The cars : DeLorean DMC-12 development story

Keith Adams tells the story of the DeLorean DMC-12, which was designed in America, redesigned in Norfolk, and built in Northern Ireland.  

It’s an interesting tale, even without the exploits of John Z DeLorean, who – rather like Icarus – ended up flying too close to the sun…

DeLorean DMC-12: Boulevard of broken dreams

There are plenty of cars that have achieved notoriety during their lifetimes – one only has to look at the Boulevard of Broken Dreams that is the British car industry to see where we’re coming from. However, to earn such a status in life usually involves being sub-standard on the road or synonymous with failure – and, in many ways, this is certainly the case with the most infamous cars built in the UK during the 1980s. But there’s so much more to the DeLorean DMC-12 than that.

The story begins in April 1973, when John Zachary DeLorean unexpectedly resigned from his role as General Motors’ Vice President of Car and Truck production. It was a shock move, considering he was tipped for the top of GM, but following the form book was never an option for a renegade like John Z. He had risen meteorically through GM’s ranks using his swashbuckling style to play the corporate game so well.

Generally regarded as the creator of the Pontiac GTO,  he occupied an enviable position on GM’s hallowed 14th floor – but now he’d outgrown his corporate straitjacket and wanted to cut loose. He wanted to set-up his own car company and build the sort of exotic sports car that GM never would.

From the very beginning, John Z knew exactly what he wanted, and hired GM engineering guru Bill Collins to implement his plans. Impressed by BMW, John Z decided to produce a sports car to rival the CS coupe – and impress its aspirational buyers by being very European in feel. Throwing a curved ball into the mix, DeLorean decided that the car would have stainless steel bodywork (so the car would last for years) and gullwing doors. He wanted to give the car a wow factor similar to the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.

DeLorean’s ethical sports car comes together

Ital Design's renderings for the DeLorean DSV-1
Ital Design’s renderings for the DeLorean DSV-1

Throughout 1973 and ’74, the plans began to crystallise and, although the DeLorean Motor Company didn’t yet officially exist, the new car was already taking shape, as was the finance to build it. Cutting a deal worth $500,000 with the Allstate Insurance Company, John Z presented his proposed sports coupe as the DeLorean Safety Vehicle (DSV-1) – and the insurance company would fund the building of a prototype with a view to taking it to production, should the demand be there. But even before the ink on the deal had dried, the insurance company lost interest, leaving the finances in the capable hands of DeLorean.

At the end of 1974, John Z and Collins approached Ital Design’s Giorgetto Giugiaro and, after brief negotiations, the Italian began work on the new car’s styling. DeLorean’s parameters – along with the need for those doors and that bodywork – were that the new car needed flush-fitting bumpers, was mid-engined and would be commodious enough for tall drivers (John Z was 6ft 5in).

Initially, a Wankel engine was considered, but neither Citroën nor Mazda were willing to supply the engines in the volume envisaged. Next came the Ford Cologne V6; then the 2.0-litre Citroën CX engine; with the Engineers only switching the V6 ‘Douvrin’ PRV engine comparatively late in the programme. Given that Giugiaro had packaged his mid-engine design around Citroën’s in-line four, this caused a fundamental engineering shift – the V6 power pack needed to be repositioned behind the rear axle line to maintain interior room (and the need to fit a golf bag behind the front seats).

Original DeLorean prototype
Original prototype was shown early to drum up financial support for the venture…

Advanced body construction

The body construction was advanced – a composite system (Elastic Reservoir Moulding) that allowed the steel outer panels to be bonded to a two-piece understructure. It was a ground-breaking construction method that added desirability – so much so, that when it was presented to the press in October 1976, Road & Track magazine declared the DMC-12 a ‘sensation’ – despite not having driven it, and production remaining a long way off.

