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DeLorean DMC-12
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Production 1981-1983
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The De Lorean DMC-12 is an American sports car which was manufactured by the De Lorean Motor Company from 1981 through 1983 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is most commonly known as the De Lorean, as it was the only model ever produced by the company. The DMC-12 featured gull-wing doors with a brushed stainless steel body. It was famously featured in the Back to the Future trilogy.

The first prototype appeared in March 1977, and production officially began in 1981 (with the first DMC-12 rolling off the production line on January 21) at the DMC factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland. During its production, several aspects of the car were changed, such as the hood (bonnet) style, wheels and interior. Around 8,583 DMC-12s were made before production fizzled in late 1982, with final production taking place in early 1983. Today, about six thousand De Lorean Motor Cars are believed to still exist.

Despite being produced in Northern Ireland, DMC-12s were primarily intended for the American market. Therefore, all of the production models were left-hand drive (designed to be driven on the right side of the road), limiting its popularity in the British Isles, where traffic travels on the left. Only 23 right-hand drive De Loreans were ever produced, these cars were converted from left-hand drive models by a specialized company in the UK.


In October 1976, the first prototype De Lorean DMC-12 was completed by William T. Collins, chief engineer and designer (formerly chief engineer at Pontiac). Originally, the car's rear-mounted power plant was to be a Citroën Wankel rotary engine, but was replaced with a French-designed and produced PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) fuel injected V-6 because of the poor fuel economy of the rotary engine, an important issue at a time of world-wide fuel shortages. Collins and De Lorean envisioned a chassis produced from a new and untested manufacturing technology known as Elastic Reservoir Moulding (ERM), which would contribute to the light-weight characteristics of the car while presumably lowering its production costs. This new technology, for which De Lorean had purchased patent rights, would eventually be found to be unsuitable for mass production. The car was a great work of art.

Interior of a DMC-12.

These and other changes to the original concept led to considerable schedule pressures. The entire car was deemed to require almost complete re-engineering, which was turned over to engineer Colin Chapman, founder and owner of Lotus. Chapman replaced most of the dubious material and manufacturing techniques with those currently being employed by Lotus. The original Giorgetto Giugiaro body design was left mostly intact, as were the distinctive stainless steel outer skin and gull-wing doors. (Giugiaro had also designed the Lotus Esprit.)

The DMC-12 would eventually be built in a factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a neighbourhood only a few miles from Belfast City Centre. Construction on the factory began in October 1978, and although production of the DMC-12 was scheduled to start in 1979, engineering issues and budget overruns delayed production until early 1981. By that time, the unemployment rate was high in Northern Ireland and local residents lined up to apply for jobs at the factory. The production personnel were largely inexperienced, but were paid premium wages and supplied with the best equipment available. Most quality issues were solved by 1982 and the cars were available with a five-year, 50,000-mile (80 000 km) warranty program.

The De Lorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following John De Lorean's arrest in October of that year. He was later found innocent of all crimes, but it was too late for the DMC-12. Approximately 100 partially assembled DMC-12s on the production line were completed by Consolidated Industries (now known as Big Lots, part of Kapac Co.).

A total of about 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and December 1982. [1] Almost a fifth of these were produced in October 1981. Very few cars were produced between February and May 1982, although serious production returned in August that year. [2] The last DMC-12 was assembled on December 24, 1982, and the final "model year" was 1983.


The DMC-12 features a number of unusual construction details, including gull-wing doors, unpainted stainless-steel body panels, and a rear-mounted engine.


The body of the DMC-12 was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and clad entirely in brushed SS304 stainless steel. Except for three cars plated in 24-karat gold, all DMC-12s left the factory uncovered by paint or clearcoat.[3] Painted De Loreans do exist, although these were all painted after the cars were purchased from the factory. Several hundred fiberglass-bodied "black car" DMC-12s were produced to train workers, although these were never marketed. Small scratches in the stainless steel body panels can reportedly be removed with a scouring pad.[4] The stainless steel panels are fixed to a glass-reinforced plastic (GRP, fiberglass) monocoque underbody. The underbody is affixed to a double-Y frame chassis, derived from the Lotus Esprit platform.

It must be noted that the unpainted stainless body creates challenges during restoration of the cars. In traditional automotive body repair, the panel is repaired to be as original ("straight") as possible and imperfections are sculpted back to form with body filler like Bondo or lead (body solder). This poses no problem (aside from originality) with most cars, as the filler will be hidden by the car's paint (for example, most new cars have filler hiding the seam where the roof meets the quarter panel). With an unpainted stainless body, the stainless steel must be reworked to exactly the original shape, contour and grain - which is a tremendously difficult job on regular steel (a dented or bent panel is stretched and a shrinking hammer or other techniques must be used to unstretch the metal), let alone stainless. Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to paint stainless steel due to adhesion issues. De Lorean envisioned that damaged panels would simply be replaced rather than repaired; a prospect which ceased to be practical with the failure of the company.

