“The long-awaited transport revolution has begun” bellowed the glossy brochures for John Zachary DeLorean’s mold-breaking DMC 12. With a unique brushed stainless-steel body, gullwing doors, and an all-electric interior, the DMC was intended as a glimpse of the future. Today its claim to fame is as one of the car industry’s greatest failures, on a par with Ford’s disastrous Edsel.
Despite $130m worth of government aid to establish a specially built factory in West Belfast, DeLorean shut its doors in 1982 with debts of $50m. As for the hapless souls who bought the cars, they were faced with a litany of quality control problems, from doors that would not open, to windows that fell out. Even exposure in the film Back to the Future did not help the DeLorean’s fortunes. Success depended on American sales, and the company’s forecasts were wildly optimistic. After the initial novelty died down, word spread that DeLoreans were dogs, and sales completely evaporated.
The DeLorean was targeted at “the bachelor who’s made it” and part of the design brief was that there had to be room behind the front seats for a full set of golf clubs. It was designed by Giugiaro and overseen by Colin Chapman of Lotus fame.
Custom-made spoked alloys were smaller at the front than the back.
With rear-engined layout, the weight distribution was split 35 percent front to 65 percent rear.
With tiny windows and climate control that regularly failed, temperatures got very hot indeed.
The gullwing doors and stainless-steel body were cynical marketing ploys which, as everybody involved in the prototype agreed, were more trouble than they were worth.
The 1985 film Back to the Future used a DeLorean as a time machine to travel back to 1955; in reality the car was very orthodox. Underpinnings were technically uninspiring and relied heavily on components from other cars. Under the hood, the 145 bhp output was modest.
Held by a puny single gas strut, it was an act of the purest optimism to expect the doors to work properly.
The DeLorean’s most celebrated party trick was gullwing doors that leaked and did not open or close properly.
Complex electronics were the result of last-minute cost-cutting measures.
Overloaded doors were crammed with locks, glass, electric motors, mirrors, stereo speakers, and ventilation pipery.
Brushed stainless-steel was disliked by Colin Chapman but insisted upon by DeLorean himself. Soon owners found that it was impossible to clean.
By the time of its launch in 1979, the DeLorean was old before its time. ’70s styling motifs abound, like the slatted rear window and cubed rear lights.
The overhead-cam, Volvo-sourced 2.8 V6 engine used Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. Five-speed manual was standard with three-speed automatic optional.
The leather-clad interior looked imposing, with electric windows, tilting telescopic steering column, double weather seals, air-conditioning, and a seven-position climate control function.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL DeLorean DMC 12 (1979–82)
BODY STYLE Two-seater rear-engined sports coupe.
CONSTRUCTION Y-shaped chassis with stainless-steel body.
ENGINE 2850cc ohc V6.
POWER OUTPUT 145 bhp at 5500 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual (optional three-speed auto).
SUSPENSION Independent with unequal length parallel arms and rear trailing arms.
BRAKES Four-wheel discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 125 mph (201 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 9.6 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 23.2 sec
A.F.C. 22 mpg (7.8 km/l)