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The DMC-12 seemed to be more convenient for parking because of its doors. It has no paint, instead just stainless steel, so you shouldn't worry about scratches. Why such brilliant car had no success ?
Actually there was a waiting list for the DeLorean.
It was a good car! But design, production as well as the company owner were dogged by setbacks, in part caused by the innovative design and therefore untested manufacturing technologies used.
Engine selection and location as well as chassis construction were changed after the original concept which led to considerable schedule pressures.
Construction on the factory began in October 1978, and although production of the DMC-12 was scheduled to start in 1979, engineering problems and budget overruns delayed production until early 1981.
About 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and December 1982. Almost a fifth of these were produced in October 1981. The workers were largely inexperienced, but were paid premium wages and supplied with the best equipment available. Most quality issues were solved by 1982.
The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following John DeLorean's arrest in October of that year on drug trafficking charges. He was later found not guilty, but it was too late for the DMC-12 to remain in production
In 2007, about 6,500 DeLorean Motor cars were believed still to exist.
DeLorean DMC-12 (1981 - 1982)
The story begins in April 1973, when John Zachary De Lorean unexpectedly resigned from his role as General Motors’ vice president of car and truck production. It was a shock move, considering he was tipped for the top of GM, but following the form book was never an option for a renegade like John Z. He had risen meteorically through GM’s ranks using his swashbuckling style to play the corporate game so well. And now, he wanted to set-up his own car company and build the sort of exotic sports car that GM never would.
From the very beginning, John Z knew exactly what he wanted, and hired GM engineering guru Bill Collins to implement his plans. Impressed by BMW, John Z decided to produce a sports car to rival the CS coupe – and impress its aspirational buyers by being very European in feel. Throwing a curved ball into the mix, De Lorean stainless steel bodywork (so the car would last for years) and gullwing doors. He wanted to give the car a wow factor similar to the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
Throughout 1973 and , the plans began to crystallise, and although the De Lorean Motor Company didn’t yet officially exist, the new car was already taking shape, as was the finance to build it. Cutting a deal worth $500,000 with the Allstate Insurance Company, John Z presented his proposed sports coupe as the De Lorean Safety Vehicle (DSV-1) – and the insurance company would fund the building of a prototype with a view to taking it to production, should the demand be there. But even before the ink on the deal had dried, the insurance company lost interest, leaving the finances in the capable hands of De Lorean.
At the end of John Z and Collins approached Ital Design’s Giorgetto Giugiaro, and after brief negotiations, the Italian began work on the new car’s styling. De Lorean’s parameters – along with the need for those doors and that bodywork – were that the new car needed flush fitting bumpers, was mid-engined, and commodious enough for tall drivers (John Z was 6”).
Initially, a Wankel engine was considered, but neither Citroen nor Mazda were serious enough to supply in volume. Next came the Ford Cologne V6 then the 2-litre Citroen CX engine with the engineers only switching the V6 ‘Douvrin’ PRV engine comparatively late in the programme. Given that Giugiaro had packaged his mid-engine design around Citroen’s in-line four, this caused a fundamental engineering shift – the V6 power pack needed to be repositioned behind the rear axle line to maintain interior room (and need to fit a golf bag behind the front seats).
The body construction was an advanced – a composite system (Elastic Reservoir Moulding) that allowed the steel outer panels to be bonded to a two-piece understructure. It was a groundbreaking construction method that added desirability – so much so, that when it was presented to the press in October 1976, Road & Track magazine declared the DMC-12 a ‘sensation’. Despite not having driven it, and production remaining a long way off.
Throughout the period, John Z was here, there and everywhere – using his contacts, pressing the flesh, and sweet-talking potential investors into parting with their cash in exchange for a share of the company. Dealers were courted, banks were wined and dined, and industry suppliers persuaded to climb aboard – all were promised the earth. The dream was gaining momentum, and Detroit was beginning to take notice.
