The DeLorean DMC-12 is a sports car that was manufactured
in Northern Ireland by the DeLorean Motor Company for the American
market in 1981-1982. It is most commonly known simply as the
DeLorean, 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 were affixed.
A modified DeLorean was featured as a time machine in the Back to
the Future trilogy.
The first prototype appeared in March 1976, 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 features of the car
were changed, such as the hood (bonnet) style, wheels and interior.
DMC-12s were made before production stopped in late 1982. Today,
about 6,500 DeLorean Motor Cars are believed to still exist.
The company and factory stock were acquired privately in 1997 and
production of an updated vehicle has begun.
In October 1976, the first prototype DeLorean 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 V6 because of the poor fuel
economy of the rotary engine, an important issue at a time of
worldwide fuel shortages. Collins and DeLorean envisioned a chassis
produced from a new and untested manufacturing technology known as
Elastic Reservoir Moulding (ERM), which would lighten the car while
presumably lowering its production costs. This new technology, for
which DeLorean had purchased patent rights, was eventually found to
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.
In an interview with James Espy of the resurrected DeLorean Motor
Company in Texas, a drawing surfaced showing that the car was
potentially to be called Z Tavio. John DeLorean's middle name and
his son's first name were both Zachary while Tavio was his father's
name and his son's middle name. Due to only sporadic documentation,
there is little more that is currently known about the Z Tavio name
and why it was ultimately rejected in favor of the DMC-12.
DeLorean required $175 million to develop and build the motor
Hollywood celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr to
invest in the firm,
DeLorean eventually built the DMC-12 in a factory in Dunmurry,
Northern Ireland, a neighborhood 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 problems and budget overruns delayed production until
By that time, the unemployment rate was high in Northern Ireland
and local residents lined up to apply for jobs at the factory. The
workers 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 (19,300 km) warranty and an available five-year,
50,000-mile (80,000 km) service contract.
The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following
John DeLorean'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 to remain in production. 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
A company called KAPAC sold these parts to retail and wholesale
customers via mail order. In 1997, DeLorean Motor Company of Texas
acquired this inventory.
There has also been a long-standing rumor that the body dies were
dumped into the ocean to prevent later manufacture. More recently,
evidence emerged that the dies were used as weights on commercial
About 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and
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. Only twelve 12XXXX VIN cars still exist. These are the
Wooler-Hodec right-hand drive cars (see below)
Right-hand drive models
DMC-12s were primarily intended for the American market despite
being produced in Northern Ireland. All production models were
therefore left-hand drive (designed to be driven on the right side
of the road). Evidence survives from as early as April 1981,
however, which indicates that the DeLorean Motor Company was aware
of the need to produce a right-hand drive version to supply to world
markets such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand,
and Japan, where traffic travels on the left.
DeLorean knew that to sell DMC-12s in the United Kingdom would
mean producing a right-hand drive configuration of the car. The
company faced the choice of building right-hand drive models from
scratch, or performing a post-production conversion exercise. Given
the cost of new body moulds, tooling, and a host of specific parts
that a factory build right-hand drive configuration would require,
the company opted to investigate the idea of a post-production
conversion using a company based in Hampshire called Wooler-Hodec
Only 17 right-hand drive factory-authorised DeLoreans were ever
cars can be divided into two distinct groups:
- The first batch, known by enthusiasts as the “Wooler-Hodec
cars”, were converted by a company in the UK called Wooler-Hodec.
Evidence still exists in the form of a DMC factory memo which
orders 20 cars to be converted to right-hand drive. Due to the
factory’s closure, this order was never completed and today a
total of 13 cars survive, carrying the VIN numbers: 510,
12171–12181 & 12199. VIN 510 is understood to be the first of
this batch of cars converted and was later sold at the factory
auction in 1984. The other twelve cars were auctioned off by the
receivers in early 1983. As a result, several of these cars were
registered at the same time and have the Northern Irish
registration (licence) number "SIJ xxxx". All of this first
batch of cars had a black interior and all had manual
transmission except VIN 12175. This car is the world’s only
right-hand drive black interior automatic car and is owned by
Andrew Withers, former Editor of the UK DeLorean Owners Club.
- The second batch were registered and used by the factory in
Northern Ireland, with registration numbers (license plates),
AXI 1697, AXI 1698, AXI 1699 and are referred to by enthusiasts
as the “AXI cars”. These three cars (VINs 5565, 5592 and 5638)
differ from the first Wooler-Hodec cars in several ways. These
three cars all had roof mounted radio aerials, very small round
front side marker lights, no rear side marker lights, white
forward-facing door lights, fog-light switch, and textured body
rubstrips on the stainless steel panels. No catalytic converters
or Lambda equipment were fitted as British legislation did not
require them. The car with the registration number AXI 1697 was
reputedly a fully UK homologated example which would have been
shown at the British motor show at Birmingham, UK in October
Recent research has revealed that VINs 752 and 758, once thought
to be factory authorized Wooler Hodec right-hand drive cars, are
post-factory conversions carried out by private individuals. Some of
the right-hand drive cars have speedometers reading to 140 mph
(230 km/h), instead of the US-specification 85 mph (137 km/h).
A common misconception surrounding the factory-authorised
right-hand drive DeLoreans is that they were all fitted with
different, so-called "Euro-spec", tail lights
as part of the right-hand drive conversion programme. This is not
the case. Due to the nature of these cars as prototypes, they were
not officially type-approved for use in the UK. Owners who bought
these cars at auction in the early 1980s encountered difficulty in
registering them as new vehicles in the UK As a result. At this
point a former DeLorean Motor Cars executive offered to modify and
register the cars so that they could be used in the UK. These
- Different seat belt units fitted
- The fitting of Rubbolite tail light clusters with a built-in
The fog light is a legal requirement in the UK.
