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Thread: 1981–1983 DeLorean DMC

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    1981–1983 DeLorean DMC

    Despite a starring role in the hugely successful Back to the Future movies starring Michael J. Fox in the 1980s, John Z. DeLorean’s futuristic DMC-12 gullwing coupe never quite took off. With just a 2.8-liter V-6 and a measly130 horsepower, Doc would have had to put a lot of garbage into “Mr. Fusion” to get the car to 60-miles per hour faster than the 10.5 seconds or so most magazines of the era were reporting. Top speed was listed at about 109 miles per hour—not very fast when being chased by irate Libyans, or even an angry Corolla.

    Why John Z.—a brilliant former General Motors engineer and solid “car guy” who helped father the original GTO while at Pontiac in the early 1960s—would expect a sports car as underpowered and overpriced as his DMC-12 to work is a question that has never been adequately answered. It is the classic example of wishful thinking and the perils of overconfidence. By the time the first cars rolled off the assembly line in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the projected retail price of a new DMC-12 had more than doubled, from an already expensive $12,000 to a ridiculous $28,000. That was big money in 1981, when $16,258 could buy a brand-new 190-horsepower Corvette.

    If the DMC-12 had offered exotic-level performance to go with its exotic-level price, things might have been different. But as it turned out, the DMC-12 wasn’t even competitive as a performance car with the run-of-the-mill six-cylinder Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs of the era. It was simply too heavy—and its Renault-sourced small V-6 too weak. For all of its futuristic appearance, it was as if it was powered by a three-legged hamster on a treadmill.

    In its defense, the unpainted stainless steel bodywork designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro really stood out—and still does—until it gets dirty. Then it becomes difficult to clean. After just a few years of exposure to the elements, most DeLoreans assume the dull patina of old flatware in an abandoned hunting shack.

    By 1983, the DeLorean Motor Company was in receivership, and John Z. himself had been arrested (and videotaped en flagrante) on charges of money-laundering and conspiring to sell $24 million in cocaine as part of a hokey scheme to raise investment capital to keep his company afloat. His lawyers eventually saved him, but the car was doomed; just 8,583 DMC-12s were built before production was terminated.

    Unlike the also attractive and “coulda-been” Studebaker Avanti—which has been revived a number of times by multiple companies since the demise of Studebaker itself almost 40 years ago—it’s not likely the DMC-12 will ever be resurrected. The molds for the DMC-12’s body panels were reportedly dumped somewhere deep in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after the company was dissolved, in an apparent effort to preemptively stamp-out any future attempt at bringing the car back to the future.

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    Last edited by Eric; 08-22-2009 at 07:49 AM.

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