Article by Mark Trotta
The DeLorean DMC-12, more commonly known as just the DeLorean, was the only model ever produced by the small company. Featuring gull-wing doors and a brushed stainless steel body, the internationally-designed, Irish-built sports car was originally manufactured from 1981 through 1982.
As a GM engineer, John Delorean helped developed the Pontiac GTO, Firebird, Grand Prix, as well as the Chevy Vega. He left General Motors in 1973 to form the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC).
A mid-engine car was conceived in 1974, with help from Bill Collins. Due to production issues, it was later changed to rear-engine. Lotus of England added a steel X-member backbone chassis, body design was by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The first prototype of the DeLorean car appeared in March of 1976.
Although usually found only on high-end exotic cars, gull-wing doors were not a new concept. In 1974 and 1975, they were prominently featured on the Bricklin sports car.
The model name DMC-12 came about from it's original projected price of $12,000. That was in 1978. By 1981, inflation, high interest rates, and a decline in the value of the dollar brought the retail price of the DeLorean up to $25,000. After raising needed capital, production eventually ended up at Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a few miles from Belfast.
DeLorean Car Production
Because of its technical complexity, production costs were high. There was a fiberglass underbody to which non-structural brushed stainless steel panels were affixed. In keeping with a sleek modern look, hidden headlamps were designed into the front end.
Based largely on the Lotus Esprit, the underbody and suspension of the DeLorean car featured four-wheel independent suspension, coil springs, and telescopic shock absorbers. The front suspension used double wishbones, and the rear suspension had a multi-link style.
Delorean steering was rack and pinion, with an overall steering ratio of 14.9:1. The two-seater sports car weighed 2,840 pounds and rolled on a 94.8 inch wheelbase.
The first DeLorean rolled off the production line on January 21, 1981. Several running changes were made, such as the hood, wheels and interior. Despite being produced in Northern Ireland, DMC-12s were primarily intended for the American market. All production models were left-hand drive, which limited the car's popularity in the United Kingdom.
All DeLorean cars left the factory uncovered by paint or clear coat, with the exception of three cars plated in 24-karat gold (a fourth car was gold-plated by it's owner). Many painted DeLoreans exist, but these were done after the cars left the factory.
To sell DeLoreans in the United Kingdom would mean producing a right-hand drive configuration of the car. The cost of building an additional model would have been too costly, so conversions were done to left-hand drive models after they left the factory. It is estimated that only 17 right-hand drive factory-authorized DeLoreans were ever produced.
The interior of the Delorean featured leather seats and trim, air conditioning, and an AM/FM cassette stereo system. Power windows, locks and mirrors were standard, as was a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Delorean speedometers only went to 85 mph.
Read: 85 MPH Speedometer Law
Sports cars are known for being cramped inside, but John DeLorean, being a tall man, designed his sports car to have plenty of room for him and those even taller. Headroom was 35-inches and legroom was 45-inches.
Powered by a 2.8 litre (174ci) V6 engine developed by PRV (Peugeot Renault Volvo), the Delorean was offered with either a 5-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Originally envisioned with a 200-horsepower output, emission controls and restrictions cut horsepower to 130-horsepower. With 0 to 60 mph times at 8.8 seconds, the Delorean wasn't particularly fast, and owners complained of rear-engine handling issues.
In October of 1982, John DeLorean was arrested and charged with conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States. DeLorean was exonerated, but with all the publicity the trial garnered, irreparable damage was done both to him and the car bearing his name.
Manufactured in 1981 and 1982, approximately 8,500 to 9,000 DMC-12s were produced. A large number of these original cars are still on the road today. There are several major Delorean owner's clubs worldwide.
In August 2007, businessman Stephen Wynne purchased all remaining parts for the DeLorean car and set up shop in Houston, Texas. The company, called DMCH, assembles new DeLoreans from the ground up using a combination of new, original and reproduction parts.
One of the top ten movie cars of all time is the Delorean DMC-12 featured in the 1985 film "Back to the Future". Eccentric Doc Brown, played by actor Christopher LLoyd, builds a time machine from a modified DeLorean which features a plutonium-powered "flux capacitor". The movie won many awards, including the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film and an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing. It also earned three additional Academy Award nominations.