Throughout the period, John Z was here, there and everywhere – using his contacts, pressing the flesh and sweet-talking potential investors into parting with their cash in exchange for a share of the company. Dealers were courted, banks were wined and dined and industry suppliers persuaded to climb aboard – all were promised the earth. The dream was gaining momentum, and Detroit was beginning to take notice.

While the first prototype spent much of 1977 doing the rounds, seducing the press and potential dealers, a second was built. It was then that the detail engineering began – thanks to additional finance. A adapting the car to run the Douvrin V6 had been eased considerably when Engineers found they could mimic the conceptually similar Alpine-Renault A310 V6’s installation.

John Z DeLorean with the original DSV-1 prototype
John Z DeLorean with the original DSV-1 prototype

Where to build it?

However, a much more pressing issue was coming to light: where to build the car. Initially, the most serious offer on the table was from Puerto Rico – a $60m grant package (topped up by the US Government), and excellent location within an abandoned military base tempted John Z, but delays in the project pushed him into talks with the Northern Ireland Development Agency.

It was a bold move, and potentially fraught with danger, but having charmed the Labour Government, John Z’s deal was struck in a matter of days following an amazingly short consultation. Worth a cool $117m of taxpayer’s money, the contracts were signed in July 1978, and the project to set up a greenfield production site in Dunmurry, near Belfast (below), was underway.

Having moved the focus to the UK, and with the finance in place, John Z set about building the company is readiness for volume production.

New factory was built for the DeLorean, using British taxpayers' money.
New factory was built for the DeLorean, using British taxpayers’ money

UK operation grows and the troubles begin

Alongside the Dunmurry factory, a management and logistics centre was opened in Coventry – where staff were rapidly hired to start setting up new supply deals in the UK – while John Z and Colin Chapman signed a deal for Lotus to develop the DMC-12 to production readiness. It made perfect sense – Lotus remains a respected automotive design and engineering consultancy, and Collins and Chapman were both firm admirers of the Esprit, a car that set the dynamic benchmark in the market.

Despite that, Collins found he couldn’t work with Chapman, seeing the car he’d designed from scratch watered down and re-engineered around a partner’s engineering principles. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Given the tight timescales, Lotus had little choice. It went for what it knew best and did away with much of the original DeLorean’s underbody, adopting a chassis structure near-identical to the Lotus Esprit‘s. With nearly 200 Lotus staff working on the DeLorean project, the backbone chassis was adopted, and the Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection (VARI) method was introduced to replace the complex and costly ERM system that Collins had enthused about in 1975. Stainless steel outer panels would still adorn the exterior, so the simpler body construction would be invisible to the owner – and Lotus would receive a royalty for its patented system for every DMC-12 built.

DMC-12 and Esprit: brothers in arms

Lotus Esprit S1
Once Lotus was on board, it wasn’t surprising that the Esprit would end up being a major influence

Similarities with the Esprit went further – the all-independent suspension with front double wishbones and a rear multi-link was almost identical. No surprise, then, that it handled well (having been honed at Hethel), but the ride quality was also excellent, thanks to its relatively high ride set-up and large super-sticky tyres (that were necessarily much larger at the rear). The rack-and-pinion steering was also set-up to Lotus specification, and was quick geared to 2.65 turns from lock to lock – the perfect driver’s car set-up.

Performance didn’t live up to expectation – not least because, once the emissions equipment was installed (the DMC-12 was the first British-built car to feature a catalyst as standard), the 2.8-litre V6 produced a mere 130bhp.

Despite the upheavals beneath the skin, the styling remained true to the Giugiaro original. A few late tweaks saw some of the sharpest edges smoothed off, the side window profile tidied up and the last minute additions of electric toll-booth windows – the result of a conversation between John Z and a co-passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight who couldn’t understand why his so-called luxury car didn’t have electric windows.

