Curbside Classic: 1982 DeLorean – Avoiding The Distractions

An admission:  At first I was really pumped to have found a DeLorean parked at the curb – and on a cold December night, no less.  Yet after some initial thought this pumped feeling transitioned into something that looked and felt like it may have originated from within the realm of ambivalence.

For a brand that produced just under 8,600 cars from 1981 to 1983, it isn’t difficult to find a DeLorean on static display; however, seeing one on the street is obviously an irregular occurrence.  We’ve covered DeLorean related topics before (linked below); perhaps that was part of my ambivalent mindset.

After this initial ambivalence subsided, my thoughts on this DeLorean have ran the gamut since I began compiling them in late December.  Like the ball on a roulette wheel, these multiple ideas seem to have finally settled into a reasonably happy resting place.

Discovering this DeLorean was the highlight of an already good and memorable evening, despite its unsavory cause.  Mrs. Jason was in St. Louis for a family emergency so I had fired up my four-wheel drive Ford crew cab pickup to transport our teenage daughter a half-hour north to the city of Columbia for a meeting of the sewing guild in which she is president (with all other members being roughly 60 and over).

The hostess’s house was a fantastic 1940s era bungalow.  Her living room, where I camped out, had a huge selection of vinyl records in a record store type display along one wall.  The hundreds of records she had were categorized by genre, with nearly all one can imagine being represented.  She had compiled a terrific playlist for the meeting.

I then spent the next two hours listening to jazz while reading a newspaper she had offered me – the prior Sunday’s edition of a paper named for the city that was named after the state.  For the hand I’d been dealt, it was reasonably promising.

It had been a while since I’d perused a print copy of this publication.  The articles covered the spectrum with my favorites being in the travel section.  Throughout the entire paper some articles were riveting and some were space filler, not unlike the flip side of some old 45 rpm records.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the paper and reading it easily filled two hours. The variety of content was delightfully vast.

Not the featured car, but you get the idea

These two examples of variety are in stark contrast to the DeLorean.  Variety wasn’t the DeLorean’s purpose in life; all were built with very little variety as the only option was an automatic transmission and the buyer was given a choice of a gray or black interior.  Otherwise, the production run was quite homogenous.

The DeLorean Motor Company made few physical changes during their production run.  The primary differences are in the hood area.  The 1981 models had the gas door located on the hood as seen here.

That was gone for 1982 and a “DeLorean” badge could now be found above the left headlights.  The final year 1983 models, of which there are few, had the VIN tag at the base of the windshield pasted down instead of being bolted as in 1982.  Otherwise, all DeLoreans are near clones of each other.

Perusing online reveals a limited number of DeLoreans that have had their stainless steel exterior painted.  The contents of various websites reveal there is considerable debate about whether or not the paint job was applied at the factory in Ireland.  The evidence of this being the case is shaky and information from a DeLorean source says they were not.  Yes, some were indeed painted but this was performed by dealers or, as was done for three early production cars, a subcontractor.

A paint booth in the factory would have been a significant investment for so few having been painted.  Let’s also not forget it’s been thirty-six years since the last DeLorean was manufactured and a lot of details can be forgotten along with myths being created.

As an aside, there was a red DeLorean at the National Automobile and Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana, which was seen by the CC Contingent at our 2014 Meet-up.

Recently a friend posted a social media comment about being an empathetic person.  From the tone of their comment it appeared their empathetic streak may have been a personal source of concern.  My unsolicited recommendation was for them to embrace their gift but to be very careful about not letting themselves get sucked into any drama.  I carefully cautioned I’ve seen it happen to highly empathetic people many times.

Drama is something that almost drips from the DeLorean, along with its progenitor, like a leaky power steering pump.  Has there been any car in the last half century overshadowed with as much drama, drama that is nearly impossible to avoid in any conversation about it?  If one is inclined to think of Tesla or Elon Musk, either pales in comparison.  Everything about the creation of the DeLorean is permeated with drama.

