Monday, March 19, 2012

On the anniversary of John DeLorean's death, we look at his most infamous car

Today is the anniversary of the death one of the most famous, and one of the most infamous characters in automotive history. On March 19, 2005, John Z. DeLorean died in a New Jersey hospital from a stroke at the age of 80.

DeLorean had an incredible career in the auto industry. As the chief engineer of Pontiac, DeLorean gets the nod as the father of the GTO in 1964. Then he was promoted to the head of Pontiac, and cars like the Firebird and the Grand Prix were born during this time.

The stylish, jet-setting DeLorean commanded a huge salary when he went on to become the head of Chevrolet Motor Division in 1969. Back then, there was no corporate job in the land bigger than that. The mega-exec was on the fast-track to becoming the president of General Motors, but in 1973, he unexpectedly left GM to start his own automotive company.

It took a few years, but by 1981, the DeLorean DMC-12 that we all know and love from the Back to the Future movies was being produced in Northern Ireland. More than 9,000 of the stainless steel-bodied cars were built, sold at a fairly hefty cost of $25,000 per copy in early ‘80s dollars.

The company history could almost be the makings for a Hollywood movie. DeLorean was a natural salesman, and was able to wrangle enough money from celebrities and other investors to get the ambitious project off the ground.

The DMC-12 was certainly modern and radical, but not exactly the finest sports car ever made. The French-built Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6 engines weren’t going to set the world on fire, and quality and build problems plagued the car from the start. Adding to the issues was the investigation and subsequent arrest of John DeLorean on drug trafficking charges, sending the company into bankruptcy in 1982.

The car was discontinued after that. Parts and dies were lost and destroyed. It seemed as though the DMC-12 had reached the end of the line. But then in 2007, DeLorean restoration parts supplier “The DeLorean Motor Company” announced that they would start cranking out new cars with NOS and reproduction parts. These cars look a lot like the original DeLoreans, but are supposed to have some modern improvements. Prices start at $57,500. I don’t know that I’ve actually seen one of these, but they still offer them on their website.

I don't think I'd ever really want a DeLorean as a daily driver or anything, but the fact that they were even made at all, and the controversy surrounding them is pretty interesting. The car, as well as the larger-than-life personality that created them, are a fascinating piece of automotive history.

The slideshow is full of DeLoreans, Back to the Future and otherwise. I took a lot of them at various car shows. There are a few old promotional pics in there. Others came from the Creative Commons/Wikipedia pages. I was just trying to get a good sample of interesting DeLorean pictures all in one place. There's not much science involved here. In fact, I think the only place these pictures will take you is back to the past.

1 comment:

  1. Craig:
    I had a district manager that owned one of these, and he loved it, in spite of the lack of room and an over-abundance of FORD parts.

    I also saw one that someone painted YELLOW (didn;t know how well paint took to stainless steel - looked way too weird in that color).

    Ny take is that deLorean had a good CONCEPT with the DMC just needed some work to amke it a lot more practical.
    Maybe that's why I hung on to my '83 "homage" to a great designer and engineer. Maybe not as good as Harley Earle or Knudson, but pretty fine in his own right.

    Given the technologies TODAY, this could have worked...and quite well.
    I'm just waiting for MR.

    Excellent post.

    Happy Motoring.