Getting it into production

DeLorean production in Dunmurry
DeLorean production in Dunmurry

By December 1979, and just over a year after setting up in the UK, Lotus began turning over the finished project for DeLorean to put the car into production. Although development wasn’t finished – and the fine-tuning needed completing, the project moved to Ireland…

As we have already seen, John Z DeLorean didn’t play by the rules – and was prepared to think unconventionally in order to realise his dream of getting his gullwing sports car into production. However, choosing Northern Ireland to build his car was either the act of a genius – or commercial suicide.

When DMCL in the UK was set-up in October 1978, it was effectively starting from scratch – the car was underdeveloped, and a parallel programme of development at both Hethel and Coventry would need to take place; a practice that had yet to take off in the industry. In setting up the production cars, new supply deals with a myriad of component suppliers in the West Midlands were set-up – all with the demands of setting up a brand new factory was built in strife-torn Northern Ireland running in the background.

Irish workers come together

Based in Dunmurry, near the Catholic Twinbrook Estate, the factory was perfectly placed to deal with the area’s rampant unemployment (it was as high as 50% in the Catholic areas) – the location was equidistant between large Catholic and Protestant estates. However, the local work force wasn’t skilled and would need considerable training, while there simply wasn’t the automotive industry infrastructure in place for a quick start-up.

On top of that, John Z had set an impossible schedule to meet – he’d promised the Government that pilot build cars would be rolling off the line by May 1980, and a year after that, the factory would be producing 30,000 cars per year. Despite the enormity of the task, he remained based at the company’s New York office, relying on industry heavyweights such as Purchasing Director Barrie Wills and ex-GM man Chuck Bennington to get the operation running in the UK.

The production lines fire up

Giorgetto Giugiaro with the DMC-12
Ital Design’s Giorgetto Giugiaro (left) styled the DMC-12 – here, he’s with John Z DeLorean at the Dunmurry factory at end of 1980 for the media launch…

On 21 January 1981, eight months late and £34m over budget, the first DMC-12 rolled off the line at Dunmurry. It would be easy to criticise this overshoot, but given the timetable the UK team was working to, this was a remarkable achievement. Sadly, it was still a rush job – and, in a tale all too familiar in the British motor industry, the car was released to the public undercooked and lacking in quality. Within months the factory had these issues licked…

The initial road tests were kind, though – after comparing it with the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 308 among others, Car  and Driver concluded, ‘If DeLorean keeps it up, he could be the only North American besides Henry Ford to leave his mark and his name on the business.’ Given it cost $25,600 compared with $16,258 for the considerably faster (if much less refined) Chevrolet Corvette, it was a frankly misguided view, gullwing doors or not.

The chassis and engineering were impressive, even if the excessive ride height did its best to upset the overall levels of lateral grip. Autocar reckoned it was biased towards understeer; Road & Track thought it rolled too much – and all thought it lacked the ultimate delicacy of its European price rivals. But who really cared when it looks so striking.

Car and Driver summed the DMC-12 up  in a wonderfully overblown way: ‘Let the sun blaze or the night lights sparkle and the sheen shines. And when the gullwings reach for the sky and their amber warning lights alert the neighbourhood’s low-flying Learjets to a new obstacle, all the world’s air traffic controllers couldn’t channel the glut of instant onlookers. When they look inside, they lose all control. The Pewter Grey interior should bring all special edition designers in Detroit to their knees. It looks wonderful.’ Quite…

DMC-12: more power to your elbow

DeLorean DMC-12 Turbo rendering by Ital Design in 1981
DeLorean DMC-12 Turbo rendering by Ital Design in 1981

However, there was no disguising the DMC-12’s lack of bangs for your buck. John Z wanted more, and turbocharging was the obvious answer. But given the lack of resources at DMCL, the company decided to outsource the job to New York-based Legend Industries. With plenty of experience of forced induction Fiat Spiders, Legend took on the job and followed John Z’s diktat that the DMC-12 Turbo wouldn’t be a peaky performer like a Porsche 911, with its boost coming in nice and smoothly.

