By William E. Sheeline

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Is the auto world ready for another idea from Malcolm Bricklin? He's the entrepreneur who brought Subarus to the U.S. (successfully), imported Yugos (less successfully), and tried to start his own sports car company (least successfully). Now he is talking about building a national chain of dealerships, which would represent many automakers, and financing the enterprise with junk bonds. Few people in the industry think he will be able to pull this off. But they find the idea intriguing. Now John E. Branham, the owner of four separate Long Island dealerships -- Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Dodge -- has become the first dealer to raise capital through the sale of limited partnerships to the public. The private placement for Sunrise Auto Partners raised $32.6 million. The company is looking to buy a fifth dealership. Wall Street is wary. But Walter Wick of Smith Barney, which placed the units for Sunrise Auto, believes the success of a few early deals will change conventional thinking. The carmakers would rather have thousands of individual dealers than have to contend with powerful regional or national chains. Says E. Thomas Pappert, Chrysler's vice president of sales: ''We think the productivity with one dealer-operator runs better.''W.E.S.