Original prototype was shown early to drum up financial support for the venture…
While the first prototype spent much of 1977 doing the rounds, seducing the press and potential dealers, a second was built. It was then that the detail engineering began – thanks to additional finance. A adapting the car to run the Douvrin V6 had been eased considerably when engineers found they could mimic the conceptually similar Alpine-Renault A310 V6′s installation.
However, a much more pressing issue was coming to light: where to build the car. Initially, the most serious offer on the table was from Puerto Rico – a $60m grant package (topped up by the US government), and excellent location within an abandoned military base tempted John Z, but delays in the project pushed him into talks with the Northern Ireland Development Agency.
It was a bold move, and potentially fraught with danger, but having charmed the Labour government, John Z’s deal was struck in a matter of days following an amazingly short consultation. Worth a cool $117m of taxpayer’s money, the contracts were signed in July 1978, and the project to set up a greenfield production site in Dunmurry, near Belfast, was underway.
Having moved the focus to the UK, and with the finance in place, John Z set about building the company is readiness for volume production.
Alongside the Dunmurry factory, a management and logistics centre was opened in Coventry – where staff were rapidly hired to fill it to start setting up new supply deals in the UK – while John Z and Colin Chapman signed a deal for Lotus to develop the DMC-12 to production readiness. It made perfect sense – Lotus remains a respected automotive design and engineering consultancy, and Collins and Chapman were both firm admirers of the Esprit, a car that set the dynamic benchmark in the market.
Despite that, Collins found he couldn’t work with Chapman, seeing the car he’d designed from scratch watered down and re-engineered around partner’s engineering principles. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
Once Lotus was on board, it wasn’t surprising that the Esprit would end up being a major influence.
Given the tight timescales, Lotus had little choice. It went for what it knew best and did away with much of the original De Lorean’s underbody, adopting a chassis structure near-identical to the Esprit’s. With nearly 200 Lotus staff on board working on the De Lorean project, the backbone chassis was adopted, and the Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection (VARI) method was introduced to replace the complex and costly ERM system that Collins had enthused about in 1975. Stainless steel outer panels would still adorn the exterior, so the simpler body construction would be invisible to the owner. And Lotus would receive a royalty for its patented system for every DMC-12 built.
Similarities with the Esprit went further – the all-independent suspension with front double wishbones and a rear multi-link was almost identical. No surprise, then, that it handled well (having been honed at Hethel), but the ride quality was also excellent, thanks to its relatively high ride set-up and large super-sticky tyres (that were necessarily much larger at the rear). The rack-and-pinion steering was also set-up to Lotus specification, and was quick geared to 2.65 turns from lock to lock – the perfect driver’s car set-up.
Performance didn’t live up to expectation – not least because once the emissions equipment was installed (the DMC-12 was the first British built car to feature a catalyst as standard) the 2.8-litre V6 produced a mere 130bhp.
Despite the upheavals beneath the skin, the styling remained true to the Giugiaro original. A few late tweaks saw some of the sharpest edges smoothed off, the side window profile tidied up, and the last minute additions of electric toll-booth windows – the result of a conversation between John Z and a co-passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight who couldn’t understand why his so-called luxury didn’t have electric windows.
Just over a year after setting up in the UK, Lotus began turning over the finished project for De Lorean to put the car into production. Although development wasn’t finished – and the fine-tuning needed completing, the project moved to Ireland…
As we have already seen, John Z De Lorean didn’t play by the rules – and was prepared to think unconventionally in order to realise his dream of getting his gullwing sports car into production. However, choosing Northern Ireland to build his car was either the act of a genius – or commercial suicide.
New factory was built for the DeLorean, using British taxpayers’ money.
When DMCL in the UK was set-up in October 1978, it was effectively starting from scratch – the car was underdeveloped, and a parallel programme of development at both Hethel and Coventry would need to take place a practice that had yet to take off in the industry. In setting up the production cars, new supply deals with a myriad of component suppliers in the West Midlands were set-up – all with the demands of setting up a brand new factory was built in strife-torn Northern Ireland running in the background.
