The Harder They Fall: The Saga of the DeLorean Motor Company


Although DeLorean was by most standards a wealthy man, his own fortune was far short of what he would need to launch even a low-production sports car. To get his new car off the ground, he would need considerable support from dealers, suppliers, and investors.

To that end, his greatest assets were his reputation and his singular charisma. DeLorean once claimed that he had always been an introvert, but in his early twenties, he had decided to bolster his people skills with a stint as a door-to-door insurance salesman. By the seventies, he was a formidable salesman of considerable personal magnetism. Some skeptical observers, like Irish politician Des O’Malley, found DeLorean’s charm more suspicious than ingratiating, but even people who were predisposed to dislike him (like inventor Pete Avery, who alleged that DeLorean cheated him out of thousands of dollars in patent royalties) found him hard to resist.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 door
The DeLorean DMC-12’s distinctive gullwing doors, counterbalanced with torsion bars, were part of the original specification. Aside from their obvious dramatic effect, DeLorean claimed that the doors were a safety feature, allowing high sills that improved the DMC-12’s side-impact protection. Lotus, which re-engineered the DMC-12 in the late seventies, was not thrilled about the doors from a technical standpoint, but DeLorean insisted; the gullwing doors became one of the car’s most recognizable features.

With DeLorean’s impressive resume and persuasive powers, he had little difficulty finding wealthy backers. He sweetened the deal with canny financial maneuvering. Although the DeLorean Motor Company was incorporated in 1975, much of DeLorean’s fundraising was conducted through a convoluted array of holding companies, including the John Z. DeLorean Corporation, the DeLorean Sports Car Partnership, the DeLorean Manufacturing Company, and the DeLorean Research Limited Partnership. The main purpose of these corporations was to maximize the potential tax benefits for investors, but the array of different companies made a thorough analysis of DeLorean’s financial holdings a daunting proposition. To the end of his life, DeLorean maintained that it was all perfectly legal, but the complex paper trail would add fuel to later charges of financial malfeasance.


By October 1976, DeLorean and Collins had a running prototype, built by Triad Manufacturing Co. The prototype was cosmetically finished, but it was far from production spec. The chassis was based on that of the Fiat X1/9, with the engine and transaxle borrowed from a Citroën CX and a front suspension cobbled together from Ford Pinto/Mustang II parts. Some features, like the promised airbags, existed only on paper and the Elastic Reservoir Molding (ERM) process that was supposed to form the frameless plastic body structure was still just a talking point.

DeLorean allowed the press to see and sit in the prototype in early 1977, but he refused to let them drive it, saying it wouldn’t be representative. It didn’t matter — DeLorean’s name was still golden and the gullwing prototype made the cover of nearly every car magazine in the world.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 front 3q
The DeLorean DMC-12’s stainless steel skin was one of its most recognizable features, but it was a mixed blessing. It didn’t rust, but it scratched easily and even when freshly buffed some observers thought it made the DMC-12 look more like a kitchen appliance than a high-end sports car. DMC and DuPont worked on an unusual transparent lacquer that would allow DeLorean to offer cars in various colors, but DuPont engineers were leery about the lacquer’s durability, so the paint never made production. Although some customers had their cars painted after purchase, all production DeLoreans were unpainted stainless steel except for a handful of special cars with 24-carat gold panels built for an American Express promotion.

Although the Triad prototype had a four-cylinder Citroën engine, DeLorean and Collins wanted a V6 for the production car. (Early talk of using the two-rotor Comotor Wankel from the Citroën GS Birotor died with Citroën’s bankruptcy in 1974.) They considered Ford’s Cologne V6, used in the Ford Capri, Granada, and Mustang II, but they ultimately settled on the new PRV engine, a 90-degree V6 developed as a joint venture between Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo. The 2,664 cc (163 cu. in.) PRV engine was more expensive than the Cologne V6, but was lighter and more powerful. Since Renault had more capacity than they could use, they were also more open to a deal. Furthermore, Renault and Volvo already had plans to federalize the PRV engine, which would allow DMC some money-saving shortcuts in the EPA certification process.