Four turbos were built in the end – a pair of single-turbo cars were backed up by two twin-turbos. In testing at Bridgehampton Raceway in 1981, the twin-turbo DeLorean posted a 0-60mph time of 5.8 seconds while covering the 1.4 miles in a very respectable 14.7 seconds. This placed it in a similar performance category to the Lotus Esprit Turbo – a front-running junior-league supercar.

DeLorean ordered 5000 Turbo conversions from Legend Industries and the company planned to offer a turbocharged version as a $7500 option for the 1984 model year. However, this promising car would not end up seeing the light of day.

Fortunes were already on the turn

DMC DeLorean number 1000 rolls off the production line.
Initially, sales were brisk, and the 1000th car rolled off the line in no time…

However, storm clouds were already gathering even before regular production had got up to full speed. Despite promising early sales the queue of willing buyers had dried up by the end of year – the chill wind of recession had struck the US automotive sector, and stockpiles of unsold cars started to mount up, both in Dunmurry and dockside in the USA. The worst winter in 50 years also played its part.

As it was built on fragile finances, no way could DMC weather any kind of storm. John Z desperately tried to secure additional funding from any sources available to him in the USA, as well as managing to top up his investment from an unwilling Conservative Government.

In January 1982, production was slashed and the factory moved to a three-day week. Plans were accelerated to give the DMC-12 Euro Type Approval – something that John Z originally thought wouldn’t be necessary. An emergency programme headed by Barrie Wills in Coventry was instigated – but it was already too late, the money had run out.

The receivers are called in

On 19 February, the Receivers were called in and, after forming DMC (1982) Limited, funded the continued development of UK-spec cars while a viable rescue plan was devised. The deadline would be 31 July – John Z assuming that the date would come and go without financial assistance, and believing that the Government would offer a bailout to avoid heavy job losses. How wrong he was…

DeLorean’s Head of Marketing, Tom Ronayne, hadn’t waited – he toured Europe hosting a marketing roadshow to sound out potential sales outlets. The feedback was positive – and, with the factory still on tick-over, but with time running out, a rescue bid was cooked up. The immediate issue was to increase demand and production at Dunmurry and start moving stockpiled cars in the USA, and that’s when Barrie Wills’ management team came up with an intriguing idea.

British rescue plans are cooked up

A plan was hatched to built Triumph TRs in Dunmurry after Solihull was closed...
A plan was hatched to built Triumph TRs in Dunmurry after Solihull was closed…

During the previous year, BL ceased car production at its Solihull factory, killing off the Triumph TR7/TR8 in the process. Wills and Bennington approached BL with the idea of purchasing the tooling and the rights for the sports car, and building DMC-badged TR7/TR8s in the huge and under-utilized factory in Northern Ireland. On 29 July, Austin-Rover’s Chairman, Harold Musgrove, and BL’s Commercial Director, Mark Snowdon, informed the pair that they could have the rights and tooling for a ‘commercially realistic’ price, as long as the car they produced didn’t too closely resemble the TR7/TR8.

It was a plan that could have rescued DeLorean – with the smaller re-branded cars opening up the possibility of volume production to Dunmurry. It was a plan impressive enough for Wills and Bennington to receive a commitment to funding from a consortium of financial backers – with the agreement of the Receivers.

The dream is over…

However,  on 19 October, after a four-month operation in the USA, the FBI pounced on DeLorean in a Los Angeles hotel room for ‘narcotics violations.’ The dream was over thanks to a briefcase full of cocaine.

And it was over for Wills and Bennington, too. After running out of time and money, and with no chance of the British Government investing further money into the tarnished operation, the Receivers were forced to close the company. After a run of less than two years and around 9080 cars, Barrie Wills locked the factory gates for the very last time.

Those doors really did set the DMC-12 apart from all the opposition...
Those doors really did set the DMC-12 apart from all the opposition…

See also: DeLorean Motor Company official website

See also: DeLorean Owners Club UK website

Keith Adams


  1. The need to be able to put a set of golf clubs behind the seats may have given rise to the 2+2 which was spotted during the DeLorean meet at the Ulster Transport Museum on 29th May 2011.

