Five things you might not know about DeLorean Motor Company

The DeLorean DMC-12’s starring role in the Back to the Future franchise is well known, but relatively few are familiar with the car’s unique history. Sofiane Kennouche runs down some little-known facts about the iconic carmaker’s tumultous past.

Company founder John Z DeLorean poses with a DMC-12 concept car in  1980. Photo: Techautos.
Company founder John Z DeLorean poses with a DMC-12 concept car in 1980. Photo: Techautos.

It was originally built in Belfast

Well, the suburb of Dunmurry, to be precise, as part of a deal between the DeLorean Motor Company and the British government to bring employment to a sectarian part of Northern Ireland wrought by economic hardship. Construction of the factory began in October 1978 and by the time the factory closed in December 1982, approximately 9,200 DMC-12s had been constructed (with two-thirds of this number still on the road today). Quality control issues in the early days of the car’s production – due to inexperienced workers – had only been resolved by the time the company went into administration.

Parts used to assemble the DeLorean now live in the sea

Manufacturing tools used in the creation of the DeLorean sportscar met a watery end in the Atlantic. Photo: DMC News.

In an odd twist to the DeLorean tale, anecdotal evidence has shown that the press moulds used to create parts of the DeLorean’s stainless steel bodywork were not destroyed by the British government, as the rumour used to go. Instead, the body dies were bought by a scrap merchant and sold to a shipping company after the DeLorean Motor Company collapsed. The shipping company dropped them from the Severn Princess as anchors to weigh down salmon fishing nets; the dies remain on the ocean floor to this day.

Its founder was involved in a drugs sting


Hide Ad

After a spectacularly successful career with General Motors in the United States, John Z DeLorean decided to found his own company to construct a mid-engined sports car with engineering by Lotus and a V6 engine. As the effects of an economic recession in the US, production delays and below-average car reviews took their toll, DeLorean was caught on camera agreeing to fund a cocaine smuggling operation that would have netted his organisation approximately $24m. Though he was later acquitted thanks to claims of police entrapment, the British government cut off their funding and the DMC-12 reached the end of the road.

There are four gold DeLoreans

Only four out of 100 gold-plated DeLoreans were ever made. Photo: Enter My World.

In a classically 1980s PR stunt, American Express planned to sell one hundred 24-carat gold DMC-12s to their gold car members for Christmas 1980. Only two were ever sold, with one bought by a Texan banker who displayed it in the foyer of one of his banks before lending it to a car museum. A third was constructed with a brown interior and made from spare parts intended for the first two, and a fourth was constructed by an enthusiastic owner.

DeLoreans were being made two years ago

The DeLorean brand found its way out of the mire of liquidation in 2007 after being acquired by DMC Texas. The American company then set about making “Stage 2” cars, which were rebuilt from the ground up while retaining the original chassis and identification markings of the originals. In addition, a one-off electric DeLorean was unveiled this week by Queen’s University Belfast as part of its “Back to the Future day” celebrations.