Based in Dunmurry, near the Catholic Twinbrook Estate, the factory was perfectly placed to deal with the area’s rampant unemployment (it was as high as 50% in the catholic areas) – the location was equidistant between large catholic and protestant estates. However, the local work force wasn’t skilled, would need considerable training, and there simply wasn’t the automotive industry infrastructure in place for a quick start-up.
On top of that, John Z had set an impossible schedule to meet – he’d promised the government that pilot built cars would be rolling off the line by May 1980, and a year after that, the factory would be producing 30,000 cars per year. Despite the enormity of the task, he remained based at the company’s New York office, relying on industry heavyweights such as Purchasing Director Barrie Wills and ex-GM Chuck Bennington to get the operation running in the UK.
Ital Design’s Giorgetto Giugiaro (left) styled the DMC-12 – here, he’s with John Z DeLorean at the Dunmurry factory at end of 1980 for the media launch…
Eight months late and 㿎m over budget, the first DMC-12 rolled off the line at Dunmurry. It would be easy to criticise this overshoot, but given the timetable the UK team was working to, this was a remarkable achievement. Sadly it was still a rush job – and in a tale all too familiar in the British motor industry, the car was released to the public undercooked and lacking in quality. Within months the factory had these issues licked…
The initial road tests were kind, though – after comparing it with the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 308 among others, Car & Driver concluded, ‘If De Lorean keeps it up, he could be the only North American besides Henry Ford to leave his mark and his name on the business.’ Given it cost $25,600 compared with $16,258 for the considerably faster (if much less refined) Chevrolet Corvette, it was a frankly misguided view, gullwing doors or not.
The chassis and engineering were impressive, even if the excessive ride height did its best to upset the overall levels of lateral grip. Autocar reckoned it was biased towards understeer Road and Track thought it rolled too much – and all thought it lacked the ultimate delicacy of its European price rivals. But who really cared when it looks so striking.
Car & Driver summed in a wonderfully overblown way: ‘Let the sun blaze or the night lights sparkle and the sheen shines. And when the gullwings reach for the sky and their amber warning lights alert the neighbourhood’s low-flying Learjets to a new obstacle, all the world’s air traffic controllers couldn’t channel the glut of instant onlookers. When they look inside, they lose all control. The Pewter grey interior should bring all special edition designers in Detroit to their knees. It looks wonderful.’ Quite.
Initially, sales were brisk, and the 1000th car rolled off the line in no time…
However, storm clouds were already gathering even before production had got up to full speed. Despite promising early sales the queue of willing buyers had dried the by end of year – the chill wind of recession had struck the US automotive sector, and stockpiles of unsold cars started to mount up, both in Dunmurry and dockside in the USA. The worst winter in 50 years also played its part.
As it was built on fragile finances, no way could DMC weather any kind of storm. John Z desperately tried to secure additional funding from any sources available to him in the USA, as well as managing to top up his investment from an unwilling Conservative government.
Production was slashed and the factory moved to a three-day week. Plans were accelerated to give the DMC-12 Euro Type Approval – something that John Z originally thought wouldn’t be necessary. An emergency programme headed by Barrie Wills in Coventry was instigated – but it was already too late, the money had run out.
After forming DMC (1982) Ltd, the receivers funded the continued development of UK spec cars while a viable rescue plan was devised. The deadline would be July 31 – John Z assuming that the date would come and go without financial assistance, leaving the government would offer a bailout to avoid heavy job losses. How wrong he was.
De Lorean’s head of marketing, Tom Ronayne, hadn’t waited – he toured Europe hosting a marketing roadshow to sound out potential sales outlets. The feedback was positive – and with the factory still on tick-over, but with time running out, a rescue bid was cooked up. The immediate issue was to increase demand and production at Dunmurry and start moving stockpiled cars in the USA.
But on 19 October after a four-month operation in the USA, the FBI pounced on De Lorean in a Los Angeles hotel room for ‘narcotics violations.’ The dream was over thanks to a briefcase full of cocaine.
And it was over for Wills and Bennington, too. After running out of time and money, and with no chance of the British Government investing further money into the tarnished operation, the receivers were forced to close the company. After a run of less than two years and around 9500 cars, Barrie Wells locked the factory gates for the very last time.