    The car was more of a cramped Alfa GTV 2+2 than a Rover 800 Coupe though!

  2. Does anyone know if there’s any truth in the rumour that the unused DMC12 bodyshells were crushed and buried in the grounds of the factory?

  3. Will – that 2+2 you spotted at Cultra was a bespoke one built by some guys from the Irish Delorean Club – based around a stock D and including a Renault Alpine rear setup (including seats). Not finished yet, but work very much in progress! It’s nominally a “DMC-24”!

    Apparently the body-shell thing is a myth – the body dies are in Galway bag anchoring down a fish-farm, however – some pics have been taken of them in-situ and are far too far gone to rescue!

  4. Dickie524 – The DMC24 looked great for a bespoke build.

    There was a DMC12 on wheeler dealers last night. They brought it in from America.
    No rust, they had a specialist who worked the stainless steel bodywork to pop out small dents, seemed a nice car to work on.

    Didn’t show it getting MOTd though, rear fog light wired up etc.

  5. I saw a DeLorean in Edinburgh for the first time in the flesh ever…have to say it is a much bigger car than I thought it was.

    I peered in the window in the vain hope that I’d see the flux capacitor!!! Not to mention wanting to take it for a spin up to 88mph 🙂

  6. Hey I saw one only a few weeks ago (driving on the road) around the Whitby harbour near wellington in NZL. I know there is also one at Southwards Museum also near Wellington, it could have been the same one I guess – although Im not sure that the southwards one ever goes out. Both the one at southwards and the one I saw are / were stainless steel. alex

  7. 13@WarrenL

    I clicked on the link, and got the message “this video is not available to viewers in your location”

    Is there another way of viewing the video?

  8. I didn’t know, or don’t recall, that the final nail was De Lorean being caught with cocaine – wow!!

    Saw one close up quite recently in Cumbria

  9. A pair of Twin-Turbocharged (version of the PRV) Delorean prototypes were also under development before the company went bust, while a PRV-powered TR7/8-based Delorean (DMC-6?) is an rather interesting What-If to consider.

  10. The old factory is a Montupet factory now.

    Still involved in the automotive sector, they make aluminium castings and had a big order from Ford. (Ironic, as nearby the Ford Belfast plant was spun off as Visteon and closed down a couple of years ago)

  11. My Dad worked at the Ford Belfast plant for over 30 years, it started off as Autolite, then Ford Belfast, then Visteon. A lot of the Ford Belfast guys left Ford to join Delorean, but luckily my Dad stayed on. Then Visteon screwed the Belfast guys out of their pensions, so it wasn’t only John DeLorean who was a crook.

  12. I was impressed to see the effort put in by three guys: Barrie Mills, Barrie Wells and me, Barrie Wills. Best half back line Aston Martin (sorry, Villa!) ever had! 🙂 See ‘DeLorean – Celebrating the Impossible’ to be published in the second half of 2014 for the origin of that particular confusion.

    • Hi Barrie,

      Great to hear from you – and thanks for the clarification. It would be good to catch up sometime for some inside line on the DeLorean story – you were a hero in my eyes 🙂

      (Oh, and I have made sure we’ve rid ourselves of the name faux pas!)


  13. Damned shame as had De Lorean succeeded, this could have been Belfast’s answer to Nissan. I also wonder if something else could have been at play, certain men in black asking for cash for ” the cause” and intimidation on the factory floor from both sides.

    • Delorean and Nissan???
      Sorry I don’t see the similarity.
      Delorean was always going to be a niche player..Nissan is a mass manufacturer.
      If DeLorean was around today it would be more like an Alpine, or a Morgan or a Noble or a TVR. etc..etc.
      IIRC Delorean also designed a bus so maybe they could have been a smaller Lotus. i.e doing design work for the majors..But was never going to be a Nissan.
      And no way would they have a large workforce like Nissan either.