- The fitting of a foglight switch to one of the centre
console dummy switches.
- A custom-made tail light surround and number (licence) plate
- Swapping the front turn signal lenses for ones of a
different, more rounded style.
- Swapping the rear side marker lenses for amber ones.
Over half of the 16 right-hand drive cars had these modifications
carried out. In recent years several owners of these cars have
replaced the Rubbolite lights with original federal style tail
lights in an effort to return the cars to their original
specification. Some owners have also fitted federal style licence
plate bezels on their cars.
There were a number of official alterations made to the
right-hand drive cars' lights. The extent of these modifications
varies between the first batch of "Wooler-Hodec" cars and the later
All of the 13 Wooler-Hodec cars were modified to the OEM front
turn signal lens fixing method in order to make them fit flush with
the front fascia.
The cars’ headlights were also changed for right-hand drive spec
lights that incorporate a UK sidelight feature. The rest of the
lights appear to have been left untouched by Wooler-Hodec during the
By contrast, the 3 "AXI" cars had further modifications to the
amber front door lights, which were exchanged for clear lenses of
the same style.
Perhaps the most significant alteration on the “AXI” cars is the
deletion of the front and rear side markers. These are replaced by a
single small round European style indicator side repeater, situated
on the front wing (fender). The body rubstrips are also of a
different configuration in order to cover the areas which would
otherwise have had federal side marker lenses fitted.
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-12s left the
factory uncovered by paint or clearcoat.
Painted DeLoreans 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
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. DeLorean
envisioned that damaged panels would simply be replaced rather than
repaired; each DeLorean 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, a division of SPS Technologies of Jenkintown, PA)
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.
picture of engine bay
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
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 DeLorean had originally envisioned that the car would
produce somewhere around 200 horsepower (150 kW), but eventually
settled on a 170 horsepower (130 kW) output for the engine. However,
United States emissions regulations required that parts such as
catalytic converters be added to the vehicle before it could be sold
there. This caused a 40 horsepower (30 kW) reduction to the
vehicle's power output, a loss which seriously impeded the DMC-12's
performance. When this combined with the suspension system changes,
the US version was regarded as disappointing. DeLorean's comparison
literature noted that the DMC-12 could achieve 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h)
in 8.8 s, respectable for the early 1980s, but Road & Track
magazine clocked the car at 10.5 s. It is possible that the factory
performance numbers were achieved using a European-spec car with the
170 horsepower (130 kW) engine.
The car was named the DMC-12 because of its original price of
$12,000. 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
DeLorean Motor Company, unsold cars could be purchased for under the
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
Prices for DMC-12s vary widely and are dependent upon supply and
demand. As of early 2007, a DeLorean 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
Although there were no typical "yearly" updates to the DeLorean,
several changes were made to the DeLorean during production. John
DeLorean 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 DeLorean. The
most visible of these changes related to the hood style.
The original hood of the DeLorean 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 DeLorean. 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 DeLorean 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 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 integrated pull straps.
The side bolstering in the DeLorean 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
Although the styling of the DeLorean'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 DeLorean 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. DeLorean switched to an ASI stereo in the middle of the
1982 production run. Since the ASI radio featured an on-board clock,
the standard DeLorean 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
The small sun visors on the DeLorean 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 DeLorean 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. This also is believed to be the reason behind the
improvement in the sound quality of the horn. Earlier models emitted
a weak sound, not loud or strong enough to be effective in normal
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 were
dubbed over with recorded V8 sounds. Four DeLorean 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 DeLorean prototypes is still in existence, and is
currently for sale after undergoing a complete restoration at
DeLorean 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 DeLorean, had been thought destroyed. The test
car featured on the front cover of Autocar in 1981 announcing the
DeLorean to the world was found in 2003 in a barn in Northern
Ireland; it is currently undergoing restoration. Production of the
DeLorean 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 DeLorean PRV-V6 engine. Only one other twin-turbo engine is
known to exist: it was purchased in the late 1990s by an individual
VIN 500, notable for being the first production DeLorean to roll
off the line in 1981, is on display in the Crawford Auto-Aviation
Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
Only 16 factory authorised right-hand drive prototype models were
made for use in the United Kingdom. As of 2008 these cars are valued
in the region of £25,000 - £30,000.
For Christmas 1981, A DeLorean/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.
24k-Karat Gold Plated DeLorean Car
24 carat gold plated DeLorean - 1981
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
A third gold-plated car exists with 636 miles (1,018 km) clocked
up; it carries the VIN plate for the last DeLorean, #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 Big Lots store
raffle. Consolidated International, which owned the department
store, had purchased 1,374 DMC-12s during the DeLorean 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 DeLorean 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 DeLoreans to be thus equipped from factory parts.
Return to production
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 would have a base price of $57,500 and have
new stainless steel frames and lighter fiberglass underbodies, with
optional extras such as GPS, an enhanced "Stage 2" engine, and
possibly a new modern interior. The cars would be made with 80% old
parts and the rest new.
Back to the Future
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 DeLorean 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?" The choice of the DeLorean was actually for the
purpose of a gag in the film that occurs when the car arrives in the
year 1955 and is mistaken for an alien spacecraft due to its
resemblance to the picture on the cover of the farmboy's comic book
cover, as well as for its gull-wing doors.
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.
Awaiting yours comments