By 1980 car performance had hit a new low. Engine displacement and horsepower had dropped across the board throughout the 1970s. There were only a few remaining performance cars available in the U.S. market. If you count performance oriented 2-seat sports cars the Corvette was pretty much the only American made game in town. There were a few exotic European sports cars however their high prices made them out of reach of a large majority of buyers.
There was a ray of hope for the 1981 model year. John DeLorean who had a whole string of successes in his career at GM which included such cars as the Pontiac GTO and Firebird, left GM to start his own car company. His dream was to produce the ultimate 2-seater sports car. His vision was to produce a state-of-the-art sports car that would be the envy of the world. The car was the DMC-12 which after spending several years in the design phase had matured into a beautiful rear-engine sports car with gull-wing doors. The body was stainless steel which wa s rustproof, an innovative idea. The bare stainless steel gave the DMC-12 a natural silver appearance. It was a big gamble for DeLorean not to have offered the DMC-12 in other painted exterior colors. It would have also been neat, had DeLorean offered a polished stainless steal version, imagine an entire car body that shined liked chrome.
The rear-engine Delorean DMC-12 was originally slated to have a MSRP base price of $12,000. For 1981, this would have made the DeLorean one of the best 2-seater car deals around. As a comparison, the base price of the 1981 Chevrolet Corvette was $15,248. Unfortunately the DMC-12’s price would double to $25,000 by the time production began. Even with the price increase the DMC-12 sold well, the car was in high demand. Initially the DMC-12 was showered with praise.
So what went wrong, why did the DMC-12 fail? Production for the DMC-12 would end in December 1982. The answer that most are given is that John DeLorean ran out of money and wasn’t able to secure financing to continue operations. This is partially true, but this isn’t the root cause of the problem. It wasn’t quality control issues either. There were minor issues during the first year but no more than any first year of a new car, by the 1982 model year those minor problems were fixed. Ironically the big gamble of building the DMC-12’s factory in Northern Ireland had worked. It was only the financial woes by late-1982 that forced the DeLorean Motor Company into bankruptcy. Not helping matters is that the U.S. which was the main market for the DMC-12 was on the receiving end of a terrible economic recession. It was at this time when John DeLorean was arrested on drug trafficking charges which he was later acquitted of. Thereafter his company was sunk like the Titanic.
The root cause of the DMC-12’s failure was the lack of a true performance motor. The PRV 2.8 liter V6 which was a motor developed by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo was the DMC-12’s only motor. It was a reliable and proven motor but it was ill equipped to power a sports car. The net result was the DMC-12 sold in the U.S. market went 0-60 mph in 10.5 seconds. This was very slow for a 2-seater sports car. The truth was the DMC-12 needed at least 200 horsepower to compete with other 2-seater sports cars in its market segment, the PRV V6 only produced 130 horsepower. As a comparison the 1981 Chevrolet Corvette produced 190 horsepower and went 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds. Other competitors of the DMC-12 were the 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi, it went 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds and the 1981 Porsche 911 SC which went 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. That wasn’t the worst of it for the DMC-12, it only could obtain a top speed of 109 mph. As a comparison the 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi had a top speed of 149 mph. Unlike most sports cars at the time The sleek aerodynamics of the DMC-12 could handle at least 150 mph. John DeLorean understood this was a big prob lem and had planned for the introduction of a new twin turbo V6 for the 1984 model year. If this would have happened the DMC-12 would have went 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and had a top speed of a little over 150 mph.
No matter how beautiful the DMC-12’s styling was or how very cool it looked, these factors could not make up for the grossly underpowered motor under the rear hatch. This is why sales tanked by the 1982 model year. Even during the hard hit recession times of the early 1980s, powerful sports cars still sold. Had the DMC-12 started its production with a 200 or more horsepower engine, the DMC-12 would have been successful and the DeLorean Motor Company would have surely survived.
