The Good Oil: the story of the Subaru salesman and the very safe coupe
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Malcolm Bricklin became famous for seeing the potential of small, strange foreign vehicles in the US. He founded Subaru of America in 1968 and imported the minuscule 360 and FF-1 Star models. He later brought in Fiats (X1/9 and 124 Spider) and even the Yugo hatchback.
But he’s more famous for the car that bore his name: the Bricklin SV-1.
It was a gullwing-door sports car of plastic construction that was designed to greatly exceed contemporary US safety standards (the SV stood for “Safety Vehicle”).
The SV-1 had AMC or Ford V8 power, strong tubular construction and an integral roll cage. The glass fibre panels were impregnated with colour so they didn’t need to be painted.
It came in Safety White, Safety Suntan, Safety Green, Safety Green, Safety Red and Safety Orange. These were very safe colours.
The Bricklin plant brought jobs to the depressed New Brunswick province of Canada – with government assistance. Production began in 1974 and the car was a critical success.
But by the end of 1975, after fewer than 3000 vehicles, it was all over. There were big issues with the glass fibre bonding and it was too expensive – about 25 per cent more than the rival Corvette. Canadian funding was withdrawn and the company failed.
And that is the story of the silver-haired entrepreneur who couldn’t quite make a go of a gullwing sports coupe made of strange stuff who wasn’t called John DeLorean.
Electric Skoda pedals along nicely
Skoda has its roots in a bicycle company, so through its sponsorship of sporting events it’s fond of calling itself “the engine of cycling”. However, its latest Tour de France lead car (“Red Car” as it’s traditionally called in the event) doesn’t actually have one; an engine we mean.
The Enyaq iV pure-electric SUV is at the front of the field for several stages this month, transporting the race director and kitted out with battery depleting equipment such as six antennae, sirens and a full communications centre.
It’s Skoda’s 17th year as the main partner of Tour de France; for 2020 it has a fleet of 250 vehicles supporting the race, 30 of which wear “iV” branding – meaning they are either plug-in hybrid or (as with Enyaq) fully electric.
Enyaq is Skoda’s fourth SUV and its first Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). It will be launched next year with 62kWh or 82kWh battery packs; the latter will give a range of just over 500km.