Another novel feature of the DMC-12 is its gull-wing doors. The common problem of supporting the weight of gull-wing doors was solved by other manufacturers with lightweight doors in the Mercedes-Benz 300SL and an air pump in the Bricklin SV-1, although these designs had structural or convenience issues. The DMC-12 features heavy doors supported by cryogenically preset torsion bars and gas-charged struts[5]. These torsion bars were manufactured by Grumman Aerospace to withstand the stresses of supporting the doors.[6] These doors only extend 11 inches (264 mm) outside the line of the car, making opening and closing the doors in crowded parking lots relatively easy. Much like the doors fitted to the Lamborghini Countach, the DMC-12 doors featured small cutout windows, because full-sized windows would not be fully retractable within the short door panels.[7][8]


The DMC-12 is powered by the PRV V6, developed jointly by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo. The engine is derived from the Volvo B28F, fitted with a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system and modified to be mounted in reverse. The PRV is a 90-degree layout, displaces 2.849 L (91 mm bore, 73 mm stroke), and has a compression ratio of 8.8:1. The engine block and heads are cast of light alloy and the engine features single overhead camshafts driving two valves per cylinder. When new, this engine was rated for 130 hp (97 kW) at 5,500 rpm and 153 ft lbf (208 N·m) at 2750 rpm. Fuel efficiency was said to be 19 mpg US (12 L/100 km, 22.8 mpg Imperial) and unofficial tests largely support this figure.[9][10]

Two transmissions were available for the DMC-12: a three-speed automatic and a five-speed manual transmission, both with a final drive ratio of 3.44:1. The manual transmission is a Renault 30 gearbox. Most cars were fitted with manual transmissions. The engine in the DMC-12 is mounted behind the rear axle, much like the VW Beetle and Porsche 911. The transaxle stretches forward between the axles.[11][12]


The underbody and suspension of the DMC-12 were based largely on the Lotus Esprit, with a four-wheel independent suspension, coil springs, and telescopic shock absorbers. The front suspension used double wishbones, while the rear was a multi-link setup. In its original development stages, the car is said to have handled quite well. Considering that Lotus's reputation was built largely on the handling prowess of the cars the company produced, the DMC-12's smooth ride wasn't a surprise. Unfortunately, changing U.S. government regulations required modifications to the suspension system and an increase in the vehicle's factory ride height, both of which had adverse effects on the car's handling capabilities.

Steering was rack and pinion, with an overall steering ratio of 14.9:1, giving 2.65 turns lock-to-lock and a 35 ft (10.67 m) turning circle. DMC-12s were originally fitted with cast alloy wheels, measuring 14 in (356 mm) in diameter by 6 in (152 mm) wide on the front and 15 in (381 mm) in diameter by 8 in (203 mm) wide on the rear. These were fitted with Goodyear NCT steel-belted radial tires; because the engine is mounted in the very rear of the vehicle, the DMC-12 has a 35%/65% front/rear weight distribution.[13]

The DMC-12 features power-assisted disc brakes on all wheels, with 10 in (254 mm) rotors front and 10.5 in (267 mm) rear.


John De Lorean had originally envisioned that the car would produce somewhere around 200 horsepower, but eventually settled on a 170 horsepower output for the engine. However, stringent US emissions regulations required that parts such as catalytic converters be added to the vehicle before it could be sold in that country. Although the new parts qualified the vehicle for sale in the US, they caused serious reductions to power output, to 130 horsepower. The 40-horsepower loss seriously impeded the DMC-12's performance, and when combined with the forced changes to the vehicle's suspension system, the US versions were regarded as disappointing. De Lorean's comparison literature noted that the DMC-12 could achieve 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h) in 8.8 s, which would have been good for the time, but Road & Track magazine clocked the car at 10.5 s. However, it's possible that the factory performance numbers were achieved using a European spec car with the 170 horsepower engine.[14]


New DMC-12s had a suggested retail price of $25,000 ($650 more when equipped with an automatic transmission); this is equivalent to approximately $52,200 in 2007 dollars. There were extensive waiting lists of people willing to pay up to $10,000 above the list price; however, after the collapse of the De Lorean Motor Company, unsold cars could be purchased for under the retail price.[15]