The adoption of the PRV engine imposed the first of many compromises to the original design. Since the DMC-12 was going to use a Renault engine, it was expedient to use Renault transaxles as well: the five-speed manual and three-speed automatic units from the Renault 30. While these were far less expensive than developing a bespoke transmission, their use necessitated mounting the (longitudinal) engine behind the rear axle rather than in front of it, making the DMC-12 a rear-engine car. (Renault did much the same thing with its rear-engine Alpine A310 sports car in 1976.) DeLorean dismissed the switch from a mid-engine to a rear-engine layout as trivial, but the move raised some eyebrows, especially after his attack on the handling of the rear-engine Corvair became public.

Renault 30TX © 2007 Rudolf Stricker (PD)
The DeLorean DMC-12’s engine and transaxles were adapted from the front-wheel-drive Renault 30, launched in 1975. Renault originally planned to bring the 30 to the U.S., but eventually abandoned those plans in favor of an alliance (no pun intended) with American Motors. (Photo: “Renault 30TX front 20070404.jpg” © 2007 Rudolf Stricker; released into the public domain by the photographer, resized 2015 by Aaron Severson)

Although DeLorean and Collins had yet to install the V6 in an actual car, they didn’t hesitate to offer projected performance figures: 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in a bit under 8 seconds, a top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h), and EPA city/highway mileage of 22/29 (25.2 mpg combined, 9.3 L/100 km). Those figures promised to make the DMC-12 almost as fast as a 12-cylinder Jaguar XJ-S with about half the Jaguar’s thirst.

DeLorean optimistically proclaimed that production would begin by the fall of 1978 and he had already hired Dick Brown (who had previously established Mazda’s U.S. distribution network) to line up dealer franchises. All DeLorean needed to start building the DMC-12 was a factory, workers, and another $87 million to pay for it all.


DeLorean had already lined up some financing and was confident that he could find more, but it would not be nearly enough. He also recognized that he could not expect to raise the rest of the money through stock offerings alone. The target for DMC’s initial public offering, floated in mid-1977, was 2 million shares at a starting price of $5 per share, still insufficient.

However, DeLorean soon discovered an intriguing alternative. The economic travails of the seventies had led governments in many areas to offer substantial incentives to industry in hopes of creating local jobs. Many of those incentives were in the form of tax credits, but some governments were willing to make direct equity investments. If DeLorean played his cards right, it might be possible to build his factory with taxpayer money.

DMC made overtures to various state and local governments in the U.S. as well as the governments of Spain and Portugal, but none offered the kind of investment DeLorean was looking for. In early 1977, he learned that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was very interested in establishing an automotive plant outside Aguadilla, on the site of the former Ramey Air Force Base. With the support of the U.S. State Department, the Puerto Rican government put together a cash incentive package worth some $64.8 million, enough to put DMC’s initial funding targets within reach.

1982 DeLorean DMC-12 rear 3q
The production DeLorean DMC-12 looks a great deal like the early prototypes (although there are many minor differences), but there were substantial changes to the structure and suspension, including the addition of a steel backbone frame, manufactured in England by GKN. Bill Collins’ original specification called for double wishbones in back, but the production car substituted semi-trailing arms and upper and lower lateral links, modeled on the rear suspension of the Lotus Esprit.

Although the Puerto Rican deal sounded very promising, the negotiations dragged on into 1978. During that time, DeLorean sought to hedge his bets by making a similar pitch to the Republic of Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA). Although the IDA ultimately rejected his proposal, his trip was not in vain. A local attorney suggested to DeLorean that there might be a richer opportunity in British-controlled Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland was then in the throes of the Troubles — an almost comically banal euphemism for a decade of riots, bombings, assassinations, and state violence that had left more than 2,000 dead. Roy Mason, the Labour Party’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, responded by jailing hundreds of suspected insurgents, which only exacerbated the situation, while a devastated economy and harrowing unemployment ensured a steady stream of recruits for the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Mason concluded that the only effective way to undermine support for the IRA was to improve the local economy, which meant creating new jobs.

