Of course today being the date it is we here at CC can’t help but join in the celebration of one of the best films made in the last 30 years, and what better way to celebrate by finding a model of the car featured on the film that hasn’t been turned into a time machine replica.
The troubled story of John DeLorean and his failed car company are easily good enough to make a movie in and of itself. From strange 4-door concepts and gold-plated American Express editions to the cocaine deal the gave the finishing blow to the to the already troubled company. A movie has apparently been in development since 2013, possibly in the backburner to make way for moneyMakingFranchiseSequel #512. The cars themselves have retained some market value thanks to the movie and the fact that they look amazing when made into time machine replicas and even more so when they’re not; as our featured model proves.
Our featured model is a 2-owner 1982 DeLorean DMC-12 finished in unpainted stainless steel with a matching grey interior. The engine is the infamous Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6 developing
200 130 horsepower and sending them to the rear-wheels by a five speed manual. The odometer is showing 53,985 miles.
This is a car that you buy while leaving your sense of rationality at home. You have to buy it because you really want one with your heart or you just want to show off with those sweet gullwing doors. Otherwise you could have something like this delicious 1982 BMW 633CSi for a bit less. Also a manual and also rear wheel drive, but this time there’s a 3.2-liter six sending the power through the back. The mileage is a bit higher at 79,000 but it looks like it was babied through each and everyone of them. It’d be a shame if some enterprising youth bought it and decided he’d like it better as a convertible and chopped the roof off.
Both of the cars in our little featurette are mint of course, but since the DeLorean is on the title let’s focus on it shall we? Looking at the interior you can’t help but sense some build quality problems. I could attribute them to the fact it has been 33 years since it left the factory. But the ill-gitting glove box, the worn-looking gear lever and steering wheel that seem out of a 200k mile car and the broken tachometer don’t inspire me with a lot of confidence.
But theres a problem far bigger than questionable quality if you want to buy this DeLorean. And funnily enough it isn’t with the car itself as it’s affecting all DeLoreans currently on the market. It’s the fact that this is Literally the worst possible year to buy a DeLorean. Back to the Future is so big a part of popular culture that even as we speak Nike is preparing to announce self-lacing shoes, Pepsi will roll out a special edition bottle that retails for $21.15 and Toyota will announce a special edition of their Tacoma to recreate Marty McFly’s truck. A local channel in my cable is showing BTTF II for the entirety of Oct. 21st. This is a marketing juggernaut 26 years in the making and there’s no stopping it. Just waiting until it calms down.
However, if you still absolutely must own one on the day we finally catch up with the Doc and Marty, the listing is here. Just please don’t put any BTTF reference on the license plate.
I am convinced John Z was consuming some of the stuff he tried to sell later when he dreamed this thing up. A car potentially as bad handling as a Corvair built by Irishmen with no motor industry experience, using a French engine to sell to Americans? What was he thinking?
That’s Northern Irishmen if you please. Very, very, very big difference.
I’m HIDEOUSLY dyslexic but if you could just
answer one thing:
Northern Ireland vs “the rest of” Ireland:
Which is part of England and and which doesn’t
want anything to do with England??
(Forgive me, but if you can type what you typed above and expect to read an answer posted here…)
Ireland is Catholic, was occupied by England from somewhere in the 1500’s (I’ll have to do some serious looking to get the agreed upon exact date), and finally got its independence in the war of 1916-1924.
Northern Ireland is primarily Protestant, an Elizabethan colony established in the late 1500’s, and was the source of The Troubles starting in the 1970’s. The whole reason the Delorean was built there was because the British government subsidized the plant in an effort to help out the high unemployment rate and give the locals something to do besides engage in religious strife and bigotry.
Yes, the English reformation was the nastiest one of them all. It’s effects continue to affect the English-speaking world in many subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) ways.
To provide additional detail: the Easter Rising was in 1916, which led to increasing conflict through 1921 when the Anglo-Irish treaty was signed and the Irish Free State established. Disagreement over the decisions of the Border Commission (which delineated the current border between what is now Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) contributed to setting off a year of civil war which finally ended in 1923, though there were also other contributing factors.
Summary version: today, Northern Ireland is part of the UK; the Republic of Ireland is its own country and has been since 1922.
