DeLorean DMC12

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DeLorean DMC12

1981 - 1983
2.85 litre
130 bhp
3 spd. auto / 5 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
5 star
DeLorean DMC12
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5


Most famous for its role in the "Back to the Future" movies, the story of the DeLorean Motor Company is almost as far fetched as the movies in which it was to later feature in. John DeLorean got his start in the automobile business at Packard in the 1950's and was recruited by Pontiac in 1959. A rising star at Pontiac, DeLorean was involved in the creation of perhaps their greatest success, the GTO; By the end of the 1960's, DeLorean was running Pontiac, and sales had risen from 6th to 3rd, behind only Chevrolet and Ford.

With Ford showing sales gains, DeLorean was moved to manage the Chevrolet division in 1970, and by 1973, Chevrolet had its first ever annual sales of more than 3 million cars and trucks. With Chevrolet now doing well, DeLorean was promoted to a $650,000 per year position as the vice president of all North American Car and Truck divisions. DeLorean was tipped to be GM's next president, however he resigned shortly thereafter.

By 1975, plans were afoot for what DeLorean described as an "ethical" sports car, that used radical new materials and manufacturing techniques, with safety features not offered by any manufacturer at that time including fitting airbags as standard. Giugiaro, designer of cars such as the Lotus Esprit was enlisted to design DeLorean's sports car. Funding was still required, and while each DeLorean dealer paid $25,000, the bulk was to come from the state be the base of the manufacturing plant.

Sites as far apart as Texas and Puerto Rico were considered, but the British government's combination tax waivers of over $100 million dollars would put the factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland and bring needed jobs to the area. In 1979, John DeLorean was very close to a deal with Porsche to engineer his sports car, but Porsche stipulated a four year development time. This was unrealistic due to the timetable set up with the British government. When Colin Chapman and Lotus agreed to perform the task in 18 months (it would slip to 25 months), a deal was struck.

To meet this timetable, several of the new technologies planned were put on hold, and only body, gullwing doors and rear-engine design were carried over from the first prototypes. The production cars, sold in the United States from early 1981, often sold at far over the screen price of $25,000. DeLorean's have a fibreglass body tub to which the stainless steel panels are bolted and a mild steel chassis which has an resin coating to protect against rust. They are typically (and originally) powered by a Peugeot/Renault/Volvo 2.85 litre V6 engine that produces 130bhp with either a three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. Grey and black leather trim were the only interior options offered on the regular production cars.

In 1982 the problems finally became too much and the factory closed down. After the closure of the factory in Dunmurray, near Belfast, the remaining parts and partially completed cars were sold at auction for whatever they would fetch. The British government destroyed several million pounds worth of body dies, effectively ensuring that no more DeLoreans could ever be made. DeLoreans were produced from 1981 to 1982, with production totals of 6,539, 1126 and 918 respectively (total (8,583). Approximately 6,000 are believed to still exist, the majority are in the USA with a few hundred scattered round the world.

All vehicles were in unpainted stainless steel, with the exception of the two gold-plated cars sold by American Express for $85,000 each (one in a bank in Texas and the other at a car museum) - one is for sale, if you have $175,000 going spare! However, it is quite unique, it has never been driven, had fuel put in its tank or even been started.

Back to the Past? - Guest post by Elizabeth Bailey

There’s nothing like revisiting the past when it comes to classic cars. The 1982 DeLorean DMC-12 is a standout in automobile history. Not only did it rival Michael J. Fox for the leading role in Back to the Future, but it is now a highly sought-after car coveted by collectors. A real knight in shining armor, this vintage beauty can really make you feel like you’ve entered a new dimension when you go for a ride. With its infamous gull-wing doors and fiberglass body, the DeLorean was originally manufactured for the American auto market by the DeLorean motor company However, its original design and film stardom led to its iconic status throughout the world.

Official production of the DeLorean began in 1981, but the first prototype of the car was built in 1976. Assembly of this famously futuristic sports car took place mainly at a factory in Northern Ireland. Adding to the car’s legend, the DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in 1982; consequently, only 9,200 models were made between 1981 of January and 1982 of December. After the company went bankrupt, there were still partially-manufactured DeLoreans and parts on the line. About a hundred of these were completed by the firm known then as Consolidated International.

Remaining parts were sold and, according to popular belief, DeLorean’s body stamping dies were tossed into the ocean in order to prevent another company from acquiring them. Whatever the truth may be, the short manufacturing period and scarcity of models has made this vehicle a considerably sought-after antique. The unique features of the DeLorean made it extremely popular during its production period. At one point there was a waiting list in the U.S. with customers willing to pay ten thousand dollars above list price simply to obtain a vehicle.

In the U.S., the DeLorean was stamped with a suggested retail price of $25,000, which would be equivalent to more than 60,000 in the current market. DeLorean fans were wowed by the car’s singular features like the rear-mounted engine and unpainted, stainless steel panels of the body. The doors, too, seemed ideally suited to a vehicular time machine. Early DeLoreans achieved so much initial fame that in December of 1981, the DeLorean Company, assisted by American Express, actually intended to produce the car in 24 karat gold plate.

In the end, two were sold at $85,000 each and one of these is now showcased at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles while the other is on display the National Automobile Museum in Reno Nevada. A third gold car was manufactured and is owned by a private collector in the state Maryland. Although the DeLorean Motor Company of Texas is now producing the latest generation of this car, it’s the 1982 version that still holds the spotlight. Car collectors near major cities can sometimes find this car for sale in local classified advertisements. Otherwise, an online search will be needed and, perhaps, some visits to eBay Motors.

In Australia and elsewhere, a 1982 DeLorean in fair condition is generally worth around $19,000. However, the price fluctuates according to the car’s condition. Collectors particularly enjoy refurbishing the DeLorean because so many parts are still available; the company’s shut-down was a surprise, so many parts were made for future production of these cars. This car, widely revered for its handling as opposed to its horsepower, is truly a unique fixture of automobile history. Moreover, John DeLorean, the original founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, and his own colorful history have only served to add to the car’s mystique. Chances are, as this classic continues to age, it will only increase in value, making it more sought after than ever!

This guest post was contributed by Elizabeth Bailey on behalf of Silver Star Mercedes-Benz – who specialize in new and pre-owned vehicles. You can visit their website for more information.
DeLorean DMC12
DeLorean DMC12

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