  14. @ Oz 2015, who knows, they could have become a British Porsche, making a range of sports cars and keeping their 2600 staff in Belfast happily employed and making millions in exports. Unfortunately the car came out at a bad time, an energy crisis and recession hit as soon as the factory opened, and Northern Ireland was hit with sectarian strife and probably wasn’t the best place to open a factory. Yet fair play to De Lorean for having a go and a certain film means his car will live on for decades.

    • @Glenn.
      Well, Like Will pointed out above a French firm (Montupet) is using the plant as a components factory.
      I think they make cylinder heads for Ford.
      And as Ireland is out on the fringes of Europe with only a small population I reckon this is the best strategy..i.e to make automotive parts.
      And the politicians have been going down that route for some time , now.
      Ofc it would be better to also design and manufacture. and who knows where Europe is going these days.
      Some people believe with 3D printing the future may well be local manufacturing…again. Which I think might lead somewhere.
      And like you point out a film legacy..and don’t forget Game Of Thrones is made in the former shipyard there. :-))

      • The Titanic studio, as used by Game of Thrones, came by as something of an accident.

        Like you say, it was part of the old shipyard – an old paint hall. It used to accommodate huge constructed ships, but as the shipyard moved towards heavy engineering, ship repair and wind turbine construction, it sat empty and was used as a yard for plastics recycling.

        Proposals were put forward for it to be demolished as part of the Queens Island / Titanic Quarter / Science Park resurgence of the area in the 2000s.

        Then, at some point, NI screen were bidding for production of films and TV series in NI, with generous grants, and discovered what was apparently one of the biggest indoor spaces in Europe.

        It needed tidied up a bit, but it was perfect for film making – City of Embers being one of the first films shot there.

        Game of Thrones later came over, they’re formalised the area a bit better, tidying it up and building a second smaller studio unit beside it.

        Not bad for what was an old derelict building.

        If you ever visit the area, they do Game of Thrones tours of the local filming locations. Another visit to the Transport Museum, where they have a small exhibit on the Delorean including a cutaway chassis.

        And you can even try and see if you can get a glimpse of the old DeLorean test track on the outskirts of the city –

    • I fear that using the example of Porsche overlooks the fact that until it was bailed out by VW/Audi, Porsche as a niche player was getting ever deeper into the financial troubles that have beset most similar organisations. I can see no reason why deLorean would have been any different, particularly as it was mismanaged from the very start .

  15. De Lorean was never convicted, the US government was found to be guilty of entrapment.

    Not entirely blameless but like Preston Tucker in the late 40s someone set him up.

  16. I did wonder would could have been to make made De Lorean do better, even with a better run plant the DMC-12 struggled with being underpowered & overweight, no thanks to a lot of late in the day engineering changes.

    Considering Turbocharging was becoming popular in the late 1970s was there any thought to turbocharing the PRV before the Renault 25 was launched?

  17. De Lorean was a buccaneer, a bit of a Richard Branson figure, who was determined to make it on his own and was tired of the politics and bureaucracy in General Motors. Had he launched his car after the 1980-82 downturn in America, I’m sure it would have done well as the market boomed for European luxury cars after 1982 and many rich Americans would have been willing to pay more for a car that was cheaper to run and more stylish than a Corvette. Remember the XJS enjoyed a hugely successful run in America in the eighties and I’m sure an upgunned DMC 12 would have been attractive.
    Yet it would be wrong to cast De Lorean as a crook and a charlatan, as some people portaryed him. His decision to set up a factory employing 2600 people was admirable in an area blighted by terrorism and unemployment and had it succeeded, it could have been a huge success for Northern Ireland. Also later on, he became a born again Christian and a charity worker and the cocaine bust was most likely a set up

  18. Very interesting that BL were approached for rights and tooling of the TR7/8.

    Also, Glenn, quite incredible that John De Lorean became a born again Christian!