Need to read up on exactly what the British did to the Irish. I had two great uncles in the IRA back in 1921. My great grandparents, grandmother mostly, despised the British.
I obviously am past that period in time and harbor no ill will on the Brits of today. However, I do make it a point not to let what happened in 1851 to be swept under the table when 1 million out of 8 million Irish died of starvation. To this day Ireland has not recovered to it’s pre-famine population levels.
I think the official name of the region explains it: United
Kingdom of Great Britain and *Northern* Ireland.
The rest of the island, 85% by area, is Catholic and
Another great example of the Delorean in US pop culture, from American Dad:
FOUL!!! Using a 633 to contrast the differences between these two vehicles is just piling on. One looks and drives like a kitchen appliance, the other is a work of art.
I don’t give an f about BTTF, this is a great-looking car. I wish it delivered on its looks.
Replace the PRV with a HFV6 out of a VE or the turbo one out of a Saab 9-3 and problem solved.
Any of the current crop of Ford EB V6s would also be sweet.
The later PRVs (even-fire, post 1984 redesign) were far better engines. Get a hold of a turbo one of those, which made up to 275 HP in later applications like the Renault-Alpine GTA/A610, and drop it in for an improvement in both power and reliability. Or do what many builders have done and use the 3.0L variant from the Eagle Premier/Dodge Monaco and bolt up a turbo. Keeps it closer to original, in that it’s the same family of engines, just improved.
Very disappointing car, all in all. But it still looks great. I would assume that they spent so much engineering the body that they simply ran out of money for the drivetrain.
Pretty sure a 6-series is cheaper and easier to come by if you want to do BttF conversion.
I’ll take the BMW, one of my favourite BMWs and on my wishlist for a long time. DeLoreans had a showroom in Blackpool in 1982 when I lived there. It was in a warzone behind the Imperial hotel, there were few takers and I’ve never seen one on the road. I did see one of the last ones at a museum in Northern Ireland in 1984.
If the DeLorean had an American V8 it could have been a Pantera fighter and might have sold a few to playboys and rock stars.
So true. I have seen more Bricklins on the road than DMCs. Could it be their owners are terrified of denting the stainless panels?
>>So true. I have seen more Bricklins on the road than DMCs. Could it be their owners are terrified of denting the stainless panels?<<
Wait, what? Down here in Texas, they're as common as Camrys. 🙂
I agree. I don’t know what it is about Texas and Texans but I’ve seen as many DeLoreans as I’ve seen Bricklins and nearly all the DMC-12s were spotted in Texas (in and around San Antonio).
Just saw on Wikipedia that a Texan bought the “old” DeLorean car company and parts and re-started production. I’m guessing the photo posted by “G” is outside the new “factory”?
The story mentions the 200 horsepower engine….wonder where that figure came from? I have an old road test somewhere, but seem to remember “stock” horsepower” was LESS than 150.
IIRC, the highest-output version of the PRV engine sold in the US came in at 150bhp in the Eagle Premier; DeLoreans were 5-10bhp less. Outside of the US, late Alpine A310s with the twin-carb motor were around 190bhp; later A610s with the injected turbo engine were around 270bhp.
No DeLorean ever left the factory with even close to 200bhp as far as I am aware.
The DMC shop is in Humble, just north of Houston. Used to see DeLoreans all the time when I lived in Kingwood, including one in need of restoration that was driven by a high school or college-aged kid who used it to deliver pizzas..
The pic was taken at the 1940 Air terminal musuem at Hobby Airport during one of their ‘Wings and Wheels’ events last September.
And yeah, it sticks in my mind that the PRV engine only put out about 130 HP in this application.
130 hp in the US version; 170 in the EU version. Emission regs at the time were very different for the US and EU.
I’ve amended the text.
For a guy who (supposedly) had his finger on the pulse of the American car buyer in the 60s, Mr. DeLorean sure “blew it” (literally and figuratively) with the DMC-12. A car that only came in 1 color, was powered by a wheezy 6 cylinder engine, an built by inexperienced workers in a “war-torn” country. And the icing on the cake? Financing by way of failed drug deals.