In the spring of 1978, DeLorean approached the Northern Ireland Development Agency (NIDA), proposing the establishment of a DMC factory in Ulster that would create at least 2,000 jobs in the region. The factory was to be a symbol of hope for the Belfast area and potentially the beginning of a new industrial base. NIDA chairman Sir Kenneth Cork was skeptical, but Roy Mason and Northern Ireland Minister of State Don Concannon supported DeLorean’s proposal and a deal was reached in only 46 days.

In late July 1978, the British government agreed to give DMC £16.5 million (about $31.7 million) in loans and £22 million (about $42.2 million) in grants, plus an additional £17.8 million (about $34.2 million) as an equity investment in a new holding company, DeLorean Motor Cars Ltd. The holding company’s principal asset would be the new factory, to be built on a 72-acre (29-hectare) marshland in the village of Dunmurry in West Belfast. The package brought DMC’s total capitalization to a claimed $156 million.

The DMC deal sat ill with Britain’s Conservative Party. The previous Labour government’s nationalization of the troubled British Leyland auto consortium a few years earlier had been a disaster, leaving the Conservative opposition extremely wary of direct subsidies to industry. Nonetheless, the violence in Northern Ireland was an ongoing political liability, and the Tories were hesitant to block a deal that seemed to offer some hope. Whether they liked it or not, the British were now stuck with DeLorean.


With the British investment, DMC’s future looked bright, but the car itself was still not ready. To the frustration of Bill Collins, the second prototype, built by Detroit’s Creative Industries, had been a poorly finished mess. With groundbreaking on the new factory slated for October 1978, Collins admitted that DMC needed outside engineering help.

Collins and DeLorean approached Porsche and BMW, but both companies wanted far more money and more time than DMC could afford. DeLorean then turned to Colin Chapman of England’s Lotus Group, which had considerable experience with plastic bodies. That fall, Chapman signed a contract for Lotus to re-engineer the DMC-12 for production.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 quarter window
In early 1979, DeLorean commissioned Giugiaro to update his now four-year-old design for the DeLorean DMC-12, redesigning the side windows, quarter panes, and vents as well as adding the rear louvers. Although the changes were relatively minor, they were expensive and contributed to the car’s production delays. Rear visibility is not among the DMC-12’s strong suits, although admittedly few mid-engine sports cars score well in that area.

Bill Collins left the company for AMC in March 1979, frustrated that his suggestions for improving Lotus’s engineering efforts, which he considered slapdash, were being ignored. To replace him, DeLorean appointed Mike Loasby of Aston Martin as director of engineering and hired former Chrysler president Gene Cafiero as DMC’s president and CEO.

The DMC-12 project was a major undertaking for Lotus, involving more than half its modest staff. Since time was short, Lotus engineers discarded much of Collins’ original design, substituting features from the contemporary Lotus Esprit. The biggest casualty was the ERM plastic body, which was replaced by a two-piece fiberglass structure using Colin Chapman’s patented Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection (VARI) process, licensed from Lotus at considerable cost. Because fiberglass lacked the strength and rigidity of ERM, Lotus was obliged to add a steel backbone frame, similar to that of the Esprit. Discarded in the process were the long-promised 10 mph (16 km/h) bumpers and airbags. The latter would have posed a great challenge; at the time, few off-the-shelf airbag systems were available and neither Lotus nor DMC had the resources to design and test their own.


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  1. I understand that while the Mercedes 300-SL had gull-wing doors for legitimate engineering reasons, on the DeLorean (and Bricklin) they were pretty much for the sake of cachet.

    Both the latter cars were pitched as being safe, but I wouldn’t want to be in an overturned car with gull-wing doors.

    DeLorean’s hair and sideburns don’t look that outrageous today, but the photo is ~40 years old, and GM was a conservative company.