In the end, it’s very ironic that the man responsible for the Pontiac GTO didn’t realize that every successful 2-seater sports car needs a good performance engine. If it had not been for the Back To The Future film trilogy, the Delorean DMC-12 would have been forgotten by most, instead it’s become a legend. The DeLorean Motor Company returned from the dead in the mid-1990s and still provides parts and upgrades (which includes engine performance upgrades) to current DMC-12 owners. And for the first time since DMC-12 production shutdown in late-1982, the DeLorean Motor Company will began production of a new DMC-12 sometime in 2017, it will have a modern V6 which will produce anywhere from 300 to 400 horsepower. Finally the DeLorean DMC-12 will get the motor it has deserved all along.
Click on the link below, to watch the video of this article via Old Car Memories’ YouTube channel:
Written contents in this article – © 2017 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved
THE ETHICAL SPORTS CAR
Given DeLorean’s tastes in automobiles, which ran to the likes of the Maserati Ghibli, it was inevitable that he would set out to build his own sports car. He saw a viable niche between the Chevrolet Corvette and the Porsche 911: expensive enough to be profitable at small volumes, but not so expensive as to compete directly with the high-end European exotics. DeLorean had tried several times to launch a new sports car at GM, first with the Pontiac Banshee (discussed in our articles on the Pontiac Fiero and OHC six), then with Chevrolet’s ill-fated mid-engine Corvette. On his own, he would finally have his chance.
One of the many cars in John DeLorean’s personal fleet during his time at GM was the Maserati Ghibli. Styled by Carrozzeria Ghia, the V8-powered Ghibli was the work of a young designer named Giorgetto Giugiaro, who would become one of the most influential stylists of the seventies — and the designer of DeLorean’s own DMC-12. (Photo: “WOI 2008 16” © 2008 Randy Stern resized and modified 2015 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license with modifications offered under the same license)
The first problem was that his exit agreement included a non-compete clause. DeLorean apparently hoped that GM wouldn’t consider an expensive, limited-production sports car to be a threat to their business, but as soon as he began talking to dealers, GM terminated his bonus payments. In response, DeLorean commissioned Business Week editor J. Patrick Wright to co-author a scathing tell-all memoir, entitled On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors: John Z. DeLorean’s Look Inside the Automotive Giant.
In the past, DeLorean’s public statements had often been characterized by a curious ambivalence. He would be frank and impolitic in one breath and in the next would studiously uphold the corporate party line. Now, he was positioning himself as the ultimate insider rebel, challenging GM on everything from its minority hiring policies to its attitude toward safety. Among other things, his book would include a condemnation of the controversial Chevrolet Corvair that would have gladdened the heart of Ralph Nader. DeLorean got cold feet about the book shortly after its completion in mid-1975, but Wright finally opted to publish it himself.
If DeLorean was to be the consummate foe of Detroit hypocrisy and shortsightedness, his car would have to be the perfect exponent of DeLorean’s purported values. It would be sporty, since DeLorean’s reputation had been built on sporty cars, but it would also be rationally sized, durable, fuel-efficient, and safe — the thinking man’s Supercar for the post-OPEC age. DeLorean called it an “ethical sports car.”
Another Giugiaro creation of the early seventies was the Maserati Merak, a cheaper, six-cylinder version of the Giugiaro-styled Maserati Bora. Like the DeLorean DMC-12, the Merak was powered by a 90-degree V6 engine — a 2,965 cc (181 cu. in.) version of the Maserati-designed V6 from the Citroën SM. (Photo: “Maserati Merak” © 2008 Brian Snelson used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
To engineer his new car, DeLorean hired a former colleague from Pontiac, Bill Collins, then leading the development of GM’s downsized 1977 full-size cars. For the exterior styling, DeLorean turned to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign, whose resume included the Maserati Bora and Merak, the Volkswagen Golf and Scirocco, and the Lotus Esprit. DeLorean specified that the car should have a mid-mounted engine, a plastic body, and stainless steel exterior panels. A target weight of only 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) would allow both sports-car performance and economy-car fuel economy. Despite its lightweight construction, the new car would have neatly integrated 10 mph (16 km/h) bumpers, with a bank of airbags providing 40 mph (64 km/h) barrier crash protection, far better than federal law required. The body would even be impervious to rust.
