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Real Visionary Has Come Up Flat . . . Again

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the third time in 20 years, Malcolm Bricklin was either ahead of his time, over the top or out of his element.

His Electric Bicycle Co. of Burbank, a visionary manufacturer of electric-powered mopeds, has gone bankrupt and is being liquidated after filing for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws in February.

Bricklin’s failure is also costly for a number of high-profile investors, including St. Louis Rams owner Georgia Frontiere and author Sidney Sheldon, sources said. Bricklin went bust in 1975 trying to build a gull-winged sports car and then again in 1991 as an importer of the Yugo hatch-back automobile.

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Ironically, word of his bicycle company’s collapse comes at a time of renewed interest in electric bicycles and scooters as cheaper, more powerful and longer-lasting electric models are being developed.

There are 10 to 12 companies trying to bring electric two-wheelers to market, including Peugeot, Vespa and several U.S. and Japanese firms, said Robert Hayden, executive director of Electric Vehicle Assn. of the Americas, a San Francisco-based group of some 45 companies in the industry.

Retired Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iacocca last week announced the formation of EV Global Motors to make electric bikes in a venture with Taiwanese bike maker Giant Co. and Unique Mobility of Golden, Colo.

One of Bricklin’s initial investors, retired Hughes Aircraft chief executive Malcolm Currie, recently started up his own electric bike company in Van Nuys called Currie Technologies. Currie was briefly an executive in Bricklin’s company, but the two had a falling out last year.

The company converted its bankruptcy filing to Chapter 7, a liquidation, on May 23, according to court documents. A creditors’ meeting is scheduled for July 11.

Messages left for Bricklin on a recording machine at the Electric Bicycle office in Burbank were not returned.

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After rolling out the EV Warrior electric bicycle last summer amid much fanfare at the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A., Bricklin’s company attained some success, selling several hundred bikes through a dealer network that included Webb Automotive Group of Irvine and Marvin K. Brown of San Diego.

But the company produced electric bicycles faster than its ability to market them, according to sources who asked not be named. The electric bicycles were also relatively expensive, at $1,400 to $1,800.

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