Suffering from what appeared to be a mid-life crisis run amok, John Z. DeLorean adopted a free-wheeling, playboy lifestyle that undoubtedly contributed to the termination of his wildly successful career at GM.  The number of patents DeLorean held has been claimed to be as high as 200, although a definitive number is hard to pinpoint.

After his departure, he would spend the rest of his life in various endeavors, none meeting with the degree of success he had realized at General Motors.

His most successful post-GM endeavor, the creation of his automobile manufacturing company, would see DeLorean blowing through money sourced from the British government for the development of the car.  While the car was being developed, this British money was also used on elaborate offices in high rent areas, interior decorators, and psychics among other things.

A faerie tree was located on ground earmarked for the DeLorean factory, causing a delay in building construction.  Irish folklore maintained the destruction of any faerie tree would result in failure; this particular tree disappeared mysteriously one night.

The religious and political unrest in Northern Ireland caused further delays in construction of the factory.  An agreement among the various parties led to a factory having two entry doors, one each for Catholics and Protestants, as well as an equal number of each on the payroll.

Let us not forget the wild distraction of DeLorean’s indictment for drug trafficking.  While he was later acquitted, the damage had been done.

Even DeLorean’s childhood had a certain drama.  In one account about DeLorean, it revealed his father was a factory worker at Ford Motor Company during the height of Henry’s $5 per day pay plan.  It seems Henry had many moral and lifestyle stipulations on his $5, stipulations employees had to demonstrate to maintain this rate of pay.  Further, Ford had no qualms about enforcing and inflicting his position.

Young John Z routinely witnessed Ford’s thugs come to his family’s home to inquire about the amount of money being saved, the amount of debt the family had, and their scouring the place for any tools that may have come from the Ford factory.

Any perceived violations would have resulted in the loss of this pay rate.

One method of interviewing for employment is to determine past actions to gain insight into future behaviors.  However, it can also be argued actions are influenced by early experiences; at any rate it seems as if DeLorean, the son of a Romanian father and an Austrian mother, both immigrants to the United States, was forcefully determined to never endure any such indignities.

The drama of DeLorean’s phenomenally successful life can easily cause one to become distracted if thinking of any of these events and asking “what if that didn’t happen?”.

As stated earlier, my thoughts on this DeLorean have been many and varied.  This last thought makes me think it would have been advantageous to have included the DeLorean in a long ago CC.  That particular article was about a red 1959 Plymouth and my expounding upon how any red Forward Look Plymouth often tends to have a certain female name thrown at it, a name used for both a book and the movie it inspired.

The DeLorean, like the Plymouth, has also been hijacked, to a certain extent, by popular culture.  The predictable statements about flux capacitors and reaching eighty-eight miles per hour are as inevitable as death and taxes.  That a movie from nearly thirty-five years ago is still so pervasive in the public conscience is a feat not frequently duplicated.

The DeLorean has enjoyed enough association with the movie to remain relevant in the public conscience.  Would this have happened without the movie?  Likely not.

While the number no doubt fluctuates, there have been at least eighty-seven DeLoreans known to have been converted into clones of the three DeLoreans used in the production of the first film of that particular trilogy.  In the late 1980s I saw a DeLorean at a now defunct car museum in Nashville, Tennessee, that was claimed to have been one of the three used in that particular film; it was powered by, if memory serves, a Ford 351 cubic inch V8.

Photo by Eric703 (or progeny thereof)

All I can posit from any firsthand DeLorean experience is they are highly comfortable.

I have also learned seeing DeLoreans parked at the curb is an international thing.  Will Stopford found this DeLorean in Australia.  It appears this particular one is not one of the sixteen built as right-hand drive at the factory.

Writing this has proven to be cathartic as I no longer contain any ambivalence about having found a DeLorean.  Despite the distractions of drama and celluloid, this is simply a rare old car that someone enjoys enough to use for its intended purpose of driving.  The owner gets it and I’m happy to have found it.

Found December 20, 2018, in Columbia, Missouri

Other DeLorean CC Features:

Vintage Review by GN

A Daily Driven DeLorean by Mike George

JZD and The Birth of the DeLorean by Don Andreina