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The De Lorean DMC-12 is a sports car that was manufactured by the De Lorean Motor Company for the American market from 1981 to 1983 in Northern Ireland. It is most commonly known simply as the De Lorean, as it was the only model ever produced by the company. The DMC-12 featured gull-wing doors with a fiberglass "underbody", to which non-structural brushed stainless steel panels are affixed. A De Lorean was featured as a homemade time machine 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. About nine thousand DMC-12s were made before production stopped in late 1982. Today, about 6,500 De Lorean Motor Cars are believed to still exist.
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.
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 unproven material and manufacturing techniques with those currently being employed by Lotus. The Backbone chassis is very similar to the Lotus Esprit. The original Giorgetto Giugiaro body design was left mostly intact, as were the distinctive stainless steel outer skin panels and gull-wing doors.
The DMC-12 would eventually be built in a factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a neighbourhood 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 sold from dealers with a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty and an available five-year, 50,000-mile (80,000 km) service contract.
The De Lorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following John De Lorean's arrest in October of that year on drug trafficking charges. He was later found not guilty, but it was too late for the DMC-12. Approximately 100 partially assembled DMC's on the production line were completed by Consolidated International (now known as Big Lots). The remaining parts from the factory stock, the parts from the US Warranty Parts Center, as well as parts from the original suppliers that had not yet been delivered to the factory were all shipped to Columbus, Ohio in 1983–1984. A company called KAPAC sold these parts to retail and wholesale customers via mail order. In 1997, De Lorean Motor Company of Texas acquired this inventory.
A total of about 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and December 1982. Almost a fifth of these were produced in October 1981. About 1,000 1982 models were produced between February and May 1982, and all of these cars had the VIN's changed after purchase by Consolidated International to make them appear as 1983 models. There are the 15XXX, 16XXX, and 17XXX VINs which were originally 10XXX, 11XXX and 12XXX VINs.
Right-hand drive De LoreansEdit
Despite being produced in Northern Ireland, DMC-12s were primarily intended for the American market. Therefore, all initial production models were left-hand drive (designed to be driven on the right side of the road), limiting its popularity in the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, where traffic travels on the left. Only 23 right-hand drive factory licensed De Loreans were ever produced; these cars were converted from left-hand drive models by Wooler Hodec, in Andover, United Kingdom.
Three main-factory authorized batches of right-hand-drive cars were made:
- The first batch of cars, with a black interior and manual gearbox, were very early prototypes for evaluating the changes necessary for RHD. The build quality and under-bodies were of very variable quality and several of these cars were scrapped. The cars with VINs 510, 752, 758 still survive.
- The second batch had grey interiors. All were registered and used by the factory in Northern Ireland, with registration numbers (license plates), AXI 1697, AXI 1698, AXI 1699. The three survivors (VINs 5565, 5592 and 5638) are quite different from all of the other RHD cars. These cars all had "Euro-spec" rear lights, roof mounted radio aerials, very small side-indicator repeaters, no rear-wing side markers, white forward-facing door lights, fog-light switch, and twin brake servos (with one mounted in the engine bay, where the carbon canister normally lives). No catalytic converters or Lambda equipment were fitted as British legislation did not require them. These were essentially further working test vehicles; the car with the registration number AXI 1697 was allocated to Don Lander, the Managing Director, and was (at one time) turbo charged. AXI 1699 was said to be for John De Lorean's personal use whilst in Northern Ireland.
- The final batch all had a black interior and manual transmission, with one exception, having the VIN numbers: 12171–12181 & 12199 and registration numbers "SIJ". The only black-interior automatic, VIN 12175, is owned by the Editor of a UK De Lorean owners' club. There were two further manual cars—with grey interior—which were custom made for VIPs in the UK; these had the VINs 11382 and 16242.
Of the 20 right-hand drive cars listed above, three had automatic gearboxes and the remainder were manual.
Another distinction of these models is that they were not affected by US legislation of the time and thus had speedometers reading to 140 mph, instead of the US-specification 85 mph. The car's top speed was clearly closer to 140 than 85 mph.
