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.
"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.
"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."