A Detroit, Michigan native, John DeLorean began his career first at Chrysler then at Packard. Later, he started working at General Motors and during his time in management, led the Pontiac GTO, Grand Prix, and Chevy Cosworth Vega teams. The Firebird, conceived in 1967, was a direct result of DeLorean’s vision to compete with the ever popular “pony car,” the 1965 Ford Mustang. At age 40, DeLorean was the youngest division supervisor in GM history and his success in the Pontiac division propelled him to oversee the entire Chevrolet division early in 1969. In 1972 he became Vice President of the entire General Motors car and truck lines.
However, agreeing to disagree with GM’s direction, DeLorean left in 1973 to start the DeLorean Motor Company. The design of the exterior of the car was the collaborative effort of several automotive manufacturers, including Lotus. Further, DeLorean met with automotive engineers from Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo (PRV) to design the V6 Douvrin engine which was originally planned to be a mid-engine design. Ultimately, these European designers mounted the engine in the rear of the car so to better fit the V6 engine configuration.
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In 1979 during President Carter’s administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added two provisions. The first provision required each car marketed to the United States to have a bold or colored 55 mph marker on its speedometer. Secondly, speedometers could only have a maximum speed of 85 mph. Hence, the speedometer of a DeLorean stopped at 85 mph.
But that did not stop Steven Spielberg and other producers of Back to the Future movie from using DeLorean’s futuristic car equipped with the “Flux Capacitor.” When the DeLorean was filmed speeding down the street to reach the mandatory 88 mph mark, a digital movie prop speedometer was shown and not the actual stock mechanical speedometer dial which would have stopped at 85mph. DeLorean’s only model was the DMC-12, “12” representing the $12,000 price tag the manufacturer originally wanted on the sticker. However, the car ended up selling for $25,000 in order to cover unanticipated production costs. The stainless steel exterior used on these cars is the same as industrial kitchen counters, which is a brushed SS304 austenitic stainless steel. There are roughly 6500 DeLoreans remaining. It is rumored the company, now owned by Stephen Wynne in Humble, Texas, may begin to build replicas of the famed car. The actual DeLorean used in the movie is on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He is also author of the book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, available at Amazon. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) of driving age. Jason is also a certified appraiser and would be more than happy to assist in helping valuate your collection or answer any of your questions about cars. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.