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 design of the DMC-12 was a product of Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design and is expressed in brushed SS304 stainless steel. Except for three cars plated in 24-karat gold, all DMC-12's left the factory uncovered by paint or clearcoat. Painted De Loreans do exist, although these were all painted after the cars were purchased from the factory. To train workers, several hundred DMCs were produced without stainless panels, and are referred to as "black cars" or "mules", in reference to their black fiberglass panels in lieu of stainless, though these were never marketed. Small scratches in the stainless steel body panels can be removed with a non-metallic scouring pad (since metal pads can leave iron particles embedded in the stainless steel which can give the appearance of the stainless "rusting"), or even sandpaper. 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.
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. 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; each De Lorean service center today has at least one experienced body repair person on staff, and there are decades worth of new stainless panels still available in most instances.
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. These torsion bars were developed by Grumman Aerospace (and built by Unbrako in the UK) to withstand the stresses of supporting the doors. A popular misconception of the DMC-12's gull-wing doors is that they require far more side clearance to open relative to ordinary side-hinge doors, such as when parked in a parking lot. In fact, the opposite is true: the DMC-12 requires far less clearance than side-hinge doors, and this can be physically demonstrated. This misconception of side clearance may stem from a misunderstood location of the hinge point of the doors by persons unfamiliar with DMC-12s. These doors, when opening, only require 11 inches (264 mm) clearance 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.
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 bumper height 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. Many owners have subsequently replaced or modified the front springs to return the front height to the original design specification.
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.
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, 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.
New DMC-12s had a suggested retail price of $25,000 ($650 more when equipped with an automatic transmission); this is equivalent to approximately $62,300 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.
The DMC-12 was only available with two factory options including a no-cost manual transmission or automatic transmission ($650) and the choice of a grey or black interior. Several dealer options were available, including 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; an AM/FM cassette stereo system; power windows, locks and mirrors; a tilt and telescopic steering wheel; tinted glass; body side mouldings; windshield wipers; and an electric rear window defogger.
Prices for DMC-12s vary widely and are dependent upon supply and demand. As of early 2007, a De Lorean in good to excellent condition can be had for around $20,000 to $29,000. Mint-condition cars can fetch up to $50,000. There are an estimated 6,500 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.
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.
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 of the grooveless design was faster and more reliable, as the stainless steel would often crack in the process of forming the grooves.
John De Lorean 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 integrated pull straps.
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 or "dead" pedal — 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 center caps with an embossed DMC logo. Early into the 1981 production run, these were changed to a polished silver look, with a contrasting black center cap. The embossed logo on the centre caps was painted silver 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 headliner side would be on the bottom when not in use. Later on in 1981, they were reversed so that the vinyl side would be on the bottom.
The original Ducellier 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. Later cars were fitted from the factory with a higher output Motorola alternator which solved this problem.
Several special-edition DMC-12 cars have been produced over the years, and the car is most notably featured as the time machine in the Back to the Future trilogy. The PRV engines of the cars dubbed over with recorded Porsche engines. Four De Lorean chassis were used during the production (i.e. exterior scene, stripped down for interior scenes, one decked out with time travel equipment, and one that was "wrecked" by the train).
One of several De Lorean prototypes is still in existence, and is currently for sale after undergoing a complete restoration at De Lorean Motor Company of Florida (DMCFL). 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. VIN 530 is undergoing a restoration at PJ Grady's in New York. Vin 502 is owned by DMCFL and is going through a full Concours restoration at that location. Vin 502 has now (July 2007) been sold by DMCFL and has been exported to New Zealand. The car now resides in Wellington, and has been complied to run on New Zealand roads. Only one other twin-turbo engine is known to exist: it was purchased in the late 1990s by an individual owner. There is also another De Lorean 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 of PJ Grady Europe- the present owner of vin 00570.
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 black interior, and an automatic transmission.
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. This car has a tan interior. Like its golden siblings, it is a low-mileage vehicle with only 1,442 miles (2,307 km) on the odometer.
