John Z. DeLorian

Engineer, and of 'DeLorian Car Fame'


Although it has been long forgotten by the mainstream world of automobile purchasers, a car from the latter year of 1981 was introduced to an American society with open arms. The car was the DMC-12 manufactured by DMC (DeLorian Motor Company). The name "DeLorian" came from John Z. DeLorian, the company's founder. The DeLorian was considered a landmark in construction and engineering by many, but others just considered it ugly. No matter what your opinion of its looks, the history that soon followed can not be ignored.


The story begins with John Z. DeLorian, the son of a Detroit autoworker. DeLorian entered college on a music scholarship but left with a Master's Degree in Industrial Engineering and Business Administration. He was soon hired by General Motors at age 24, which began his decent into automotive history.

In the 60's he helped GM make the change from large heavy cars to smaller efficient cars, thus resulting in huge sales increases from GM's Pontiac division. At age 41 he became the youngest division manager in the company's history. By age 44 DeLorian divorced his wife of 15 years and married a famous football player's 19-year-old daughter. This marriage soon fizzled and in 1973 he walked away from a $650,000 job with GM to, in his own words, "Show them how to build cars". By 1974 DeLorian had pulled together $175 million in investor capitol and formed DeLorian Motor Company. Factory locations were investigated in Detroit and Puerto Rico, but the final destination was Dunmurry in Northern Ireland. After numerous prototypes were built and testing complete the DMC-12, the first and only model of DeLorian too ever be built, presumed production in 1981. Although the public's interest in his product was very high, DeLorian's investors were not providing enough capitol to keep the company afloat and he began having severe financial trouble. Nearly one year later DeLorian was busted in a government sting operation while being videotaped trying to broker a $24 million dollar cocaine deal to rescue his company. Two years later DeLorian was freed by a Federal Jury as a victim of entrapment and was acquitted of all charges. DeLorian's credibility had been destroyed along with the chances of the DMC-12 resuming production.


The DMC-12 was only produced for three years (1981-1983), in which time only 8,583 units were manufactured aside from the prototypes and test vehicles. Production numbers were as follows, 6539 were built in 1981, 1126 were built in 1982, and 918 were built in 1983. The DMC-12's engine was a PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) model that was a fuel injected, aluminum, 2.8 litter V6, for which parts are still readily available. The car's aluminum chassis was designed by Lotus in a double "Y" manner protecting both the car and passengers in an accident.


For its time, the DeLorian DMC-12 was a futuristic exotic. From its 44.9 inch ground to roof ride height to its gull wing doors to its leather-stitched bucket seats and spacious interior, this was a unique automobile. This automobile is like nothing else and probably never will be. The DeLorian features the engine mid mounted into the chassis allowing 0-60 times in less than 8 seconds without wheel spin. The car was praised by many as being an experience, more than just a driving machine. Today these cars are valued from $15,000 to $40,000 with the acceptation of four 24K gold plated models.


The original two 24K gold plated cars were built for an American Express Christmas catalog. One hundred were planned but only the two mentioned saw production, one that still remains intact. Later on, two more were assembled in America but are not as highly regarded as the originals.

With a look like no other and a history like no other the DMC-12 has surely became a landmark in automotive design. While we have only touched the surface of DeLorian history I hope I have reminded someone of a car they once owned or admired, or at least helped arouse someone's interest of finding one of these rare automobiles.

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