Sbarro SV-1

I think it's just a coincidence that the Sbarro "Safety Vehicle 1" was introduced only a year before the similarly-styled Bricklin "Safety Vehicle 1". Or is it?

Well, to start, both wear '70s wedge styling, with the Sbarro offering more glass area and a less streamlined nose—almost like a beefed-up Saab Sonnet III. Both have gullwing doors, too. But the Bricklin is front-engined and powered by a conventional V8 engine, the Sbarro packs a rotary engine from the NSU Ro80.

Yes, contain your excitement: this is a mid-engined, rotary-powered car, like the ones us enthusiasts dream about. The Mercedes-Benz C111 and Chevrolet Aerovette? Yeah, this is like those, only Sbarro's version is just as fast but even more rare, with just one prototype made.

It's perhaps surprising that the Sbarro SV-1 was less successful than Bricklin's attempt, even though I'm sure we all wish there was one more '70s sports car to browse classified ads for. Underneath its body was a simple tube frame chassis, and the compact dimensions of the engine left both the front and rear of the coupé free for luggage.

The base engine planned had 150 horsepower, with a four rotor model expected to see 300 horsepower—a significant number in 1973. Shown at the Geneva Motor Show of that year, it must have caused a stir to those who recognized the potential of a mid-engine rotary-powered car.

Pretty neat, eh? Not bad for one of Sbarro's first projects, either.

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