Certain cars have developed a reputation, whether because of their design or because they were immortalised in a film. The DeLorean DMC-12 had a unique appearance and was forever etched into pop culture thanks to the Back To The Future franchise. Although it’s considered to be an American car, the DMC-12 has its origins in the UK, with it being engineered by Lotus and it being built in Ireland. We’re looking into the history of this iconic vehicle and charting its journey up to the modern day.
A car with unique components
The DMC-12 was the brainchild of John DeLorean, who founded the DeLorean Motor Company in 1973. He wanted to develop a safety-based vehicle for an American audience, but decided to persuade the British government to create the prototype. Designed in Belfast, the DMC-12 prototype was the work of Lotus engineer Colin Chapman.
The car came with a stainless steel body, gullwing doors and a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo (PRV) V6 engine. Many of the parts were manufactured outside of the US, such as the chassis coming from a Lotus Esprit. The gullwing doors were supported by cryogenically preset torsion bars built by Unbrako in the UK, while the PRV engine was built in Douvrin, Northern France.
What should have been a unique, promising vehicle turned into a scheduling nightmare. Factory construction started in 1978, with production meant to begin in 1979. However, engineering and financial problems delayed production until 1981. At the time, the employment rate in Northern Ireland was high and many of the workers were inexperienced. A lot of the issues were solved by 1982.
Fall from grace
The DeLorean was sold at an initial price of $12,000, which worked out to be around £8400 at the time. Buyers were eager to get their hands on the car, with an extensive waiting list developing. Two versions were available: manual transmission or automatic transmission with the choice of black or grey interiors.
Any momentum was stopped by the DeLorean Motor Company going out of business after John DeLorean’s arrest. Although DeLorean was found not guilty, his reputation was forever damaged. Around 100 partially assembled cars were completed by a company called Big Lots, while another company called KAPAC sold parts to customers by mail order.
When Back To The Future came out in 1985, a DeLorean was used for the time machine, catapulting the vehicle into pop culture fame. If the film had come out before the DeLorean Motor Company filed for bankruptcy, it might have saved the manufacturer.
Regardless of how its story ended, the DeLorean remains a significant and beloved car.