On the design board at least, the DeLorean DMC-12 ticked all the right boxes. Namely, a V6 motor by Peugeot/Renault, a chassis by Lotus and bodywork design by Giugiaro. For a roadster, it does not get much better than that. To say the least, it was a highly desirable blend of styling and functionality. But, of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And – in the case of the DMC-12 – the automotive ingredients simply did not mix. In terms of weight distribution, it did not help that the DMC was rear-engined. For all of its expertise, Lotus struggled to optimise handling. And, if they could not do it, no one could. In a straight line, however, things were spot-on. A top speed of 130mph testified to that. Another suspect part of the DMC package was its ‘gull-wing’ doors. Sure, they looked great. But, for $25,000, you expected them to be watertight … whatever the weather! Deficiencies, though, in DMC’s door department meant that was not always the way. Plus – from an emergency services point of view – prising gull-wing doors apart could be a problem. It was not long, then, before the first cracks in the DeLorean plans appeared.
It had all started so swimmingly. John Z DeLorean was something of a whizz-kid, during his time at GM. He conceived the DMC-12 as a player in the realm of upmarket supercars. To make that happen, he would need to source serious funding. The UK looked like his best bet. He was strongly encouraged to start up in Northern Ireland – by the British government, no less. The region badly needed a boost. DeLorean seemed like the ideal man. There was no stinting on incentives. Grants and loans totalled £80m – in early ’80s money.
DeLorean’s dream lasted just two years. In 1980, the sky was the limit. By ’82, things had crashed back to earth. Improprieties were alleged. Indeed, DeLorean was arrested – on drug trafficking charges. Though he was subsequently cleared, it was not the best by way of PR! The whole sorry episode was the stuff of history – political, as well as automotive. BBC Nine O’Clock News sagas did not get any more gripping! John DeLorean had certainly made his mark on the world. As for his car, it had fallen short of expectations – dismally short. In different circumstances, though, the DeLorean DMC-12 could now be considered a classic supercar … of the sort its creator so desperately craved!