Gullwing doors, a low, raked profile and a skin made of stainless steel
Detroit, Longbridge, Dagenham, Modena, Stuttgart, Crewe, Munich. Some less glamorous than others but all these locales are world-famous for one thing: building cars. But Dunmurry in Northern Ireland?
For an all-too-brief period in the early 1980s, this Belfast suburb was in the headlines for reasons other than \"the Troubles\". Paramilitary forces were knocked off the tabloid front pages by a car company - one that, to this day, remains among the industry\'s most controversial: DeLorean.History is littered with failed start-ups and car models that have disappeared into obscurity and, rationally, DeLorean\'s DMC-12 should be one of them. After all, it\'s reckoned that no more than 9,200 were built between 1981 and 1982. But the DMC-12, usually referred to simply as the DeLorean, refuses to relinquish its vice-like grip on our collective subconscious. It\'s an icon of the 1980s and it is 30 years old this year. Just what is it about this underpowered failure that makes it so memorable?
The car\'s creator, John Z DeLorean, was a legend in the US car industry long before the DMC-12. Born into a struggling immigrant family, his parents split and DeLorean, determined not to follow the path of his father (who he viewed as a failure), went to university. He excelled in engineering and, after a short spell selling life insurance, started working for automobile makers. His intelligence, coupled with charisma in spades, resulted in rapid promotions and, by the time he left General Motors in April 1973, he was vice-president of GM\'s entire car and truck production. In his time, he\'s been credited with many advancements in car production processes and, crucially, as the inventor of the muscle car, with the original 1964 Pontiac GTO being his idea. Anything this man did would be the focus of attention in America, so a car with his name on it would surely be a winner.
Then there was a star turn for the car in the Back to the Future trilogy, where a DeLorean was pressed into service as a time machine and that, no doubt, has sealed its immortality to some extent. But even if Dr Emmett Brown had chosen a Volkswagen Beetle to hop between the decades and centuries, John Zachary DeLorean\'s stainless steel, gullwing-doored one-hit-wonder would still have been poured over by countless fans the world over. Who knows? If the film had come out in 1981, rather than \'85, perhaps the DeLorean would have survived.
Admit it; there\'s something about it, isn\'t there? One reason for our enduring fascination with the car is that it\'s still utterly unique. Every single one that left the factory was unpainted; its stainless steel bodywork marking it out as a DeLorean. It was mid-engined and had gullwing doors - things normally the preserve of unreachable supercars - but it was the bare steel that truly marked it out as something special. Its rakish profile was designed by Italian maestro Giugiaro and Lotus founder Colin Chapman had extensive involvement in its chassis make-up.
On paper it all looks like a marriage made in heaven, but there were plenty of problems standing in the way of world domination for this extraordinary-looking car. The factory was staffed by inexperienced workers, many of whom had been out of work for years, so quality control was often a joke.
Also, there was no right-hand drive variant available, which automatically excluded some potentially lucrative markets, and the car was actually designed and built with one country in mind: the United States. And when the Americans stopped buying them, there were upwards of 4,000 cars languishing unsold in Ireland. The company went spiralling into financial meltdown, then DeLorean was charged with cocaine trafficking. DeLorean - the man and the company - was finished.Like I said earlier, however, the DeLorean name refuses to go away. Actually, you may be surprised to know that the DeLorean Motor Company is doing rather well for itself. It\'s located just outside Houston, Texas, and has five other facilities (Florida, Washington, Illinois and California, in the USA, and one in the Netherlands to look after the European market), where the cars are restored, sold and sometimes built from scratch using the enormous stocks of original and remanufactured parts the company stores.
From / The National