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Thirty years on, the Bricklin sports car that glittered in New Brunswick premier Richard Hatfield's starstruck eyes continues to cause controversy.

Overlooking the Bricklin SV-1's blemished industrial and business past, the Royal Canadian Mint is commemorating its technological achievements by rolling out 15,000 special-edition $20-dollar silver coins at $59.95 each.

But even though the mint has sold more than half the mintage, as part of its land, sea and rail collection, those who have studied the Bricklin fiasco are appalled.

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"I'm amazed because there are so many successes in Canada worthy of commemoration" said Harold Fredericks of Fredericton, author of Bricklin, a book about the car and its promoter.

"Why would we commemorate a debacle in Canadian industrial development?"

Sandford Borins, professor of public management at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, agreed:

"Malcolm Bricklin, founder of the company, was very effective at persuading a somewhat flaky premier, who had his own delusions, to invest money in the company. . . . Bricklin did what was necessary to charm Mr. Hatfield."

Mr. Hatfield, a Conservative and the longest-serving premier in the province's history, died in 1991.

Mr. Bricklin, who went on to import the Yugo line of vehicles to North America and to launch an ill-fated electric bicycle company, among other ventures, could not be reached.

Some $25-million in New Brunswick taxpayer money went down the drain when the Bricklin company went bankrupt in the mid-1970s after producing fewer than 3,000 of the cars, which featured a V8 engine, acrylic body and gull-winged doors.

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"It was a marketing achieve-

ment," said Prof. Borins, whose book Investments in Failure recounts the waste of taxpayer money.

"The car had a certain aesthetic appeal to it. But I don't think there was anything technologically advanced about."

The mint disagrees.

"Despite the interesting history and past that the Bricklin has, it still represents a remarkable achievement technologically for sports vehicles," spokeswoman Eileen Melnick McCarthy said. "We're talking about innovation and a maverick entrepreneur who had the gumption to go ahead with something which really, at the time, had never been seen before."

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