I also think it surprising that John DeLorean failed in such spectacular fashion. He misread the market as far as demand for an exotic sports car. Then, despite the fact that one of the cornerstones of his success at Pontiac was giving the brand a performance image backed by actual performance, he made the DMC-12 underpowered. Finally, his company was under-funded.
The factory was located in Ireland because he got significant government incentives to build it there. There was an over-emphasis on safety because part of his funding came from an insurance company, so the car had to have the latest safety features. Then of course there was the well-known coke deal.
It could’ve ended very differently, or at least the soap opera could’ve dragged on longer. Shortly after DeLorean left to meet with the dealers (who turned out to be part of a sting operation), someone called to offer legitimate financing for the company. If he had only been there to take that call….
The Delorean is a classic case of what happens when reality intrudes on your really neat car design.
The V-6 was used because it was available. Period. Anything better and obviously more desirable must not have been available. With all the development costs, Peugeot, Renault, Volvo, et. al. were desperate to get anyone else to use the motor
Building the car in Northern Ireland was done because the British government was subsidizing the effort. (Which was needed because development costs were higher than expected, surprise, surprise.)
The government got involved because Northern Ireland’s economy was in the toilet with a high unemployment rate, and with the lack of legitimate work available the locals were instead spending their time engaging in religious bigotry and terrorism. The Troubles. Protestant majority vs. Catholic minority, going back to the establishment of the original English colony in Ireland in the late 1500’s – and really being exacerbated by the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where the Protestant forces of Willliam III (William & Mary, aka William of Orange) defeated the Catholic forces of the recently deposed James II.
And so the Protestants do a “nyahh, nyahh, nyahh” parade thru Catholic neighborhoods every year since then, rubbing it in. And still do today. Yes, there are Christian groups more ridiculous than American fundamentalists.
– Bob Hoskins, ‘The Long Good Friday’
One of the best gangster films of all time.
The problem, Mr. Kerr, is that while the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, the road signs are all marked by compromises.
The car Delorean first envisioned when he first had the idea got nibbled away by two thousand tiny compromises.
In a project like this, You make a few compromises to get it off the ground, but the vision remains pure. However it’s once you get in too deep to stop that the real trouble starts. You’re not going to give up because you can’t get a decent glovebox door from your supplier, and so it goes. I think DeLorean did a great job considering all circumstances. That doesn’t mean that I objectively think it’s a great car, but as ol’ Sam Johnson said, ” It is how well a dog walks on two legs that is remarkable, but the fact that he does it at all”.
That all may be true, but one of the major reasons why Mr DeLorean left GM was (supposedly?) because he was tired of all the compromises forced on him by the forces above him. My point is, he had to know what he was getting into more than, say, Mr Bricklin. If he “invented” the GTO he had to have a clue that 130-140 horsepower was BARELY adequate. The story often passed around is that the DMC-12 was originally going to have a GM V8. Why would a former employee of any company think their old boss would help them build a (better) competitor?
I realize any/every car is a product of compromise, but when you look at what makes a good car, a great car…..and a really bad car (something folks do on this web site) the compromises are what separate bad from good or great.
It was never going to have a V8 hanging out from the rear end. This is a rear-engined car, like the Porsche. A V8 back there would have made its handling anything but safe. originally, he intended to use a rotary (Comotor) engine, but that engine never came to fruition.
Emission regs were a huge problem for everyone at the time. He bought whatever engine was available. But Chevy’s 2.8 was only making 110 hp; 130 in the HO version at the time.
The big Tatras of the 30’s can only attest to that fact; well liked by the occupying nazis in Czechloslovakia, it became verboten for nazi officers to drive them after more than a few died thanks to the rear mounted V8 treacherous driving dynamics.
There is a certain respect that must be levied to those who harbor compelling, yet completely bonkers, automotive fantasies.
One word: Fingerprints.
It’s one of those cars that was already infamous before it became famous, and not so much for being a car. There is so much pop culture baggage attached to the DeLorean now, that finding the platonic car within is like Stymie the Little Rascal unpeeling an artichoke: when you get to the center, there’s surprisingly little left.
My idea of the kind of person who owned a DeLorean in the day would be a non car guy attracted to the car’s ability to get you noticed, so much so that while showing off the gull wings, he ignored snickerings about the ridiculous side windows; someone who wore sunglasses to counter the glare of his bracelets. But the two people I have known personally didn’t fit that mold, so you never know.