The DMC-12 was only available with eight options including automatic transmission ($650); a car cover ($117); floor mats ($84); black textured accent stripes ($87); grey scotch-cal accent stripes ($55); a luggage rack ($269) and a ski-rack adapter. The standard feature list included stainless steel body panels; gull-wing doors with cryogenically-treated torsion bars; leather seats/trim; air conditioning; a high-output stereo system ($450); power windows, locks and mirrors; a steering wheel adjustable for both rake and reach; tinted glass; body side moldings; windshield wipers; and an electric rear window defogger.[16][17]

Prices for DMC-12s vary widely and are dependent upon supply and demand. As of early 2006, a Delorean in good to excellent condition can be had for around $17,000 to $20,000. Mint-condition cars can fetch up to $30,000. There are an estimated 6,000 surviving DMC-12s today. Some of the larger parts carry a steep price tag, such as the fiberglass underbody. Most parts are reasonably priced and readily available.

Production changes

Although there were no typical "yearly" updates to the De Lorean, several changes were made to the De Lorean during production. John De Lorean believed that model years were primarily a gimmick used by automobile companies to sell more cars. Instead of making massive changes at the end of the model year, he implemented changes mid-production. This resulted in no clear distinction between the 1981, 1982, and 1983 model years, but with subtle changes taking place almost continuously throughout the life of the De Lorean. The most visible of these changes related to the hood style.

Hood styles

The original hood of the De Lorean had grooves running down both sides. It included a gas flap to simplify fuel filling. The gas flap was built so that the trunk could be added to the total cargo area of the De Lorean. These cars typically had a locking gas cap to prevent siphoning. In 1981, the hood flap was removed from the hood of the cars (although the hood creases stayed). This style was retained well into 1982. Based on production numbers for all three years, this hood style is probably the most common. After the supply of locking gas caps was exhausted, the company switched to a non-locking version (resulting in at least 500 cars with no gas flap, but with locking gas caps). The final styling for the hood included the addition of a De Lorean logo and the removal of the grooves, resulting in a completely flat hood. All changes to the hood were made not to alter the look of the car, but for a much more practical reason: production was faster with the non-grooved design; as well DMC had problems creating the hoods with the grooves, due to the stainless steel would often crack in the process.

Other changes

John DeLorean was 6'4" (193 cm) tall, and he designed the car to comfortably fit someone of his stature. For shorter people, the addition of a pull strap made closing the doors much easier from the inside. Pull straps were manufactured as an add-on for earlier vehicles in November 1981. These attach to the existing door handle. Late-model 1981 cars, and all cars from 1982 and 1983, have doors with permanent pull straps attached.

The side bolstering in the De Lorean was originally separate from the main interior pieces. There is a tendency to place pressure on this piece when entering and exiting the car. This will eventually cause the bolstering to become separated from the trim panel. To help fix this problem; cars built in and after late 1981 have one solid trim piece with the bolster permanently attached.

As an addition to later cars, a foot rest — in the form of an unusable pedal — was added to the cars to help prevent fatigue while driving. This is one of the few changes that is directly tied to a model year. These were not built in to any 1981 vehicles, and were added to all cars starting with 1982 production.

Although the styling of the De Lorean's wheels remained unchanged, the wheels of early-model 1981 vehicles were painted grey. These wheels sported matching grey centre caps with an embossed DMC logo. Early into the 1981 production run, these were changed to a polished silver look, with a contrasting black centre cap. The embossed logo on the centre caps was painted white to add contrast.

In 1981, the De Lorean came stocked with a Craig radio; this was a standard 1980s tape radio with dual knob controls. Since the Craig did not have a built-in clock, one was installed in front of the gear shift. De Lorean switched to an ASI stereo in the middle of the 1982 production run. Since the ASI radio featured an on-board clock, the standard De Lorean clock was removed at the same time.

The first 2,200 cars produced used a windshield embedded antenna. This type of antenna proved to be inadequate for most motoring needs, so a standard whip antenna was added to the outside of the front right quarter panel. While improving radio reception, this resulted in a hole in the stainless steel, and an unsightly antenna. As a result, the antenna was again moved, this time to the rear of the car. Automatic antennas were installed under the grills behind the rear driver's-side window. While giving the reception quality of a whip antenna, these completely disappear from view when not in use.

The small sun visors on the De Lorean have vinyl on one side, and headline fabric on the other side. Originally these were installed such that the vinyl side would be on the bottom when not in use. Later on in 1981, they were reversed so that the fabric side would be on the bottom.