  19. John DeLorean must have went a bit native like Roy Mason the Sec’ of State for N.Irl who would have lobbied the Labour Government for the cash in 1978.

    Becoming a born again Christian got a lot of people off the hook one way or another at the time! How to reduce a sentence for murder? Get saved, very norn-iron.

    The DeLorean story is synonymous with the N.Irl ‘economy’ needs a massive handout with nothing in return but a headache.

  20. @ Paddy, it was a big shame, Sunderland has become a major player in the car industry, with no history of car production in the North East, but Belfast in the late seventies and early eighties was doomed to fail. You had the Troubles and sectarianism at its height, a totally unskilled workforce, then an energy crisis and a recession hit, which was disastrous for an unknown quantity like De Lorean, producing specialist, expensive cars. Had it been General Motors building the Nova in Belfast, it might have succeeded, but not a $ 25,000 sports car from an unknown manufacturer.

    • Its one of these issues that is of huge importance but receives little public attention. The North (of Ireland) gets a lot of attention regarding trouble, marches shootings etc but the real issue in my opinion is its public sector dependent economy, to put it politely. Harold Wilson described its economic dependency in rather more robust language although he was only speaking the truth.
      I am from the North and work in the real world South. It drives me crazy to see how handouts has made the North fat and lazy with a swaggering arrogance to boot. Running an 85% deficit each year and its just not an issue. Yet you hear some Northern politicians having a dig at the South for making an effort. Anyhow!

      But yes as you say Glenn its a wonder why when the Government was desperate to provide jobs to cool down severe civil disorder that how come GM or Ford was not approached. The North has had a large workforce involved with the linen industry. Irish linen having provided the Merchant and Royal Navy with the strongest sails on the seas, as well as a lot of cheap labour!
      So its not inconceivable that the North was an ideal location for the car industry and I would argue that in fact Newry or Derry would have been a better location for such enterprises due to the generally higher productivity in those locations. Today those parts of the North are the only areas that come anywhere near paying for themselves.

      However the 1921-73 NI government was running an apartheid and did not want to see economic development in Nationalist areas with the notion of starving out the Catholic minority. Sadly the British government not wanting to get dragged back into the Irish Bog ignored this burning fuse and just handed Stormont a blank cheque each year with no questions asked.

      Long story short, there was the workforce, skills and infrastructure present at the time but politics snuffed any development out. DeLorien was a cruel joke really, and too much of a pipe-dream.

      • Ford did have a factory near Dunmurry, which became spun off as Visteon and then mothballed.

        The engineering mindset in Belfast is evident these days as it has became a hub for the IT industry, with generous grants for corporations, and cheap(-er than London or Dublin) labour.

  21. Wow, just 130 BHP from a 2.8 litre V6? Our 1.6 litre Suzuki Swift Sport manages 136 (but probably not as much torque).

    • The cars from the 70-80s are often referred to as the malaise era in the US. However mostly because of that learning curve modern cars are very clean and efficient nowadays.

      DOHC , electronics including fuel injection we can have over twice as much power as before.

      My 76 spitfire 1500 has about 75hp without the smog equipment, I love driving it but it’s a stinky beast compared to my newer cars.

  22. @ Richard 16378, the American car industry was strangled by emissions controls, fuel shortages and a petty 55 mph speed limit that most people ignored, if the cops weren’t around to enforce it and in many states they weren’t bothered unless you went above 70 mph. Yet such a climate created such joys as a V8 Mustang that would struggle to outrun a basic Cortina and a Corvette that would only do 115 mph.

  23. The 55 mph speed limit remained in place until 1987, long after the energy crisis had passed and the American economy was booming, when Congress raised it to 65 mph on interstates, and in 1995 speed limit regulations were passed back to the individual states after 21 years. Typically the speed limit on interstates and grade divided roads( dual carriageways and local freeways) can be 65 to 80 mph depending on which state you’re in.