The first guy was one of the more colorful types who are attracted to the DMCar. A professional drummer who toured with rock & pop luminaries, he was soft spoken, stoop shouldered and perpetually surprised, an adult sized elf with John Lennon glasses who drove an unkempt DeLorean beater well into the 21st century as his everyday car. My favorite image of him includes a tee shirt that showed a fried egg with the caption, “YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS” above a similar cartoon that declared, “YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS WITH TWO SLICES OF TOAST AND A SIDE OF BACON”.
The other fellow was and is a certified car guy. That was perplexing to me, but maybe his predilection for rods and slightly off center collector cars is an indicator: he once restored a quarter midget racer, and currently runs a cool early ’30s plymouth with a chromed Triumph TR6 engine where the crate V-8 would normally be.
I guess I’m just a DMC snobstopper, but I have to admit, the story of the Stainless Doorstop has added a lot of color (if only symbolically) to the hobby we love.
So, let me get this right. Current bid is $23K, but these guys are too cheap/lazy to fix the steering column bushing? Or is it because you have to disassemble half the car to do the job?
According to the listing, at least, the tachometer works fine. Lots of 80s cars had tachs that stopped at the last recorded RPMs when the engine was shut off.
I will admit that I always thought the DeLorean a really cool car that fumbled on the execution. I think John Z nailed many things with this car. It’s looks were stunning, and the stainless finish was cool as hell. He was also right that the V6 engine would become a huge factor in the market. The problem was 1) this particular V6 and 2) a V6 in a car like this.
This car with a lightweight V8 might have been more than an overpriced and underperforming sportscar amd something desired today for its own sake, and not just because it was cast in an iconic movie. FWIW, DeLoreN wasn’t the only one to make this mistake -Chrysler did the same thing with the Prowler.
He originally planned to use the Comotor rotary (Wankel) engine. When that went belly up, he switched to the idea of using the Ford Cologne V6. This is a rear-engined car, not mid-engined, so a V8 out back would have been virtually impossible.
DeLorean wanted to build a very forward-looking car, encompassing light weight, efficiency and safety; that’s what he saw as the car of the future. But obviously, this whole enterprise was always under-capitalized.
It’s interesting to compare to Tesla, which is the first new American car company since DeLorean and Bricklin.
True, all. He had the further misfortune to be doing this in the early 1980s, possibly a low point for availablity of decent engines.
There is a spot in my dream garage for a DeLorean. Also, a custom license plate with a BTTF reference is pretty much mandatory on all DeLoreans.
There is a good documentary on the development of the DeLorean available on Youtube.
Eff the Delorean, I’m still waiting for my “Mr. Fusion!”
One minor (and nearly completely irrelevant) footnote on the DeLorean story:
When I was researching my recent article on the Cadillac Cimarron, I looked into the saga of early 1982 Cimarron sales being restricted to Cadillac dealers that sold no other small car. Cadillac executives defined a small car as anything under 182” in length… presumably to avoid having customers able to compare the Cimarron to other subcompacts.
However, several Cadillac dealers also sold (or planned to sell) DeLoreans, which were 168” long. Those dealers raised a big fuss (yes, they actually wanted to sell Cimarrons) and noted the DeLoreans and Cimarrons were hardly competitors, but Cadillac wouldn’t budge. The dealers complained that GM executives simply wanted to punish John DeLorean for leaving GM and for his previous clashes with the company’s hierarchy.
Ultimately, this row fell by the wayside and became completely forgotten, but still it’s an interesting allegory of both cars’ histories.
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
I’m currently reading “Dream Maker The Rise And Fall of John DeLorean” [the third on the topic, including his “autobiography”].
From what I have read so far his “engineering genius” was in short supply as most of his time appears to have been spent jet setting and making sketchy financial deals for funding the project.
The original design came from a contract with Allstate for a modern safety vehicle and it was done by someone else working for him.
After having finished “Trust Me”, written about the Lincoln Savings and Loan collapse, Delorean’s monetary machinations read like Charles Keating’s. No wonder a drug deal seemed like a sound business business transaction.
Seems he had sketchy ethical business standards well before he even started the company.
