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Its gullwing doors, acrylic resin molded to fiberglass body and futuristic look (for the time) piqued many sports car enthusiasts’ interest as they awaited production.

One such enthusiast and former Datsun/Mazda Dealership owner, Jim Arace from Pittsfield, Mass., jumped at the opportunity to apply for and obtain the only franchise license in the western part of the state. Considered exceptionally safe for the era (after all, SV1 stood for Safety Vehicle One), the Bricklin features an unusual bumper designed for withstanding heavy impact, a perimeter box steel frame instead of the conventional U steel frame, and integral roll cage protection – all of which were selling points for Mr. Arace and Malcolm Bricklin alike.

Problems with production hindered the Bricklin brand’s success, and under 3,000 of these vehicles ended up being made. Malcolm’s company had persistent and significant problems with the composite acrylic and fiberglass body technology. Adhesion issues with the acrylic resulted in over 60% of the material being wasted in the first few months of production, a massive financial blow. Even after finding an acceptable bonding method in 1975, the company continued to waste upwards of 25% of the material.

Jim Arace could feel the hiccups in production. Even though he was the only franchisee in his area, he had a hard time obtaining the vehicles from Bricklin. He received a showroom model and complete model for his first two SV1s. Almost instantly, the complete model was bought by a gentleman from Ca. who traveled across the country and drove the car back to the west coast, proving how hard these vehicles were to obtain on the consumer level.

“I sold about 12 of these cars,” Jim recalls. Sensing the rarity and difficulty in obtaining these vehicles, Jim could not let the last one he owned go. He kept it because it was a great conversation starter for the showroom floor and brought in potential customers. Over time, he moved away from owning and operating dealerships and opened up Arace’s Collision, the auto body shop that he still has today. While he maintained ownership of the building in which his dealership was, his showpiece Bricklin SV1, the former selling point for his dealership, was left behind, and so it sat on the showroom floor for four decades.

Jim has been trying to sell the building which held the dealership for years, leaving the SV1 in there for the time being. Finally he asked Andrew Newton, owner of Crawford’s Service in Pittsfield, Mass. to pull the car from the showroom and bring it to his body shop so he could begin his restoration of the car. Jim’s “barn find” Bricklin has only 38 miles! Admittedly the story is in better shape than the car; interior damage and the engine sitting for 40 years has not helped the old girl, but we are excited to follow along and see what Jim can do to get this car back to its original glory!

1 Comment on Jim Arace’s Bricklin SV1

  1. There was a local guy who had several Bricklin’s back in the 1990’s.
    He drove a couple of them regularly, and I’d see them parked around town now and then.
    I always thought they were an interesting design, and considered finding one at one time to restore myself, but never followed up.

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