Home » Plastic-Body Two-Seat Flops: 2011 Think City vs 1975 Bricklin SV-1

Plastic-Body Two-Seat Flops: 2011 Think City vs 1975 Bricklin SV-1

Sbsd 1 9 2024

Good morning, Autopians! Well, the suggestions keep rolling in, and I have to say, you’ve outdone yourselves. Today is all about failures, as we look at two plastic-bodied two-seaters that just didn’t make the splash their creators thought they would. But they’re both fascinating machines, and well worth a little discussion.

Yesterday’s little Chinese trucks were obviously obviously both overpriced for what are essentially toys for most of us. I know some brave souls actually drive low-speed vehicles around as if they were real cars or something, but most of us are too frightened to become a hood ornament on a Super Duty to do so. If you live in a contained area with no high-speed streets, like a retirement community or something, these could work, but you’re still probably better off with a nice Ford Festiva.

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I was surprised by the outcome of the vote on this one. I expected the van to run away with it, due to the lower price and similarity to a kei van. But the Truckall seems to have made use of that cargo capacity to carry away the majority of your votes. Me, I’d take the van, simply because it’s a lot cheaper.

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It has happened so many times I think we all have lost count: Someone has a “better” idea for a car, puts together a flashy design, gets some investors, and sets up shop. The lucky ones actually build a few cars, but most of them end up as vaporware, or worse, outright scams. Tucker and Dale versus evil Detroit, I guess you could call it, and Detroit always wins. The ones that do get made often end up forgotten, relegated to used car lots as curiosities, or parked in someone’s back yard after some unobtainium part fails.


These two come from different eras, and have different problems they’re trying to solve, but the wide-eyed optimism is the same. Both have plastic bodies, both have two seats, and both only lasted a couple of years. Let’s check them out.

2011 Think City – $4,377

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Motor/drivetrain: 34 kilowatt electric motor, single-speed gear reduction, FWD

Location: Evansville, IN

Odometer reading: 19,000 miles


Operational status: Runs and drives, or so I assume

This adorable little car is one that almost made it. The Think City (or sometimes Th!nk City) is a front-wheel-drive two-seat electric hatchback, designed by Think Global in Norway with some help from Finnish company Valmet, as well as Ford. It was built in Valmet’s facility for the European market, and – get this – in Elkhart, Indiana for the US market. Yes, that’s right, the band instrument and RV capital of the world also gave us this cute little electric car.

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The Think City is front-wheel-drive, powered by an electric motor that puts out 46 horsepower through a 10:1 gear reduction. It’s not much, but it’s enough to get the little car up to highway speeds – just barely. The motor is fed by a 23 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that recharges from a standard wall outlet. Supposedly it’s enough to give the car 99 miles of range, and recharge overnight.

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This little car has only 19,000 miles on its odometer, and hasn’t strayed far from its Elkhart home. But then, it’s a city runabout, tethered to a fairly small geographical region by its short range. It has amber warning lights on the roof, which makes me wonder if it was used for delivering mail or reading electrical meters (which would be ironic) or some similar short-trip official work. It’s well suited to those sorts of tasks.

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It’s in OK shape, except for a split seam on the driver’s seat. Its Ford heritage is on display in the interior; I’m pretty sure that’s the same steering wheel and headlight switch my old Focus hatchback had. And by the way, the outside isn’t faded or missing clearcoat – it’s supposed to be a satin finish like that. The body panels are plastic, and molded in color.

1975 Bricklin SV-1 – $7,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 351 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD


Location: Westland, MI

Odometer reading: 40,000 miles

Operational status: Engine runs, hasn’t been driven in a long time

Malcolm Bricklin is a name every gearhead should know. The car-loving entrepreneur is responsible for bringing Subaru to America, keeping Fiat Spiders and X1/9s landing on our shores after Fiat pulled up stumps in 1981, and, well, Yugo. But somehwere in the middle there, he also built his own car, this two-seat coupe: the SV-1.

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The “SV” in SV-1 stands for Safety Vehicle. In the early 1970s, lots of new vehicle safety standards were proposed. Some, like five-mile-per-hour bumpers, were actually enacted, while others, like a rollover-protection standard that essentially killed off convertibles, never came to be. Bricklin wanted the SV-1 to meet or exceed every proposed standard. The fact that it was a stylish, V8-powered, gullwing-doored coupe was completely coincidental, of course. The early SV-1s were powered by AMC 360 V8s and available with either manual or automatic transmissions, but later cars such as this ’75 model have Ford power, and no manual option.

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This SV-1 has been in storage a long time. The seller has revived the engine, but hasn’t gotten any further in the work needed to put it back on the road. It’s complete and intact, but you can expect to have to do a lot of work. Bricklin SV-1s weren’t much above kit cars in terms of build quality. The primer-gray hood is puzzling; like the Think above, SV-1s aren’t painted. The acrylic/fiberglass body panels, a massive source of production problems for Bricklin, were molded in one of five colors, with no paint necessary. I’m not sure why one panel would have been primered, unless it was damaged and someone repaired it using typical fiberglass repair techniques.

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What worries me a bit more is that none of the photos in the ad show the doors open. The SV-1 has gullwing doors, which you would think the seller would want to show off. I fear they may not work. The doors are too heavy to open by hand; they’re operated by hydraulic cylinders driven by a failure-prone electric pump. If that pump is shot, it’s strictly NASCAR-style ingress and egress until you find a replacement.


(As a quick aside, I was once in possession of a 1975 Bricklin SV-1 brochure. I went looking for it several years ago, but it seems to have vanished somehwere along the way. I wish I still had it.)

Automotive history is littered with ghosts like these, cars from failed enterprises or defunct companies. Some, like the fabled Tucker 48 (no relation that I know of, by the way) end up in museums, the few remaining examples selling for huge sums. Others, like these two, aren’t so lucky. But that means mere mortals like us have a chance to experience a rare piece of history for a (relatively) bargain price. So which one intrigues you more – the little electric runabout, or the safety-conscious sports coupe?

(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace sellers)

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Colin Mackenzie
Colin Mackenzie
2 months ago

I have had a Think City for the last 5 years as a daily driver. It will do 70 on Bay Area freeways and I get 60 to 70 miles range per charge for a 13 year old car. It paid for itself in 10 months by my not driving my F250 with a 460. This thing handles like my raced out 510 and it has a ton of room in the back for anything you want to carry. I had 8 Ikea bathroom vanities, sinks and faucets packed into the back when I was doing a construction project. This car was ahead of its time but priced to high for the market at the time. Today they could sell these easily with the incentives that are out there. I will miss it when it finally dies and I cannot keep it going. I remember when the Bricklin was new, it was a pig then and now it is just a old pig with no redeeming value.

Dr. Asteroid
Dr. Asteroid
3 months ago

I’m well aware of the Bricklin’s history. Never cared for it. I like the City. As a driver of a Scion iQ, it would be an easy transition.

Stephen Walter Gossin
Stephen Walter Gossin
3 months ago

That SV-1 is one of my favorite cars of all time. I’ve been looking for one for years now and hopefully will find one, soon!

What a wicked gorgeous car.

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