The original alternator supplied with the early production DMC-12s could not provide enough current to supply the car when all lights and electrical options were on; as a result, the battery would gradually discharge, leaving the driver stranded on the road. This happened to De Lorean owner Johnny Carson shortly after he was presented with the vehicle.

Special DMC-12s

Several special-edition DMC-12 cars have been produced over the years, including several that were used in the films of the Back to the Future trilogy. Seven DeLoreans were used and modified with props after purchase to make them look like time travel machines throughout the trilogy. At least three DMC-12s were used in pornographic films that parodied the Back to the Future trilogy.

One of several DeLorean prototypes is still in existence, and is currently undergoing a complete restoration at De Lorean Motor Company of Florida. There have also been major finds in the last few years of "pilot cars". These cars, used for testing of the De Lorean, had been thought destroyed. The test car featured on the front cover of Autocar in 1981 announcing the De Lorean to the world was found in 2003 in a barn in Northern Ireland; it is currently undergoing restoration. Production of the De Lorean started at VIN 500. VINs 502 and 530 were used by Legend Industries as a proof of concept for a twin-turbo version of the standard De Lorean PRV-V6 engine. VINs 502 and 530 are undergoing restoration at PJ Grady's in New York. Only one other twin-turbo engine is known to exist: it was purchased in the late 1990s by Marc Levy of New Jersey, an enthusiast, who swapped it with his standard De Lorean. There is also another Delorean that in its own right will soon join the ranks of becoming a Legend Car, VIN 570, which is now being converted to a full Legend (reproduction) Car by Chris Nicholson, the new owner.

VIN 500, notable for being the first production De Lorean to roll off the line in 1981, is on display in the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.[18]

Only 23 right-hand drive models were made for use in the United Kingdom, and as of 2002 these are valued at £25,000 each. [19]

For Christmas 1981, A De Lorean/American Express promotion planned to sell one hundred 24k gold-plated DMC-12s for $85,000 each to its gold card members, but only two were sold. One of these was purchased by Roger Mize, president of Snyder National Bank in Snyder, Texas. VIN #4301 sat in the bank lobby for over 20 years before being loaned to the Petersen Automotive Museum of Los Angeles. It has a saddle brown interior rather than the stock black/grey interior, and an automatic transmission. [20]

The second gold-plated American Express DMC-12 is located at the William F. Harrah Foundation/National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. This car, VIN #4300, is the only one of the three existing gold-plated examples to be equipped with a manual transmission. Like its golden siblings, it is a low-mileage vehicle with only 1,442 miles (2,307 km) on the odometer.[21]

A third gold-plated car exists with 636 miles (1,018 km) clocked up; it carries the VIN plate for the last production De Lorean, #20105.[22] This car was assembled with spare parts that were acquired by American Express. All necessary gold-plated parts were on hand, with the exception of one door. The car was assembled after another door was gold-plated, though the added door does not precisely match the rest of the car in color and grain. The car was first acquired by the winner of a department store raffle. Consolidated International, which owned the department store, had purchased 1,374 DMC-12s during the De Lorean Company's financial troubles, acquiring the remaining stock after the company went into receivership. Now held by a private owner in La Vale, Maryland, the third and last gold-plated De Lorean is currently for sale at the price of $250,000. Both this car and the example in Reno have saddle-brown leather interiors, a color scheme which was intended to become an option on later production cars. However, these two cars were the only ones to be thus equipped from the factory.

De Lorean today

De Lorean culture lives on through the existing owners and their passion for the car. Children of the '80s are now able to afford the car that captured their imagination in Back To The Future. A surge in De Lorean interest is evidenced by the cars' eBay availability, and pop-culture references abound.

Gatherings and communications

The DeLorean Owners Association, founded in 1983, is the largest international DeLorean group to date. The Association has yearly gatherings followed by great support of DeLorean members all over the world. The group provides a wealth of information to its membership, support and enjoyment for the marque.

Most notably in the United States, owners have gathered bi-annually for the De Lorean Car Show which draws people from all over the world to a different location each time. Back to the Future cast and crew including Bob Gale, James Tolkan, Jeffrey Weissman, and Claudia Wells have made appearances, and even John De Lorean was known to attend before he died. Besides this main event, local clubs hold events throughout the year featuring driving tours, road rally scavenger hunts, tech sessions and more. Online, the De Lorean owner base keeps in contact using a mailing list called the De Lorean Mailing List or the DML.

