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

Other than the Giugiaro styling, the main element carried over from the original design was the PRV engine. Renault had decided not to federalize the R30, but Volvo had introduced a U.S. version of the 2,664 cc (163 cu. in.) PRV V6 in the Volvo 260 Series in 1976 and federalized the larger 2,849 cc (174 cu. in.) engine for 1980. The engines used by DMC were of a hybrid specification, combining the cylinder heads and Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection of U.S.-market Volvos with the bottom end of the Alpine A310 version. Since the DMC-12 was lighter than the Volvo 260 Series and the DMC engine was tuned identically, the EPA allowed DMC to skip the otherwise-mandatory 50,000-mile (81,000-km) durability test, which Volvo had already successfully completed.

1982 DeLorean DMC-12 PRV V6 engine
The DeLorean DMC-12 was powered by the PRV engine, a 2,849 cc (174 cu. in.) aluminum SOHC V6 purchased from Renault. Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo started work on this engine in 1971 and production began in October 1974. The PRV was manufactured in several iterations, ranging in size from 2,664 cc to 2,975 cc (163 to 182 cu. in.). Production continued through June 1998 and eventually totaled 970,315 engines.

The DMC-12’s engine had the same output as its Franco-Swedish cousins: 130 hp (97 kW) and 162 lb-ft (220 N-m) of torque. That was about what Bill Collins had anticipated, but Lotus’s structural redesign had left the production car some 500 lb (227 kg) heavier than originally planned. The DMC-12 still met its EPA mileage targets, but the extra weight and taller gearing would take their toll on performance.


Although the Dunmurry factory was finished by early summer 1980, the work at Lotus ran months behind schedule, so DMC Ltd. eventually had to finish some of the contracted work itself. Those delays left DMC painfully short of cash, so in late 1980, DeLorean persuaded the British government to put in an additional £24 million (about $53 million) in development grants and loan guarantees.

Pilot production began in December and the first true production cars rolled off the line on January 21, 1981. It was none too soon; despite the last-minute infusion of government money, DMC entered 1981 with an $18.6 million shortfall, which was actually more than DeLorean had estimated when he asked the British for the additional money.

Still, the excitement surrounding the new car was reaching its peak. The motoring press had faithfully reported each new development, hoping for a chance to drive the car they’d heard so much about. Dick Brown had lined up more than 340 U.S. dealerships, many of whom were accepting deposits of up to $5,000. Celebrity investors like Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr. were waiting eagerly to collect their promised early-production cars.

Spirits were also high in Ulster. Although many employees at Dunmurry were new to the auto business, they were enthusiastic and dedicated. Absenteeism was very low and despite the fact that the plant employed nearly equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants, internal strife was reportedly minimal. DMC Ltd. could not paper over the conflicts outside the factory walls — for example, the death of hunger-striking political prisoner Bobby Sands in May may have led to an apparently accidental firebombing of the factory — but DMC employees and many local residents regarded the operation with pride.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 interior
As is typical of low-production cars, many of the DeLorean’s components — including interior pieces like the steering wheel — were borrowed from other cars. Nonetheless, contemporary critics liked the DeLorean DMC-12’s well-appointed cabin. The low build and high sills can make entry and exit a little awkward, but ergonomics are decent and forward visibility is no worse than in any number of modern family sedans. Legroom is excellent and headroom surprisingly good, although your 5’9″ (175 cm) author finds the proximity of the headliner to his forehead disconcerting and faintly claustrophobic.

Sadly, the early cars didn’t live up to the hype. The factory had planned an ambitious and rigorous testing schedule, but by spring, there was too much pressure to bring the car to market. Build quality of the first few hundred cars off the line was embarrassingly shoddy; most had to be extensively rebuilt in the U.S. at great cost. The fact that many went to prominent investors only made matters worse.

The American press tried to be generous, acknowledging but excusing the poor build quality while praising the DMC-12’s styling and interior design. Reactions to the DeLorean’s handling were mixed. Despite its pronounced rear weight bias, the fat rear tires mostly eliminated oversteer and the DMC-12 rode and handled well in relaxed driving. Pushed too hard, however, it could feel twitchy and unsettled, suggesting excessive deflection of either the suspension bushings, the mountings joining the fiberglass body and steel frame, or perhaps both.

The greatest disappointment was straight-line performance. With the standard five-speed, DMC claimed 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 8.5 seconds, but most testers found that figure optimistic by a least a second. The factory’s claim of a 125 mph (201 km/h) top speed was generous by perhaps 6-7 mph (10-11 km/h) and top-gear acceleration was leisurely.

The DeLorean’s real-world performance was hardly awful by the standards of 1981, but it lagged well behind other GTs in the DMC-12’s price class. By 1981, inflation and exchange rate fluctuations had pushed the DMC-12’s U.S. retail price to $25,500, more than twice the original target. The DeLorean was still cheaper than a Porsche 911SC, albeit not by much, but was fully 25% more expensive than a Corvette, Datsun 280-ZX Turbo, or Porsche 924 Turbo, all of which were significantly faster. DeLorean dismissed such concerns, saying the typical buyer was more concerned with cruising in style than drag racing. He also promised that a future twin-turbo version would put the DMC-12 firmly in the Supercar category.

1982 DeLorean DMC-12 front 3q
The production DeLorean DMC-12 is 168 inches (4,267 mm) long on a 94.8-inch (2,408mm) wheelbase, standing only 44.9 inches (1,140 mm) high. Although it was almost 16 inches (400 mm) shorter than a contemporary Corvette, the DMC-12 was nearly 9 inches wider: 78.3 inches (1,990 mm) overall. The DMC-12’s curb weight is about 2,750 lb (1,247 kg), more than 500 lb (227 kg) heavier than originally planned.