Early on, DeLorean called the new car the DSV, DeLorean Safety Vehicle, in part to secure an investment from the insurance company Allstate. The commercial failure of the Bricklin Safety Vehicle (SV-1) led him to deemphasize the safety aspect and by 1976, the car had been rechristened the DeLorean DMC-12.
John DeLorean wasn’t the only entrepreneur interested in safety-oriented, plastic-bodied sports cars in the early seventies. This is Malcolm Bricklin’s ill-fated Bricklin SV-1, offered from 1974 to 1976. Only about 3,000 copies were sold before the venture collapsed, at considerable cost to the Canadian province of New Brunswick, whose government had partially funded the SV-1’s manufacture. (Photo: “Bricklin SV-1 AMI” © 2007 Thomas doerfer resized 2010 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license)
We’ve previously discussed why the Aztek was one of the worst American cars ever made, and we don’t really mind doing it again. Although, we’re keeping things brief this time around. Around this time, it seems General Motors was determined to come out with one earliest compact SUVs.
Unfortunately, it failed to do so in style. The Aztek looks like something straight out of someone’s nightmare. It was boxy. It had plastic accents. As you could expect, the Aztek barely sold. Some may even say that the Aztec is among the cars that put Pontiac out of business.
Delorean Fun Facts:
Since John D was trying to go head to head with General Motors, he had an entire range of Delorean cars envisioned. Some design models were made including a four-door model, an SUV/jeep type creation, even a bus. Again, similar to the approach that Elon Musk is making with Tesla. And we all have to admit how one of the first thoughts when seeing the Cyber Truck was that it looked like a Delorean.
- The gull-wing doors caused some issues with windows, and they had to install a “toll booth window” that took up a smaller portion of the overall window.
- The doors themselves were made by technology used by the defense industry
- The best way to clean the stainless steel exterior was with gasoline
- They located the gas filler cap on the hood with the first versions of the Delorean. This was thought to look ugly, so subsequent editions would put it under the good, meaning you had to lift up the hood anytime you needed to fuel up.
- It was actually advanced when it came to environmental issues. It was seen as being the “ethical sports car” in that it was ecologically sustainable. It would be better on gas and last a lot longer than regular cars.
5. Apple Lisa
photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
An example how a product that featured a brand new and promising technology failed. Apple Lisa was the first desktop computer with a mouse that experts recognized as one of the most important developments in this market segment. This technology ended up taking over the market, but the Lisa itself failed. Why?
The reason is too low performance at a too high cost. People were interested in machines with a price tag lower than $9,995 that Apple offered, preferring the more affordable IBM PC. Apple generously invested in ads, but they failed to convince potential buyers. Instead, this created another problem: the ads promised much more than the product actually was, which didn’t help overcome people’s reluctance to purchase Apple Lisa.
Lessons learned: maintaining an attractive price-performance ratio of the product is vital. The same applies to transparency about the product’s features and capabilities – ads should never overpromise or create inflated expectations.
5. Apple Lisa
Lisa, the first desktop with a mouse, cost $10,000 (almost $24,000 today) and had just 1 MB of RAM. Consumers weren’t as interested as Apple anticipated, and it was a case of over promising and under delivering, as the 1983 ads—featuring Kevin Costner—depicted the Lisa as much more than it really was.
Transparency matters. It may feel like a buzzword you hear all the time, but there’s no better way to describe the lesson learned here other than to say that Apple was not transparent enough about the Lisa.
We no longer live in an age where you can falsify the capabilities of a product, because social media makes it easier for the truth to come out and word of mouth will eventually catch up to—and destroy—projects that lack transparency.
9 There Are 16 Custom-Built Right-Hand-Drive DMC-12s
If you want a European version of the DMC-12, there are a few very rare right-hand-drive versions of the car available. They sell for a lot, because only 16 factory-built DMC-12s were ever installed with right-hand-drive.
