DeLorean DMC-12

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Author’s note: I recall being aware of the DeLorean DMC-12 in the early 1980’s. Contemporary car magazines like Motor Trend and Car & Driver included the car in a multitude of road tests and comparisons with other similar sports cars of the era. Performance was decidedly uninspiring and, other than the distinctive styling of the car and its founder, the DMC-12 was not a great car. Just my take!

The DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) and its only model, the DeLorean DMC-12, hold a unique place in automotive history. This story is intertwined with innovation, controversy, and a touch of Hollywood glamor.

Founding of DeLorean Motor Company

Founder: John DeLorean, a former executive at General Motors, founded the DeLorean Motor Company in 1975. DeLorean was an automotive innovator known for his work on models like the Pontiac GTO.

Vision: The company aimed to create a futuristic, ethical, and safety-focused sports car. DeLorean’s vision was to make a car that was both stylish and long-lasting.

Development and Features of the DeLorean Car (DMC-12)

Design: The DMC-12, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, was notable for its gull-wing doors and brushed stainless-steel body panels. The car’s design was futuristic and immediately recognizable.

Features: It had a fiberglass body structure with a steel backbone chassis, similar to the Lotus Esprit. The car’s engine was a rear-mounted V6, developed by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo.

Production Challenges: The development of the DMC-12 was fraught with challenges, including budget overruns and engineering problems. The initial performance of the car was underwhelming compared to its competitors.

Manufacturing and Financial Issues

Location: The factory was located in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a choice influenced by substantial government incentives. This location choice was part of a political strategy to bring jobs and stability to the region.

Economic Struggles: The company faced financial difficulties from the beginning. The high production costs, coupled with lower-than-expected sales, put the company in a precarious position.

Quality Issues: Early models of the DMC-12 had quality control issues, further hampering the car’s reputation and sales.

The Downfall of DeLorean Motor Company

Arrest of John DeLorean: In 1982, John DeLorean was arrested on charges of drug trafficking in an attempt to raise funds for his struggling company. Although he was later acquitted, the scandal caused irreparable damage to the company’s reputation.

Bankruptcy: The DeLorean Motor Company went into bankruptcy in 1982. Only about 9,000 DMC-12s were produced, making the car a rare collector’s item.

Legacy and Pop Culture Impact

‘Back to the Future’ Fame: The DMC-12’s enduring legacy was cemented by its appearance as the time machine in the “Back to the Future” film trilogy. This appearance made the car a cultural icon and ensured its continued popularity.

Revival Attempts: Over the years, there have been several attempts to revive the DeLorean brand and reintroduce the DMC-12 with modern updates, but these efforts have faced various challenges and have had limited success.

The story of the DeLorean Motor Company and the DMC-12 is a fascinating blend of ambition, innovation, and drama. It serves as a reminder of the volatile nature of the automotive industry and the lasting impact of pop culture on public memory. The DeLorean car, despite its brief production life and limited success, has achieved an iconic status in automotive history.

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