A one-of-a-kind sports car, lovingly restored in Westport

Photo of Jordan Fenster

It looks like something Roger Moore would have driven in a 1970s Bond film, but the 1974 Bricklin SV-1 had some problems.

For example, the car’s iconic gullwing doors were prone to leak.

“There are a list of defects that the car had that nobody realized,” Rick Barone said.

Barone should know. He’s restored five of the sleek, if often forgotten, sports cars in his home garage near the old Three Bears restaurant, just over the Westport line.

“We started doing these cars, my sons and I, as a father-son project,” he said.

Barone’s latest restored Bricklin is possibly one of only three of its kind in the world.

There were only about 3,000 Bricklin SV-1 sports cars ever produced. A little more than half of those are thought to survive.

Factor in the suntan color — the color was baked into the mold as the cars were assembled so it really can’t be altered — and Barone’s current prize may be almost unique in the world.

Malcolm Bricklin was responsible for bringing Subarus to North America, as the Historic Vehicle Association writes.

But the cars, believe it or not, were considered unsafe at the time so Bricklin sold his share in what would become Subaru of America, and decided to take his fortune and make a safe, sexy sports car, Canada’s answer to the Corvette.

The cars were designed for safety. There’s a roll cage like that of a tank and the bumpers have pistons, intended to withstand a 50 mile-per-hour impact. The five available colors are even called “Safety White,” “Safety Suntan,” “Safety Green,” “Safety Red” and “Safety Orange.”

The first Bricklin SV-1 sold for about $7,000 in 1974, almost 10 years before the DMC Delorean debuted with its own take on gullwing doors.

By late 1975, Bricklin production ceased.

Barone is an engineer by trade, as are his two sons, Rick and Nathaniel, so working on cars comes naturally.

“This one took us three years. We did it all in my garage,” Barone said, but they’ve been restoring Bricklins for more than a decade. For reference, he used his son, Rick Barone III. “He just turned 26. We started doing this when he was 15.”

“We work on them at night, sometimes until two in the morning,” he said. “It keeps me off the streets.”

Barone doesn’t just repair Bricklins, he gathers parts and sells the pieces he doesn’t need. He attends the Bricklin meetups and enters his restored cars into Bricklin contests.

The “Safety Suntan” 4-speed won best in show in 2017, and was actually signed by Malcolm Bricklin himself.

Barone has listed his most recently restored Bricklin for sale, but he admitted he does have a problem letting them go.

“I don’t sell cars,” he said. “We restore them and then I hang on to them.”

And he’s already working on the next — this one is “Safety Green” — and he’s sure he’s going to keep it.

“The green one is Kermit the Frog-green,” he said. “Even perfect it’s really ugly.”