More of them have been reconfigured and converted since then to suit the UK, Australian, and Indian markets. Only three of the original right-hand-drive DMC-12s were converted in the factory, while the other 13 were produced by the Wooler-Hodec Company.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the DeLorean was (and is) a real car. The DeLorean was completely built in Northern Ireland, between 1981 and 1982, with 3 model years – 1981, 1982, and 1983. The company came and went before Back to the Future was released, and the movie production bought and used the cars without the knowledge of even John DeLorean himself.
The DeLorean was built for the North American market, and there was a dealership network with full Service Centers in all 50 states.
How many DeLoreans are there?
Barrie Wills, director of purchasing (and the last employee) of the DeLorean Motor Company, Ltd., has said that 9,080 DeLoreans were built. It’s estimated that approximately 5,000 DeLoreans still exist – although not all of them are road-worthy.
Over the years, many DeLoreans were placed into storage and forgotten, others have been destroyed in wild fires and house fires, others have been wrecked in car accidents, and some have simply been left to the elements in driveways, carports, and garages. Many have also been taken apart to restore other DeLoreans that were in better condition.
Are DeLoreans slow? / Can they go over 88mph?
The DeLorean was never intended to be a drag racer, but rather a highway cruiser. As such for both comfort and fuel economy, the DeLorean was given tall gear ratios and tuned more for emissions than power.
While the speed was decent, compared to other vehicles in its time, it’s true that other advancements give modern cars better performance. The 5-speed manual transmissions also performs better, given the ratios and additional gears, not to mention the lack of a lock-up torque-converter. On the flip side, the DeLorean has fantastic low-end torque and will not slow down when encountering steep hills, and will even continue to gain speed uphill where many other cars will bog down.
Yes, the DeLorean does indeed go faster than 88mph. The 85mph speedometer wasn’t meant to display a lack of prowess, instead, it was a government mandate to discourage excessive speeding to conserve fuel. In fact, DeLorean reported the the car had a top speed of around 130 mph. Many DeLorean owners have reportedly done 110-120mph, using phone GPS for measurement.
A few favorites quotes about the DeLorean:
What kind of engine do DeLoreans have?
The DeLorean is equipped with the 2.8L PRV V6 engine. But, the history of the PRV power plant is bigger than the DeLorean. Designed as a pan-European engine to compete with the Small Block Chevy, the PRV was co-engineered as a cooperative engineering effort between Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo (hence the name.) It’s a completely modular engine in every sense of the word. Externally the lower crank case section is swappable to accept different sized and shaped oil pans and motor mounts, depending on which vehicle the engine was supposed to be installed into, as well as up top cylinder heads accepting carburetors, and port fuel injection, as well as the ability to fit dual overhead cams. Internally the engines utilizes wet-jacket sleeves for the cylinders, where the cylinder liners are suspended in coolant. These can easily be swapped out to modify displacement of the engine without having to bore it out.
In the DeLorean, the PRV has an output of 130 bhp (brake horsepower.) However, this number has been increased significantly for the PRV in other modified applications to over 300 bhp for production cars such as the Venturi Atlantique, and in excess of 900 bhp for professional racing applications, such as Peugeot WM 88 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the engine has run, won, and even set a still unbroken speed record in 1988.
Are DeLoreans hard to fix?
It depends on the skill set of the mechanic performing the work. But overall, no, they are actually rather easy to work on in many respects. Firstly, the engine compartment is rather cavernous. Particularly when compared to modern cars. There are very few instances where bolts or components are difficult to access, but that’s the case with most cars. In fact, you’re usually able to get an entire arm in to where you need to reach. While K-Jetronic fuel injection does require a bit of education and some specialty tools to repair and tune, it’s not different from any other cars of the era, and not impossible for most people.
Second is the parts supply, of which the DeLorean has a leg-up on even some modern cars. The principal behind the design was to make everything the you can see or touch to be unique to the car. But mechanical, the DeLorean was intended to use as many ‘off the shelf’ parts as possible. In addition, when DeLorean Motor Company closed its doors, they left behind a large number of parts that are generally available today. (The “left over parts” were actually the cars that were not produced after the bankruptcy.) And thankfully, there are a number of DeLorean Parts and Service centers around the world who sell parts and maintain the DeLorean.
