American automotive executive and most notably, founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, John DeLorean had a dream, a stainless steel bodied sports car!
After a long career with several American car manufacturers including Chevrolet and Pontiac (he was responsible for what many consider to be the first ever muscle-car; the Pontiac GTO), Delorean decided to create his own brand in 1973. In the mid-seventies, the company unveiled a gull-winged door prototype called the DSV with a body shell styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign. The car later entered production as the now legendary DMC-12, which everyone will remember as the time machine from the movie trilogy “Back to the future”.
The DMC-12 had a Renault supplied V6 engine, stainless steel bodywork and featured a Lotus chassis. Lotus basically modified the chassis they already had in use for their own model, the Esprit. They also carried out most of the structural design which essentially consisted of placing the stainless steel panels over a plastic internal “skin”.
In order to build his dream car, DeLorean decided to build a car manufacturing plant in Northern Ireland at Dunmurry. This was a stroke of genius in the sense that it allowed DeLorean to receive financial incentives from the British government, which had setup the Northern Ireland Development Agency. DeLorean received around £100 million from the government and managed to create around 2000 jobs.
Production of DeLorean’s dream car started in 1981 and reached a production figure of only 9,000 cars before going into receivership just 21 months after the first cars had rolled of the production line. The British government ordered the closure of the plant in November 1982. The car was effectively a commercial flop. This is probably due to several factors; the use of stainless steel and composites made the DeLorean rather heavy and ultimately, not really a proper sports car. A change in Government didn’t help either.
The real surprise in the John DeLorean episode came later, when he was accused of smuggling cocaine and laundering money by the U.S government. DeLorean was essentially a victim of entrapment by the FBI and was found not-guilty when the case went to trial.
John DeLorean died in 2005 from a stroke, aged 80, but in the few years before his death he had tried to raise funding for a new car which would have been called the DMC-2. One of his ideas for gathering funds was to design and sell his own line of high-end watches. But none of these appear to have been made and the car never went any further than the discussion stage…