His accounting practices seem to predate Keating, Milken and Ken Lay. As an automotive enterprise “executive” only Liz Carmichael seems to be worse. Slim Shady is more apt.
John De Lorean: tried to be another Henry Ford, ended up as Tony Montana!
My understanding is that Colin Chapman of Lotus (who did the chassis work on the DMC) was also involved in these shady deals and most likely would have had to face the beak had he not died suddenly. His accountant, Fred Bushel actually spent some time in the slammer for tax offences connected with Delorean I believe.
Indeed, the ‘non-authorized’ Delorean biographies paint quite a different picture from his autobiography. He seems rather more like Malcolm Bricklin with a much more in-depth engineering ability and managed a career within the established auto industry. When he left that structure (Ed Cole reportedly said he was fired), his ego got the best of him. He also consorted with some extremely shady characters, the most prominent being a car salesman named Roy Nesseth who comes off very much like a latter-day Harry Bennett.
It’s worth noting that his legal woes plagued him til his death. All indications are he was broke and living off the goodwill of friends.
The thing I could never figure out was that since this car was created with the American Market in mind, why a Chevy 350 could not have been used? Even detuned due to US Smog laws, it still would have offered a far better driving experience then the POS PRV engine which was a dog. Other then a fancy shell, there was really nothing to justify the $28,000 price tag these cars carried.
The DMC-12 owes its fame to the BTTF movies as if they had not used the DMC-12 then it might have been a minor footnote in car history(like the Bricklin)
I wonder if Chevy power might have been a non-starter given DeLorean’s uh – complicated, shall we say – relationship with GM. I was thinking either the Ford 302 or even the aluminum Rover unit (which had been the Olds/Buick 215 in an earlier life).
I can understand, however, that given the “sky is falling” attitudes so common in 1980-81 when so much development work was going on with this car, why the V8 idea didn’t go anywhere. Had this car come out with a Ford 5.0 in 1986 instead of when it did, who knows?
The DMC-12 was a rear-engined car, like the Porsche 911. A 625 lb V8 out back behind the rear axle would have been impossible to make safe.
Also, he wanted to build a forward-looking car; the car of the future. In the mid-late 70s, there was a strong sense that the era of the V8 was over, and everyone was going to smaller, lighter cars and engines. In that regard, he was basically right.
The European version of the DMC-12 made 170 hp, which made it a brisk car. US emission regs at the time were very difficult to meet without major compromises. GM’s 2.8 V6 made 110 hp; 130 in the HO version. Only Porsche was managing to keep power levels reasonably high, but their engines were not for sale.
DeLorean originally wanted to use a rotary engine, as that as the hot new thing. Don’t forget that the Corvette at the time was planned to go to a rotary engine. You have to see it from the times then, not now.
The ones that have had V8 conversions now seem to handle fine?
This was supposed to be a reply to Leon, but my commenting doesn’t seem to be working that way…
Because this was supposed to be one of the “cars of the future” – a high reving modern V6 fit the concept but an old school Detroit torque motor did not.
If there had been something V8 DOHC (or even SOHC), fuel injected in the American arsenal and someone had been willing to sell them to Delorean, I’m sure he would have taken it in a heartbeat.
You can’t put a V8 in the rear of a car (like a Porsche 911), and expect it to handle properly. DeLorean wanted a small, light , safe and efficient car, and originally wanted to use a rotary engine. Emission regs made life difficult for him. No one was making a high output six that would meet tight US emission regs at the time, except Porsche.
But with respect, the whole concept of that car with that engine configuration and that target crowd was flawed.
Of course it was. DeLorean’s concept of what his car was to be was an endlessly changing smoke and mirrors undertaking. And when it finally had to be pinned down, Lotus did what they could, but were very unhappy by the fact that JZD seemed very disinterested in all the details.
The DMC-12 was destined for failure, for a large number of reasons. DeLorean’s ego had long gotten away from him, and he found out that creating a new car from scratch was a whole lot harder than dropping a 389 into a Pontiac LeMans.
I can’t imagine ever wanting any vehicle with non opening windows…..
I used to buy lots of vehicles at auction and once saw a DeLorean painted white , I popped the hood and sure enough , the entire engine was covered in a thick layer of Bondo dust , the thing had been massively wrecked and cheaply repaired .