Although DeLorean remained buoyantly optimistic throughout 1981, saying the company would soon be selling 30,000 cars a year, DMC was losing money at an alarming rate. Fixing the early build problems cost more than $2.5 million while warranty claims amounted to another $1.5 million. DMC was also obliged to pay the British government £185 (nearly $400) for each car sold, cutting into the company’s per-car margins. DeLorean, meanwhile, was living as lavishly as ever with an annual salary of $500,000 and a generous expense account.

Some observers, including DeLorean’s British office manager, Marion Gibson, wondered how the company had burned through so much money so quickly. In October 1981, Gibson went first to Tory MP Sir Nicholas Winterton and then the British tabloids with allegations that DeLorean was diverting company funds for his own use, but a brief police investigation found nothing.

DeLorean’s solution to the company’s cash deficit was to hire hundreds more workers and double production in hopes of boosting revenues. Customers, however, were becoming scarce. The American economy took a turn for the worse late in the year, thanks in part to an unusually severe winter. Most of the early speculators and wealthy gadflies were now sated. DMC dealers were left with large stockpiles of unsold cars and banks began to cancel dealers’ floor-plan financing.

1982 DeLorean DMC-12 Kent Alloys wheel
To quell any tendency to oversteer caused by the DeLorean DMC-12’s 62% rear weight bias, DMC specified unequal wheel and tire sizes: 195/60HR-14 in front, 235/60HR-15 in back. DeLorean and Bill Collins originally wanted to use Pirelli P7 tires, as found on many high-end sports cars of the era, but cost concerns led to the use of cheaper Goodyear NCTs on the production car; the owner of this car has substituted modern Michelin tires. The DMC-12’s distinctive alloy wheels came from Kent Alloys, an affiliate of GKN, which also made the car’s backbone frame.

All the while, the factory kept churning out more cars. With no customers, DeLorean Motor Company of America simply stopped paying for cars. By the end of the year, the American company owed DMC Ltd. around $10 million for cars already delivered, leaving the Belfast subsidiary unable to pay its own suppliers.

DeLorean pressed the British for even more money: another £35 million (about $70 million). Since the Conservative Thatcher government was understandably nervous about the £77 million-odd (approximately $154 million) it had already invested, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Jim Prior hired Sir Kenneth Cork of Coopers & Lybrand — who had opposed the DeLorean deal as chairman of the NIDA — to conduct an extensive study of DMC’s operations. Sir Kenneth’s report advised against offering further credit without a complete reorganization.

By February 1982, DMC was more than $800,000 in arrears on its interest payments and suppliers like Renault were making threatening noises. On February 19, the British forced DMC Ltd. into receivership, appointing Sir Kenneth and Paul Shewell as the official receivers. DeLorean was no longer in control of DMC Ltd.’s operations. Unless he could come up with another $20 million to pay off its outstanding debts, the company was doomed.


The receivers agreed to keep the Dunmurry factory operating until May 31, albeit with a dramatically reduced staff. There were no new cars, but workers completed the remaining half-assembled vehicles to facilitate liquidation.

1982 DeLorean DMC-12 front
The Dunmurry factory manufactured around 7,500 cars in 1981, but DMC sold only about 3,000 of those while the rest piled up in Belfast. Although the 1982 car’s base price was upped by more than $3,000, the excessive supply led dealers to offer substantial price cuts. By the end, it was possible to buy a new DMC-12 for less than $20,000.

Meanwhile, DMC executives were beginning to jump ship. Gene Cafiero was already gone and Dick Brown was fired in March. DeLorean brought in his old business partner Roy Nesseth to clean house and keep creditors at bay; DMC of America’s offices in Irvine, California, had trouble even paying its utility bills.

DeLorean spent the spring and summer of 1982 playing for time. Coopers & Lybrand would not allow him to resume production without an earnest payment of at least $10 million, which DeLorean didn’t have. Finally, in early October, he offered the receivers a deal: DeLorean would invest $10 million of his own money — actually a short-term loan from Virginia-based Financial Services Inc. — and the investment firm Minet Finance Management would then loan him an additional $100 million to cover all the outstanding debts and purchase the DMC Ltd. factory outright.

Sir Kenneth Cork, who was neither charmed nor intimidated by DeLorean and had become increasingly annoyed with what he perceived as DeLorean’s stalling tactics, was skeptical of this convoluted scheme. However, Sir Kenneth declared that it would be acceptable provided it was completed by October 20.

DeLorean didn’t make it. In the evening of October 19, 1982, he was arrested in a Los Angeles hotel room for conspiracy to distribute more than $24 million of cocaine.

Upon learning of the arrest, Sir Kenneth contacted DeLorean’s New York office and found that the loan transaction had not been completed; with DeLorean behind bars, there seemed little chance that it would be. The receivers immediately shut down DMC Ltd., sending its 35 remaining employees home. DMC of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six days later. In November, Consolidated International, the parent company of the Big Lots discount store chain, purchased many of DMC’s unsold cars along with the distribution rights. Some of the remaining cars were re-serialed and sold as 1983 models, but the DeLorean Motor Company was finished. John DeLorean’s troubles, however, were only beginning.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 dashboard
One of the odder aspects of the DeLorean DMC-12’s sporty interior is the 85 mph (137 km/h) speedometer, then required by federal law; actual top speed is closer to 120 mph (193 km/h). Most DMC-12s were left-hand drive, but about 35 right-hand-drive versions were built for the UK market, all with 140 mph (225 k/h) speedometers. When DMC Ltd. went into receivership, the company was also working on a European version with an uncatalyzed engine, rated at 156 hp DIN (115 kW). Only a few were built before the company closed in October.


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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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