It’s easy to think that a car enthusiast like Jay Leno has driven everything ever built. However, fellow comedian Jeff Dunham owns a vehicle that Leno has never piloted – the Bricklin SV-1. Dunham brought the car to Leno’s Garage for a full rundown.
The car was the brainchild of Malcolm Bricklin, who was responsible for bringing Subaru to the US. The SV-1 launched in 1974 but only survived for a few model years. The SV-1 put safety at the forefront, with the automaker touting the coupe’s numerous safety features when governments and consumers demanded more action from automakers on improving vehicle safety in the early 1970s.
Bricklin engineered the SV-1 with an integrated roll cage, side beams, 5-mile-per-hour bumpers, and unique safety colors. Early SV-1s featured engines from the AMC, but it’d eventually switch to Ford’s 5.8-liter Windsor V8 due to supply issues with AMC. This Ford engine powers Dunham’s model, and, like all 1975 models, this one came with an automatic transmission, which the company billed as a safety feature.
Dunham has made a few modifications to make the SV-1 easier to live with. It features modern air conditioning, a new radiator, and other upgrades that improve living with a nearly 50-year-old, limited-production, Canadian-built safety sports coupe.
Manufacturing issues plagued the vehicle, with heavy doors, leaky roofs, and other accumulating annoyances quickly leading to its demise. Dunham and Leno explore Bricklin’s Canadian origins, which might have contributed to its downfall.
Bricklin built between 2,000 and 3,000 SV-1s before closing up shop. In 2016, there were less than 420 known to exist still, putting Dunham’s example on a prestigious pedestal, even if it’s not perfect.
Even with the upgraded pneumatic struts, the driver’s door is a tad lazy. The flip-up headlights are also slow to open, but Dunham modified it so he could quickly bleed the system and close them. It’s a rare car that came and went before the public could fully appreciate it, much like the DeLorean and the Tucker.