  24. Judging by the earliest comments, this article is a dozen years old, yet the actual events are decades old, therefore I feel compelled to ask why even bring up “a suitcase of cocaine” yet no mention of how John Z was acquitted of all charges and absolved of all blame due to entrapment, for crying out loud noone ever suggested the drugs were his or that he ever used them or try to sell them. The FBI recruited an old neighbor and try to set him up. Also no mention of Colin Chapman being implicated in misappropriation of millions of pounds, the only reason he never saw inside a courtroom was due to his untimely death. Seriously these are well known facts from the top of my head and I’m a simple truck driver. I’m sorry but this is bbc tier journalism, simple whitewashing or blackwashing or whatever of history, simply ommiting whatever doesn’t suit the narrative. I truly have had hours of entertainment reading your articles, and feel rotten typing this, but facts do matter

  25. DeLorean Motor Company failed because John Zachary DeLorean didn’t take his job seriously.

    If John DeLorean was really serious about making a sports car, he would have made the DMC-12 a twin-turbo V6 from the get-go and making it quicker than all of its rivals.

    And gullwing doors aside, the DMC-12 looked very generic. If it weren’t for the gullwing doors, the car could easily pass off as some sort of Volkswagen coupé.

    • I remember thinking in the mid 1980s that an Audi Coupe looked a bit like a DMC-12.

      Turbocharging the PRV also crossed my mind, I did wonder if a small block V8 would have been a better engine, certainly a mid engine installation would have helped the handling.

      • Looking back at the DMC we look at it with modern eyes. However if we remember this car was designed primarily for the American Market, where its biggest selling sports car, the Corvette, was very different to what we got and thought was a sports car. The car was designed in the early 70s when we facing a fuel crisis and the world was wanting more economical cars, even in the states. The V6 was chosen on this basis, and the design although generic to our eyes now, was modern and exciting compared to the coke bottle styling that was de riguer when the styling was chosen.

      • IMHO DeLorean should have embraced a more conservative approach as mentioned in the Indie Auto below with front-engine RWD and regular doors.

        The later TR7-based Healey 2000/3500 project styled by Ed Peppall does open up ideas if Giugiaro is not available, it also brings to mind the DtW’s Opening Up the TR7 Envelope article for more inspiration on a possible saloon yet maybe with William Towns instead of Harris Mann (including Town’s sketches for the rebodied Aston-MGB and later involved with the Reliant Scimitar SS2/SST to Sabre).

  26. The other issue for DMC was the financial situation in the 70s, with the strong pound making exports to the US extremely expensive. It was why BL dropped the TR. The article is quite critical of John Z. stating he was very “Detroit” in his thinking, but if you read about some of the ideas that he wanted to offer at Pontiac which were blocked because of politics, you would know he was not in this frame.

    • daveh

      What ideas did DeLorean want to offer at Pontiac? Is it detailed within one of his biographies or the more recent book by Barrie Wills?

      Always felt Pontiac could have benefited from a small-block V8 in place of the badly conceived short-deck 265/301 V8. In essence its own unique non-alloy spin-off of the BOP V8 used by Buick and Oldsmobile, vaguely akin to the 300 Buick small-block yet still compatible enough to share much with the Buick V6 in the event GM’s buys back the engine and like BL Australia’s efforts spawn a better-conceived related 4-cylinder in place of the Trophy 4.

      • Can’t remember where it was now on the web, but it was about the Banshee XP-798, with Delorean specifying some very European ideas, like independent suspension all round. The car was pulled by senior management from being shown as a concept, though Delorean kept his engineering team working on it for a few more years in defiance.

  27. A shame De Lorean didn’t move to producing the TR7, which British Leyland were willing to sell the tooling for and to allow De Lorean to produce the car with some design modifications, but it was too late and Jobn De Lorean’s narcotics bust meant the end of the company. Possibly if De Lorean bought the tooling a year earlier when the TR7’s factory in Solihull was being mothballed, it could have been a different story, as the car still had a considerable following and the weakening pound in 1982 meant American exports would have improved.

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