    1. Believe me you wouldn’t want to be in any car upside down, On the Delorean, the top structure was strong, So it would be be a matter of kicking ore breaking out the big window, and being pulled to safety, or crawl to safety, far far safer than any American convertible

      1. I have no doubt that the DMC-12 had better rollover protection than a convertible. Rollover accidents are relatively infrequent, compared to other types of accidents, and with a car with as low a center of gravity as the DeLorean, it would probably take some effort to actually end up on the roof.

    2. The GM Media Archives photo was an official portrait (I don’t know its original date; GMMA did not specify), so DeLorean may have opted for a more conservative haircut specifically for that photo shoot — it looks less shaggy than in other contemporary photos of him. By the general standards of early-seventies coiffure, it was hardly outrageous, but it was notably shaggier than I suspect was customary for senior GM executives.

      DeLorean told [i]Car and Driver[/i] in 1977 that one of the purposes of the gullwing doors was to allow a much higher sill than would have been practical with conventional doors, allowing better side-impact protection. Mercedes adopted them because the sills of the 300SL’s frame were so high that conventional doors would have basically necessitated stuffing the driver through a tiny slot, and hinging the doors at the roof was simpler than redesigning the frame. Both were legitimate enough engineering goals, although in DeLorean’s case, it’s reasonable to assume showmanship was also a factor.

      The DeLorean’s doors were at least more reliable than the Bricklin’s, which were power-operated. Bill Collins said in 2008 that they deliberately avoided power assistance to keep occupants from being trapped with the engine off, although when the hydraulic struts where out, keeping the doors open is a pain, just as it is on an old hatchback. (In their [i]Back to the Future[/i] commentary, Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis said that was a persistent problem with the movie car, especially in cold weather.)

      1. The Delorean Doors were counter balanced by a torsion bar, the hydraulic struts were just to make the doors move more smoothly to simulate electric doors, and to cushion the beginning and end of their movement. The struts could be totally removed and the torsion bar could be used to lift small children off the ground. Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis were not mechanics or engineers, I could have totally fixed that ‘problem’ in less than 20 minutes for both (not each) doors.

        1. I’m sure that Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale would be the first to admit that they’re not mechanics, and they do acknowledge in the same commentary track that movie cars tend to be “cursed” — suffering mysterious infirmities and generally not performing as desired.

          In the [i]Back to the Future[/i] commentary track, they said that during cold night shooting, the doors would slowly flop down between takes, and that the prop guys would have to heat the hydraulic struts (with a hair dryer, if memory serves) to keep them pressurized. What ailments the film car’s doors may have suffered, I don’t know, but having owned several hatchback cars with failing hydraulic struts, my assumption was that worn struts were to blame; that was my diagnosis, not Gale’s and Zemeckis’, and if it’s wrong, the error is mine, not theirs.

        2. Don’t be fooled by that cryogenical torsion bar. The torsion bar helped with the doors being counterbalanced as you stated. I owned a Delorean for five years. These doors are HEAVY and provide stability to the structure when closed, (Like a targa top on a corvette does when in place) Those Hydraulic struts greatly assist in lifting the door and keeping it in an open position. The torsion bar makes it possible to open the door with the struts otherwise it would be extremely difficult to open these heavy doors.