I do recall reading that the Delorean company started offering painted finishes after fingerprinted stainless had become such a problem. One owner reported that the stainless finish was like a magnet that virtually compelled strangers to walk up and touch it.
But yes, paint would be mandatory following a collision repair.
I think stainless has a whole nother set of problems taking paint as well
Although the entire window certainly didn’t roll down, there was a mail-slot sized part that did.
That’s *exactly* what I was talking about .
A Vent is not a window .
I often wonder why the rear engine layout was chosen in the first place, the Delorean looks like a front engine car. I understand the Chassis was derived off the Lotus Esprit, which was mid-engined, and had mid engined proportions(cab-forward), so I get turning the engine around to get the set back cockpit profile the Delorean was designed for, but then why even get Lotus involved in the first place? I seem to recall Delorean himself not exactly being fond of the rear engine layout from the Corvair chapter of his book, in fact that’s why the Tempest was what it was IIRC
It wasn’t, in the first place. It was supposed to be a mid-rotary-engined car. But things kept changing. I don’t know exactly when and why it went rear-engine, but I suspect that the packaging, originally designed for a very small rotary, didn’t work out. In order to do a mid-engined car, unless there had been a transverse drive train available (like the X1/9, Fiero, MR2), putting an engine ahead of the axle takes a bit of room.
Ultimately, DeLorean did whatever he had to in order to get it into production. By then, he was really not that engaged with the details anymore. Frankly, he was totally over his head on this whole project, and it showed. As I said a bit further up, designing, engineering and building a brand new car is a bit more complicated than dropping a 380 into a LeMans.
UK Telegraph has an article connected to the BTTF thing, about a fellow who claimed to be a real time traveler. He stopped over in 2000 to warn us of what we were getting into. His time machine was mounted on a much more CC-worthy ’67 Chev pickup. A truly timeless vehicle.
I suspect the survival rate of these cars may be the highest of any of its time period. The hoopla around these before they became known for John Z’s scandal and later the movie was always way outsize compared to the number actually sold. It was a cultural icon before it even went on sale.
I still catch one traveling around my fair city every year or so – always looking like new from my typical 100 foot or more vantage point.
The tach is not broken, Lucas electrics, it just jumps and stays there when its off. The other dials except the speedo stay in the same position they last were until you turn the key.
You know, the thing about the whole DeLorean debacle is that (theoretically of course) it was one of the few car companies that had a semi decent chance of succeeding. The reason I attribute that is JZD’s time at General Motors, and the lessons that he (should’ve) taken away from it.
I think the reason most upstart car companies like DeLorean, Bricklin, Etc, fail is twofold. The people running it either don’t understand the car business and how it works, or are too overconfident to see the pitfalls and their hubris overtakes them. (I think that may be why Tesla could fold, I know that they are selling decently and very popular. But from some of the interviews and statements that Musk has made, I think that he might get too cocky for his own good and do something that will doom his company. That’s certainly how he comes across anyway)
But, with JZD’s time at General Motors, and how he constantly railed against the corporate hierarchy and decisions that were being made. You would think that, when starting his own company and having that experience and rebellious nature, that he would learn lessons that he saw at GM and he would make it a point that whatever problems that he observed and saw from the higher ups (either perceived or otherwise) he would remember to never take those problems or decisions into any facet of his company.
But, I’m guessing that’s the other problem with being a bull-headed cowboy figure like DeLorean. Railing against the corporation and doing things differently is great, but when you can’t take no for an answer or are becoming to overambitious in your plans, its pretty easy to see why some of those corporate decision and practices are in place. So, it was sort of a double edged sword.
If nothing else, I still can appreciate the aesthetics of the DMC-12 itself. It’s one of those cars that, along with the Lotus Esprit proved that when Giugario got it right, he got it right. The silhouette and design of the DeLorean will always be why I appreciate it, rather than the BTTF connections (I only saw the first film once and that was in middle school, it left no lasting impression on me whatsoever.)
Went on a family road trip to the east coast this past summer. On the way home, we passed this.
Maybe it’s the BTTF effect more than the CC effect, but I’ve seen two DeLoreans in the past couple of weeks…definitely eye-catching even after all these years!