I’ve been waiting for just this shot to appear, and here it is, in such a grand setting no less. A Tesla Models S and a DeLorean DMC-12, having a little chat about what it’s like to try to carve out a successful niche as an independent car company in America. Yes, the DeLorean was built in Northern Ireland (due to a massive subsidy), but its market was the US. But then their respective stories are different in just about every other way too.
Passin’Gas caught these two on Wolfback Ridge, which is just above Hwy 101 overlooking Sausalito and San Francisco Bay, down there in the fog somewhere. Tesla sold almost as many Model S sedans in the fourth quarter of 2013 (6,900) as DeLorean did in its whole existence (9,200), so in terms of their relative success, there’s not much to share.
Hard to say whose ego was bigger: Elon’s or John’s. No lack of self confidence in either man. I wonder what John would have accomplished if he had Elon’s personal wealth. He probably wouldn’t have had to (allegedly) resort to drug trafficking.
A minor correction: The DMC-12 was built in Northern Ireland.
Sorry for the nitpick: The DeLorean was built in Norther Ireland, which makes it a British car.
It’s an incredibly interesting parallel. Two equally driven, creative and egotistical men found car companies; get some government assistance (in fairness, DeLorean got a lot more than Musk), and came up with incredibly fashionable cars.
So far, the difference seems to be that the DeLorean was a bit of an underperformer against the already established competition which the Tesla virtually has no established competition and if anything is somewhat outperforming expectations (performance, range, etc.) Right now, its probably the closest thing to a successful electric car in production.
Only goes to show: If you want to succeed, you’d better have a damned good product – at least in comparison to everything else out there. For all its looks, the DeLorean was a mediocre car. And I’d still love to own either one of the above.
Interestingly, DeLorean nearly ended up building his factory in Puerto Rico, but he got a better incentive package from Northern Ireland.
I don’t think that building the cars in Puerto Rico would have made much difference in the final outcome of the company. Lower operational cost perhaps? I don’t know. I was just a kid at the time those negotiations were happening and I learned about that not too long ago. Besides, with all the problems with the build quality, the cars had that distinct “British” quality in them.
I don’t think it would have made any difference in the cars or necessarily the saga. The idea was pretty much the same: find a local government so eager to boost their economy that they would actually put up money to build a factory rather than simply offering tax incentives and so forth. It mostly came down to which government was willing to put more on the table.
DeLorean also had Colin Chapman handy in England to redesign it for him so it worked
There’s a very good book written about DMC just before the verdict was handed down on the cocaine case which I’ve mentioned before. It is not very flattering about Chapman’s involvement, both financially and in the development of the car. I’m a massive Chapman fan, but just the same he was human with all its frailties.
A number of years after Chapman’s death, his former managing director was arrested in the U.K. and eventually convicted of fraud charges related to the (as far as I know still never explained) disappearance of more than $17 million of DMC funds through a Swiss holding company allegedly connected with Chapman. The judge in that case declared that if Chapman had been alive to stand trial, there would have been enough evidence to send him to prison as well. (DeLorean was charged in the case, but managed to avoid extradition; when he died, the British press pointed out that there had still been a standing warrant for his arrest.)
Karl Ludvigsen made the same comment re: criminality in his recent superb book on Chapman.
which makes it a British car.
slightly OT but a friend of mine who grew up in Belfast maintains (quite rightly I think) that the only people who genuinely consider themselves “British” live in Northern Ireland.
We Scots, and the Welsh tend to consider ourselves Scottish or Welsh first, and while some people in England might say they’re British, when you scratch beneath the surface they’re usually conflating Britain and England. Meanwhile in Northern Ireland will you find (some) people who genuinely, fervently feel British… as well as plenty who feel equally fervently Irish of course.
So by that logic, yes, moreso than anything built in the English midlands, or the handful of cars built in the Scottish lowlands, the DeLorean is British built. And Irish built.
I don’t recall the car mags being overwhelmed by the DMC-12 at the time. Beyond the durability of the stainless steel. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t spacious, with limited luggage space. And it wasn’t cheap. Much of the focus in the reviews, was on DeLorean himself. And his entrepreneurial gusto. I wasn’t completely surprised when they went into receivership, soon thereafter. I remember reading, the prototype had already been around for quite some time, when production started.