  2. As a technician in San Luis Obispo Ca. in the 80s and 90s, I spent a lot of my career working on Volvos, including the (in)famous PRV V6 models. Through patience and dogged persverance, I wrongly or rightly developed a local reputation of being able to make them run as they were more or less intended. This reputation led to several local DeLorean owners seeking out my help when there versions of that “ahem” POS began to give them grief. The well known laundry list of maladies plaguing the PRV is too long to go into here so I wont even attempt it. I did, however, have the opportunity to work on and drive one example that had been massaged with a pair of Garrett turbos at one point. Having experienced the stock models on many occasions, the turbo version was a welcome change. While not neck snapping by any means, it probably would have been what John Z. was looking for all along. Low rpm performance was virtually unchanged from the stock model, but the fun really began at about 3000. From there to the redline (about 5500 as I recall, but it could have been more)it would really press you back into the seat, giving the impression of the kind of performance one would expect for the price and sporting pretentions associated with it.
    Beyond that though, it was still just… a Delorean. All the problems mentioned in your article were still there. The doors, the outward visibility. (Seating position was so low, you could not see the hood or the front corners of the car. Sort of like looking out the view slot of a tank battened down for combat.) Rear visibility was even worse. The 5 speed shift linkage was heavy and sluggish, and the unassisted steering was slow and heavy, in spite of the lightly loaded front wheels. Another feature not mentioned in your article (although visible in the photos) was the “toll booth window”. Because of the extreme tumblehome of the door glazing, roll down windows were an impossibility. To allow at least some access through them, they were fitted with small access “window within a window” glazings that could be lowered to allow one to drop coins into toll booth baskets. They were pretty much useless for anything else. The aforementioned tumblehome of the side glass, in conjunction with the dramatic rake of the windshield meant that the cabin became a solar oven anytime the sun was out. This meant that one pretty much had to run the A/C all the time as there were no windows to roll down. This served to sap away another 5-7 HP from the already anemic engine. I could go on but the rest of the problems have all been well documented by your story and elsewhere.
    Sadly, the entire debacle was the product of a grossly inflated ego, however passionate JZD may have been.

    Thanks again for another great article.
    Joe Dunlap

    1. One of the sources I read was an article by David Freeman in [i]AutoWeek[/i] (5/17/82) about a turbo installation by Mike di Gonis of MD Engineering. It was an aftermarket thing, but it seemed like a reasonably good comparison for a production DMC-12 turbo. It was moderately boosted — perhaps 8.5 psi (0.59 bars) — and di Gonis claimed a power increase of 30% (i.e., about 40 hp). It was not a blazingly fast car, but [i]AutoWeek[/i] found it cut more than a second off the 0-60 mph times, and it was much stronger in the midrange. That sounds similar to the one you drove.

      Sadly, the poor outward visibility is all too common in modern cars. The last time I went to the L.A. Auto Show, I was dismayed to find that there were very few modern cars in which I could see any of the fenders from the driver’s seat. Having been spoiled by the low cowls of cars like eighties Hondas, I am waiting eagerly for the trend to go back the other way…

    2. The rotary engine is still the best HP(horsepower for all you brainiacs) per lb, smooth running engine. GM and Japanese finally resolved the seal problem, GM thumbed their nose at Delorean for wanting to use their wankel engine seal design, because of bad blood from JZD’s expose book of the inner working of GM in his book, On a Clear Dat,etc. If JZD had been half the ‘engineer he was purported to be, he would have added a supercharger, and gone for performance instead of economy in a new expensive $1.60/gal world. karma!!

      1. Seal integrity and horsepower/pound (or horsepower per liter) are not the only measures of engine efficiency. The reason rotary engines are not more common is that despite their excellent specific output, they have lower thermal efficiency than a good Otto-cycle engine, which is reflected in high specific fuel consumption and higher levels of some exhaust emissions. Even the current Mazda Renesis is very thirsty, both for gasoline and for oil.

        As the article states, DeLorean hoped to launch a twin-turbo version, but it was not the first priority. I believe the reason for the concern with fuel economy was CAFE. DeLorean Motor Company didn’t have other models to balance a thirsty sports car, and its financial situation was precarious enough that CAFE fines would have been a problem; if they’d had deeper pockets, they could have simply paid them and passed the cost on to customers, but I’m not sure they could have afforded that at the outset.

  3. Perhaps only a few people know John owned a mercedes gullwing. He owned a few exotic cars.
    The italian cars of the day were beautiful but not always reliable. The German cars were rock solid but not always beautiful. At the time there was one car in the world that was both.