Repair shops

Keeping the cars on the road are the specialties of the four remaining De Lorean repair shops: DeLorean Motor Company, PJ Grady DeLorean, DeLorean Motor Center, and DeLorean One. These specialty shops service the De Loreans still on the road. The Delorean Motor Company bought the largest remaining stock of original parts from the Kapac corporation. The new DMC (commonly known as "DeLorean Houston", "Houston" or "DMC Texas") is the only place to find some rare parts, though they also sell through the other full service DeLorean shops. Their resources have also allowed some unavailable parts to be produced again, so that replacements for minor parts (such as switches) can now be had for a reasonable price. Overall, obtaining parts is neither difficult nor expensive.


Along with the resurging interest in the car, new magazine publications have begun to be produced. The De Lorean Car Show has its own magazine that is currently seen as the main publication in the community. DeLorean Car Show Magazine (known just as DCS) is published quarterly by Ken Koncelik. Along with DCS there is Gullwing Magazine and DeLoreans, which is published by the new DMC in Texas. While these publications at times can be costly to purchase, the content is provided by the owner base, which generates more interest.

De Lorean in popular culture

When founding his company, John De Lorean negotiated with many celebrities to persuade them to back the new De Lorean car and the company. Johnny Carson, talk show host/comedian, was given a De Lorean and also invested in DMC; other famous owners included Matthew Reilly, Patrick Swayze, Jim Varney, James Bourne, Howard Johnson, and Chevy Chase.

The DMC-12 was featured and mentioned in many films and on television, most notably as the time machine designed by Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy. Brown's rationale for choosing the De Lorean was stated in the first film: "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?" He also indicates that the stainless steel construction of the automobile is advantageous for the "flux dispersal" of a time machine. In addition to elaborate enhancements for time travel, the fictional car was later modified with flying capabilities and a "Mr. Fusion" (a fictional fusion reactor, which came from the year 2015 and was very small - about the size of a coffee maker).

Six DMC-12s were co-opted for use in the making of the films. For the second and third films, producers replaced the underpowered stock engines in their production cars with Porsche engines. The Back to the Future Part II De Lorean was seen as a prop that Amanda Bynes rested on in the movie Big Fat Liar.

In large part due to the popularity of Back to the Future, the DeLorean has been seen in many other contexts as well, including The Simpsons, The Wedding Singer,The Fairly Oddparents, Monster Garage, Drawn Together, Family Guy, Haker, Get a Life, Matlock, Stargate Atlantis, Eerie Indiana, Donnie Darko, Harvey Birdman, Designing Women and also Minoriteam. In most of these films and television shows, actors are seen driving a DMC-12 or mentioning the De Lorean in dialogue. As well, the DeLorean is referenced during a television spot on The Learning Channel as part of their life lesson ad campaign.

The DMC-12 has also been featured in many computer games, most notably in the Back To The Future games; but also in Carmageddon: Splat Pack (1997), Duke Nukem: Time to Kill (1998), Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now (1998), M25 Racer (1999), Interstate '82 (featuring a license plate that says "BLOW" a reference to John's cocaine arrest) (1999), Vigilante 8: Second Offense (1999), Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999), Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (2002), Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002) (lookalike, sans gull-wing doors, named "Deluxo"), R Racing Revolution (2004), Gran Turismo 4 (2005), Enthusia Professional Racing (2005), FlatOut 2 (2006), Redline (2006), Scarface: The World is Yours (2006) (with scissor doors instead of gull-wing doors, named "Delphine"), Project Gotham Racing 4 (2007), and Forza Motor Sport 3 (2008 - Through DLC). It is also downloadable as an add-on car for Midtown Madness 2 in both the original DMC design and the Back to the Future design. Two versions of the DMC-12 from the second "Back To The Future" movies (flying mode and ground mode), (and other back to the future props) are also downloadable for "The Sims" from a popular fan site. In most of these video games, the cars are lookalikes or clones of the De Lorean, though not actually named "De Loreans" or featuring the De Lorean logo, to avoid copyright issues.

De Lorean Nike Shoes


On December 9th 2010, Nike unveils a limited edition De Lorean Dunk 6.0 shoes. They come at a cost of $90 a pair. Only 1000 shoes were made. The Dunk 6.0 De Lorean shoes are a homage to the Back to the Future trilogy. The design of the shoes is meant to inspired the unfinished metal body of the case, complete with black seams and 80's futuristic look. The soles are the car's rear lights and the shoe tongue says "Belfast" where the cars were originally built in the early 1980s. The box for the shoes opens up like the DMC-12's iconic gullwing doors.[1][2][3]

See also

Delorean motor company.jpg



John De Lorean

John De Lorean Official website Independent



External links