Overall the DeLorean can be a very reliable car, even by modern standards. But remember, it’s still an old car, and needs maintenance like any vehicle.
What is the DeLorean made of?
The DeLorean was originally conceived as a stainless steel paneled, gull-wing door design from the beginning. The panels are 304 grade stainless steel, the exact kind of stainless steel used in commercial kitchens and equipment. That means it’s very durable and difficult to damage.
There are eight exterior stainless steel body parts, including the front left and right fenders, the rear left and right fenders, the gull-wing doors, the hood, and the roof “T-panel.” The panels are connected to a molded fiberglass shell with internal foam and steel reinforcements, that contains the wiring and passenger compartments, and is bolted to the steel, single-wishbone double-Y frame for strength, which also contains all suspension and drivetrain components. The stainless steel doors and body panels are bolted in place, and don’t add much weight, resulting in a car that only weighs around 2,800 lbs.
Cleaning the stainless steel panels is easier than most people think… just like a stainless steel sink, any water and soap will take the dirt off, and a lot of DeLorean owners use the same products you buy in the store for keeping stainless appliances shiny.
How much do DeLoreans cost?
Like a lot of old, classic cars, the cost of a DeLorean depends on what you want out of it. If you’re looking to do a full rebuild in your garage, you could pick up (most) of a DeLorean for $10,000. If you want to climb into one, turn the key, and drive it across the Country without any worries, that would probably cost you about $45,000 (in 2019.) If you want a replica DeLorean Time Machine, Danny Botkin builds the best ones out there, and could cost you $80,000 (more if you go through big company, rather than an independent.)
Of course, there’s a middle ground. There are a number of DeLoreans for sale any at any given time. You could pick one up for $30,000, but expect to put in another $10,000 getting it to a very trustworthy car. And that’s assuming you don’t take it to a corporate shop. If you can, do at least some of the work yourself to save some money. Or, reach out to the extensive DeLorean community for help.
The DeLorean’s original code-name was the “DMC 12,” for the expected sale price of $12,000. Due to many engineering issues and changes, the cost kept going up… and so did the price. So, the 1981 DMC DeLorean ultimately listed for $24,000. Some lucky dealers got a premium for the new cars, while others sold them for less, just to get them off the lot, once DMC went out of business.
John Zachary DeLorean was born January 6, 1925 in Detroit, MI, and passed away on March 19, 2005 in Summit, NJ. He was born to immigrant parents, and served in the United States Army.
JZD had a long career in the automotive industry, starting with Packard. He later joined Pontiac and rose in the ranks to become head of General Motors‘ North American Car & Truck Division. He brought with him many accomplishments in both vehicle engineering, as well as marketing, and even influencing car culture as it influenced himself and his work. After leaving General Motors, he went on to found DeLorean Motor Company to produce the DeLorean sports car.
What happened to the DeLorean?
In the autumn of 1982, DMC went out of business. While John DeLorean was arrested, and soon acquitted of all drug trafficking charges, the company still folded. This included DMC, and its corporate subsidies, such as DeLorean Motorcars of America (DMCA) which was responsible for the distribution of the DeLorean automobile, and DeLorean Motor Cars, Ltd. (DMCL) of Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, which manufactured them. A push to increase production in the summer of 1981 exhausted credit lines with parts suppliers and resulted in large debts, but also created the massive stockpile of original parts which the community uses to this day.
Why a DeLorean for Back to the Future?
The original script for Back to the Future was much different from the final movie. One such aspect was the time machine itself which, at one time, was a refrigerator. But concerns arose over the use of a refrigerator, as it was feared that children playing with abandoned appliances might close themselves inside and become trapped. (Of course, that was before they switched to new latches that could be pushed open.) So, that idea was nixed. Instead the decision was made the use a car, so that Doc Brown could be mobile during his travels through time. Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (writers of BTTF,) have also said they thought the DeLorean was perfect for the joke when Marty crashes into the barn in 1955, and the farmer says it looks like “an airplane… without wings.”