    The Mercedes c111 concept car was breaking world records and wowing people in automotive shows around the planet. The idea of an aerodynamically stable triple digit vehicle was far reaching for the times. When mercedes canceled the project the italdesign company cropped the front and that was the beginning of the dmc12. Although the gull wing doors were a great gimmic to sell the car, the reality is they were in the design because the original design was a replacement for the 300sl. When the c111 project was scrapped there were people all over the planet that had written them blank checks to try to get them to produce it in some fashion. John may have even been one of those people. At the very least he would have been keenly interested in the mercedes development. There is no way John would have missed out on such a gold mine.
    If Johns version had been produced as he had intended instead of re designed out from under him it would have been a rocket just like its German predecessor. The DMC was never designed with a dogbone frame,clunky fiberglass/plastic moldings,and that damned over engineered frenchified prv engine. Those were all forced on Delorean by outside factors he could not controll. As a business man he wasn’t great but as an engineer he was. The theory was sound. Even in its asthmatic form the giugiaro design gives inklings of greatness. The mercedes fuel injection system is solid and reliable. The interior is part porsche part lancia, comfortable for a 6 footer like me.

    In THEORY the practical Germans and the passionate Italians should have made for the greatest car the world would ever see. Fitted with correct suspension, and better engine….and the car does handle deceptively well.

    The irony is the car ended up like the bismark.
    Percieved as the greatest of its time, feared by its competition, sunk by the british, captivating subject of discussion for the rest of time.

    1. The DMC-12 does have a certain general resemblance to the second C111, although other than the gullwing doors, it also bears a broad resemblance to various other mid-engine cars of the period (including Giugiaro’s own Maserati designs). It’s hard to imagine that either Giugiaro or DeLorean was unaware of the C111, which, as you note, was big news at the time. I don’t know of either acknowledging the relationship, but it’s not implausible.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if DeLorean had tried to get a C111. Interestingly, he did say that at one point that he tried to get GM to sell him the prototypes of the abortive mid-engine Corvette, but they wouldn’t bite.

      It’s true that the PRV was not the originally planned engine. As best as I could determine, the earliest plans involved the Comotor 624 rotary, based on the one in the Citroën GS Birotor and related to the one in the NSU Ro80. (Perhaps Bill Collins will chime in on this point.) The two-rotor Wankel would not have been any more powerful than the PRV — the 995 cc engine made 115 hp in the Ro80, 105 hp in the GS Birotor — and it would not have been nearly as reliable. On the other hand, it would have weighed less; even with only 115 hp, a 2,200-lb DMC-12 would have had a somewhat better power-to-weight ratio than the production car.

      While the production DMC-12 is quite a bit different than even the 1976 prototype, and that it was not really the car DeLorean originally envisioned, it seems a stretch to say those changes were imposed upon him. He chose the PRV V6 because it was the best deal available for an off-the-shelf engine; from what he told [i]Car and Driver[/i] in 1977, the leading alternative at that point was Ford’s Cologne V6, but Renault had excess capacity, and was more amenable to a deal. DeLorean also commissioned Lotus to do the production reengineering; that was not imposed on him by others, either. Unlike at GM, DeLorean was the final arbiter of those decisions.

      While the VARI fiberglass/steel backbone structure had its limitations, the original plan would also have been fiberglass, albeit not the same kind. The ERM process DeLorean originally planned to use was basically a core of urethane, impregnated with resin, layered with fiberglass and then compressed to about a tenth of its original thickness. It was a very new technology, and it’s an open question whether a two-piece ERM structure (with a steel front suspension crossmember and steel powertrain cradle) would have been strong enough and rigid enough. The main reason Lotus opted for the Esprit-style backbone is that they had tried the all-plastic monocoque on the original Elite, with very mixed results. ERM was an ambitious idea, and it might eventually have worked great, but working out the bugs would have been a daunting task, particularly with DMC’s resources. The old cliche about champagne tastes and a beer budget seems to apply…

      1. May be if you were taller than 5ft 1, you could see better. Get a VW cc, sorry bro, but a Delorean in a handicapped parking place at least won’t get door dinged by idiots…….

