History of the 1981 - 1982 Delorean DMC-12
Though manufactured for only two years, between 1981 and 1982, the dazzling DeLorean DMC-12 has secured its place in history. Helped by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s crisp styling, attention-grabbing gullwing doors and, yes, that Hollywood role, the car is an enduring icon that’s sure to turn heads. A two-seater coupe with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive, DeLorean aimed the model at the American market.
John Delorean, a former GM executive, founded his eponymous car company in 1975. Having exhibited the first prototype – known as the DeLorean Safety Vehicle – in 1976, he reached an agreement with the British government to build a factory in Northern Ireland in return for substantial financial incentives. After various setbacks and some engineering help from Colin Chapman, production began in 1981.
The DeLorean was constructed with a steel backbone chassis and fibreglass underbody. Stainless steel panels were then hung to the car, giving the DMC-12 its distinctive appearance. Other engineering quirks include gullwing doors and disc brakes which are larger on the rear axle than the front. Suspension is all independent, utilising unequal length wishbones at the front and trailing arms at the rear.
There were no major revisions during DeLorean production, though minor revisions occurred regularly. These included subtly different wheel and bonnet designs. Production ceased in December 1982, though many unsold cars found buyers over the next year. In total, 9,000 DeLoreans were manufactured.
Every DeLorean DMC-12 left the factory with a 2849 cc V-6. The engine, a variant of the PRV ‘Douvrin’, features a single overhead cam and Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection. Cars for the American market were also fitted with catalytic converters. Two transmissions were available: a three-speed automatic and a five-speed, fully synchronised manual, both provided by Renault.
The DeLorean DMC-12 has an excellent driving position, with low slung, fully adjustable seats and a high transmission tunnel creating an exotic sense of occasion while accommodating drivers of all dimensions. Performance levels are relatively low but high torque levels and wide tyres make the DMC-12 an easy car to drive swiftly.
Wheel width and diameter are staggered from front to rear and it is no longer possible to purchase a set of four matching tyres for the model. The gas struts which hold up the doors must be replaced every couple of years and the stainless steel bodywork, though impervious to rust, requires specialist attention if damaged.
DeLorean Club UK holds an extensive collection of smaller parts, including ball joints, clutch plates and engine covers, which are offered at reasonable prices. DMC Texas also provides an exhaustive range of old stock parts, with large, rare items such as subframes, body panels and seats available. Prices for these parts are substantial and the American company offers a discount scheme for large orders. The engine and transmission share much with Renaults of the same period and these parts are widely available.
There are few differences between DeLoreans: interior colour and transmission were the only factory options. Cars equipped with the manual gearbox generally command more than those equipped with the automatic transmission. Examples worked up to cosmetically resemble the Back to the Future model attract a small, separate market and gernerally achieve lower prices than similar standard cars. Any DeLorean that has been painted is non-original and a DMC-12 so finished has a significantly reduced value.
For manifold and well-publicised reasons, DeLorean did not produce a successor to the DMC-12. However, DeLorean Motor Company (Texas) – a new company with many of the original DMC engineering diagrams – plans to produce replica cars. Due to emissions laws, these cars will be fitted with a modern V-6 engine but will otherwise adhere to the specification of the originals. The Porsche 911 Carrera, Ferrari 308 and Lotus Esprit offer a period alternative from other manufacturers.