A third gold-plated car exists with 636 miles (1,018 km) clocked up; it carries the VIN plate for the last De Lorean, #20105, though final assembly was actually completed in Columbus, Ohio in 1983. This car was assembled with spare parts that were required by American Express in case one of the other two that were built were damaged. 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. 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 De Loreans to be thus equipped from factory parts.
De Lorean todayEdit
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 Edit
The DeLorean Owners Association, founded in 1983, is the largest international De Lorean group. The Association produces a publication for its members, DeLorean World Magazine and has hosted many De Lorean Expos in major cities across the U. S. The group also sponsors the International DeLorean Eurofest at the original De Lorean factory site in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Association provides members and De Lorean enthusiasts the opportunity to purchase De Lorean and Association related products from the De Lorean Store and our staff provides our members with a wealth of information so they are educated in the De Lorean history and the De Lorean automobile.
Most notably in the United States, owners have gathered bi-annually (in even numbered years) 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.
On years opposite this event (odd numbered years), the De Lorean Motor Company of Texas holds an Open House at their suburban Houston location.
Besides these events, 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 DML).
Keeping the cars on the road are the specialties of the three remaining De Lorean repair shops: De Lorean Motor Company, PJ Grady DeLorean, and DeLorean One. These specialty shops service the De Loreans still on the road. The De Lorean Motor Company bought the largest remaining stock of original parts from the Kapac company in 1997. The new DMC (commonly known as "DMC Houston" or "DMC Texas") which has locations in Houston, Florida, The Netherlands, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles, is the only place to find some rare parts, though they also sell through the other full service De Lorean Shops. All parts are available via mail order. 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.
The magazine of the De Lorean Owners Association is De Lorean World Magazine. De Lorean World Magazine, published twice a year, promotes the image and lifestyle of De Loreans and their owners. It includes technical information, event listings, products, history and feature stories.
DeLorean Car Show Magazine (also known as DCS Magazine) is published twice a year by Ken Koncelik. There is also , which is published quarterly by DMC (Texas). Both feature technical articles, news and updates about the De Lorean community.
Return to productionEdit
DMC Houston announced on July 30, 2007 that the car would be returning into very limited production (about 20 cars per year) in 2008.  The newly produced cars will have a base price of $57,500 and have new stainless steel frames and lighter fiberglass underbodies.
De Lorean in popular cultureEdit
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, Bobby Allison, Smokey Yunick 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). 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.
In large part due to the popularity of Back to the Future, the De Lorean has been seen in many other contexts as well, including television shows, movies, song lyrics and video games too numerous to list.
- ↑ LA Times story- For the De Lorean, it's back to the present - retrieved 7/29/07
- ↑ De Lorean Motor Company FAQ
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ, Historic Information - De Lorean Production Numbers
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Body Finish and Composition from Owners Manual
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Care & Feeding - Stainless Steel Body Maintenance
- ↑ Template:US patent
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Exotic Technology
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Vehicle Dimensions from Technical Manual, Workshop Manual
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Historic Information - Door Design
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Weight and Balance from Technical manual
- ↑ De Lorean Motor Company - Physical Characteristics of Competitive Cars
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Historic Information - Sales and Dealer Experiences
- ↑ De Lorean FAQ - Dealer Installed Accessories (20 June 1981)
- ↑ De Lorean Owners Association - De Lorean specifications table
- ↑ Crawford Auto Collection - 1981 De Lorean DMC-12 Coupe (first De Lorean produced)
- ↑ BBC News, Back to the futuristic, 19 February 2002, retrieved 11 December, 2005
- ↑ The 24-Karat Gold Plated De Lorean Car
- ↑ National Automobile Museum - 1981 De Lorean LK Sport Coupe (gold plated)
- ↑ Gold De Lorean for sale in LaVale, Maryland
- John Z. De Lorean, Ted Schwarz, De Lorean, Zondervan (September, 1985), ISBN 0-310-37940-7
- J Lamm, De Lorean Stainless Steel Illusion, 2nd edition (2003), ISBN 0-9744141-0-7
- R. M. Clarke, De Lorean 1977–1995 Gold Portfolio (December 28 1995), ISBN 1-85520-331-6