  4. Thank you for this in depth article on the Delorean saga. I’m a member of the Delorean Club of Fl and have driven 3 Deloreans so far. I drove 2 5 speeds and a auto. The 5 speed is the quicker of the 2, although the auto has it’s good merits as well. Deloreans aren’t super fast, but they are fun to drive. I had no problem with the visibility myself. Backing out you have to pay attention close. I heard soo many negative things about these cars from critics. I got in it and drove it and was very impressed.

    1. It must be said that very few mid-engine coupes do particularly well in rear visibility. I don’t know that the DeLorean is any better than its mid-engine contemporaries, but it probably isn’t any worse, either.

    2. The DMC made the Bricklin seem like a kit car, had JZD been a good person, he would have stayed with Bill Collins, but JZD was enamored with Collin Chapman,of lotus fame, and was willing to cast the the genius in his life (Bill Collins) that made him great to the curb, what an egomaniac loser…Karma sucks sometimes…….

  5. [quote=Administrator]The DeLorean’s doors were at least more reliable than the Bricklin’s, which were power-operated. Bill Collins said in 2008 that they deliberately avoided power assistance to keep occupants from being trapped with the engine off[/quote]

    I’d think that if the car went greasy side up, its weight would hold the doors shut whether they were power-operated or not.

    1. Two different issues. If I interpret Bill Collins’ remark correctly, he wasn’t referring to rollover safety, but rather the possibility of the power mechanism failing and keeping the doors from opening, even with the car right side up. (I’m not that familiar with the Bricklin SV1, so I don’t know what kind of backup mechanism was provided, if any, but the electro-hydraulic mechanism on the production cars was very troublesome.) With the DMC-12, a worn or failed hydraulic strut would keep the doors from [i]staying[/i] open, but it wouldn’t [i]keep[/i] them from opening.

      Of course, that doesn’t help if the car is on its roof, but for a low-slung, limited-production sports car, a mechanical or electrical failure (whether resulting from an accident or not) might well be more likely than a rollover accident.

  6. The Petersen Museum has one of the three American Express 24 karat gold plated cars in their collection. It’s on display currently with a Mercedes McLaren SLR and a Bugatti EB110

  7. I showed my Delorean in the Hillsboro concours d elegance, next to a ferrari testarosa, and a lamborghinni countach, people ignoned the farrari, and the crowd was almost equal for the Delorean and the Lambo,sounds stupid but it was true. Just a door for a Ferrari costs more than the whole Delorean did, a beefier suspension on the DMC and a Ford indy engine, with a supercharger would have made it a success in spite of JZD………..why is this all so obvious to me??????

  8. just look at the cars you’re comparing it with, where’s the lotus esprit, Jaguar XKE, both still more expensive than the ill fated Delorean, comparing it to a Bugatti, you could have bought all 7500 Deloreans for about the price of a Bugatti.

    1. The article does not compare the DMC-12 with Bugatti. The commenter was just pointing out the space where one of the gold cars is on display; the Bugatti Veyron and Mercedes SLR next to which the Petersen has parked it were not even conceived when the DMC-12 was launched.

      The article makes the comparison with the Corvette, the Porsche 911SC, and the Lotus Esprit. The 911SC was a little more expensive than the DeLorean, the Esprit a lot more expensive. The Jaguar E-Type was long gone by then, but the XJ-S (which was roughly $5,000 more than the DMC-12) is not an unreasonable comparison. The XJ-S was not pitched as a sports car, of course, although it was faster than the DeLorean, and would probably have appealed to a similar clientele.