Independent automakers…Sausalito…San Francisco Bay…
They all just BEG for this little ditty from 1981 that revolves around a certain Rambler…the largest of the independents in my childhood.
If they could talk…
Nice, thanks for sharing my photos Paul! I snapped these last summer and knew they would be appreciated. Wolfback Ridge is indeed a grand setting; when the days are longer I like to take my old Miata for a spin up and down Hwy 1 a few times a week… very cathartic.That Delorean was parked at that spot pretty regularly. When the Tesla showed up, the juxtaposition was too good to pass up. Never thought about the “independents” connection between the two… very interesting.
Wish the lighting was better. I took those with my iPhone, but my buddy had a real camera, I’ll see if I can’t dig up those photos.
DeLoreans were interesting but in the end weren’t very good cars, even by 80’s standards. They used innovation to garner attention. Teslas are, by all accounts I’ve seen, excellent cars worthy of their price tag and use innovation for practical purposes.
What no Bricklins? I agree with some of the others, to me, the DeLorean is foreign, even though the original goal was to make it an American sports car. Along with Puerto Rico, South Africa also tried to woo DeLorean too. I think one of the other factors that swung it to Ireland was the Lotus helped with some of the engineering on the DMC.
Can’t see a picture of a DeLorean without mentioning the movie “Back to the Future”; so there, I mentioned it.
Maybe they can use the batteries in The Tesla to charge the Flux Capacitor ? I know it isn’t 1.21 GW , but still . . . . .
+ 1.21 GigaPoints 😉
I read somewhere recently that Tesla now sells more saloons than even the S class MB in certain US markets. Can anyone confirm this?
Cheers. With the new hybrid Porsche lapping the N-ring in under 7 as well as delivering 3 litres/100km, it’s making the likelihood of my owning a 71 full size Buick wagon with the standard 455 increasingly dim. I think we are approaching a new threshold in emissions/ efficiency that will make beauties as featured on CC the domain of the Lenos and Seinfelds only. But not yet, thank goodness.
Why would you say that?
Read your own post above.
Carmine, I’ve got so many questions for you about clamshell ownership, the other posters would ask us to get a room. It’s still a possibility, but I’ve got to look forward instead of behind. For me, this would be a big investment that would probably be a keeper. Part of this consideration is the very distinct possibility of putting in a new power plant down the road which thankfully someone on Barnfinds suggested could be a new truck engine.
CC feeds my personal tastes, but also keeps me up to speed with how others think. Paul waxed massively lyrical on that 72 LTD, but he’s driving a Qube and is looking for something else relatively new. I hated writing some of those words because I don’t want to be the harbinger of doom. But CC is real world for me. I won’t be saying those things again.
Why would you need a new engine though? Do you have a fear that gas engine cars will be “outlawed” in some sort of way? What state are you in? Because we don’t even have emissions inspections here.
I live in Victoria, Australia. More likely to find a RHD Chev clamshell than a Buick, but a 71 or our shared precious, a 73, would suit me fine. Yep, I’m not a tin hat, but I think eventually the govt here will place massive registration encumbrances on large old car ownership similar to what’s already the case in some Asian countries. Very massively jealous of y’all in the States.
Even over here, it’s a state by state thing. Having lived in South Australia, the standards for transfer of registration are much slacker. Lots and lots of rusty CC classics on the road over there, I’m hoping we get a South Australian correspondent.
On my 40 minute commute across Silicon Valley I typically see 10-20 Tesla Model S’es, each way. My internal auto-census-meter says that’s more than I see Cadillacs, about equal to Nissan Leafs, an order of magnitude or two fewer than Camrys or Odysseys. Or even BMW 3-series. OTOH, 30 years ago I probably saw a lot more Dodge Colts and Mustang Turbos with the TRX package. So remember, the exotic Tesla of today will be tomorrow’s CC.
Speaking of Tesla….
I lived in house once with a guy who built a Tesla coil in the garage. Totally self taught, every night I went to bed thinking the house was going to burn down. It didn’t, he knew exactly what he was doing.