  9. I’ve driven more than 50 Deloreans, I drove 15 brand new ones at the dealer in Palo Alto,CA to pick the best one, to buy, each one drove slightly different, thank Collin Chapman, and unskilled Irish labor, and a guy with too much ego to properly take care of business…….The automatics were crap……

  10. It was an early 1020 HARLEY EARL hand pounded aluminum design, from Don Lee Cadillac in movie center, LA. I also hand the original cancelled check from a woman buyer in Oakland CA, for $7,100. in 1920, it even had roll up windows, try to find another 1920 car with roll up windows, this was one of two remaining Harley Earl designs, in the world. Cadillac hired Harley Earl from Don Lee in 1926. Harley was the design guru at GM, thru the fins of the 50’s,up through the sting ray corvette…….

  11. In the book Corvette From The Inside by Dave McLellan he mentions a supercomputer crash simulation of the Delorean prototype. The results show the first design was extremely bad. I saw an interview somewhere with I think Bricklin where he said something about Delorean poaching his engineers and design for the original Delorean prototype. Funny how it all ties together.

  12. [quote=pcintex]I saw an interview somewhere with I think Bricklin where he said something about Delorean poaching his engineers and design for the original Delorean prototype. Funny how it all ties together.[/quote]

    Bricklin’s assertion was made in an interview that is excerpted here: In the 2008 DMCTalk interview/chat cited in the sources for this article, Bill Collins said he didn’t know one way or the other if DeLorean had had any business dealings with Bricklin, but he strenuously denied Bricklin’s claim that the DMC-12 prototype was copied from the SV-1.

  13. The Bricklin SV-1(safety vehicle) has a Hatch with the cabled release right next to the Drivers also has MANUAL roll down windows..and a Truck like heavy duty Birdcage style Roll cage…also the Mercedes 300SL and the bricklin SV-1 NEEDED the gullwing doors as the Bricklin Has a Massive Square tubing Frame..running along the side of the car,giving it a rather high belt-line..with No room to put regular if a conventional door were put on a bricklin..unless you are under four feet tall,you just could not get into a Bricklin.

  14. The PRV V6 was a great sportscar engine when fitted in a proper sportscar, viz the Alpine A310, Alpine GTA(in NA or turbo format) the Alpine A610, and the Venturi. It was a successful engine in family cars for all three of the collaborators in the European market: maybe the federalized version gained a bad reputation but I don’t know

    1. Its reputation here is really quite dismal, both in terms of repair records and in terms of power and general demeanor. It didn’t cover itself in glory in the Volvo 260 series, certainly.

  15. I can attest to the engines dismal reliability. The shop I worked at in the 1980’s was called upon to fix timing chains, worn camshafts, bad head gaskets, and other maladies on Volvo, Renault and Peugeot cars with this engine. Most often we gave a quote and the owners scrapped the car…..


  16. 9,080 DeLoreans were built in total. I say that as the longest serving employeemail of DeLorean Motor Cars Limited.

  17. Another great, behind-the-scenes article on yet another automotive icon. I grew up in the ’80s and remember the DMC being just plain cool but also having a Greek tragedy angle attached via that other ’80s icon: cocaine. I encourage my fellow readers who enjoy this site to Paypal some appreciation to Aaron for his intriguing reads.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Steve.

      I think the DeLorean saga is one of the quintessential stories of that period, encompassing many different cultural and historical trends. It’s one of those stories that tells you about far more than just its individual subject.

  18. The company in Utah was a manufacturer of tracked snowcat vehicles, not snowplows, was previously a division of rocket manufacturer Morton Thiokol, John DeLorean bought it with the GPD/Chapman money and renamed it DeLorean Manufacturing Company, using the same DMC logo as the badge on the DMC-12. When the car company collapsed, management tried to buy it off of him, but he refused, though he did change the name to Logan Manufacturing Company to create some public distance from the failed car company. DeLorean also briefly used the factory to build home exercise machines and aircraft tugs alongside the snowcats at different points in the ’80s. JZD ended up selling Logan Manufacturing to an investment group in the early 1990s for less than he had been offered for it ca 10 years earlier, and it folded in the early 2000s. Still used the old DMC font in their logo up until the end.

    1. Thanks for the clarification! I’ve amended the reference to Logan Manufacturing in the text. (I did not know they had been a Morton Thiokol division!)

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