(1981 to 1982)
DeLorean DMC under John DeLorean, former Pontiac chief engineer and the man responsible for the GTO muscle car, started his company in 1974, though production of the DMC didn't begin until 1981 in Belfast, Ireland, in a factory paid for by the British Government. The startling body, actually brushed stainless steel over glassfibre, made the car look exotic, but it was let down by the bought-in all-alloy V6 jointly developed by Peugeot, Renault and Volvo.
The motor was never developed as a sporty performer and even though it later used Renault Alpine A 310 and A610 in turbocharged form, DeLorean never got that far, making only one prototype turbo car which, ironically, worked very well. A lack of sales caused the company to close just one year after production had started, still with 2,000 cars unsold which were — years later — snapped up by collectors. 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 panelled 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. Several hundred DMCs were produced without stainless panels, for training workers, and are referred to as "black cars" or "mules", in reference to their black fiberglass panels instead 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) and even more difficult with stainless due to its tendency to work-harden. Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to paint stainless steel due to difficulties with paint adhesion. 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 a hydraulic pump in the Bricklin SV-1, although these designs had structural or convenience disadvantages. 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 spaces 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, for reasons not yet explained, Lotus' development front end height was raised on production cars, adversely affecting the car's handling capabilities. Lotus design drawings clearly show that their original design met NHTSA minimum bumper and headlight heights of the time. 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.
Top speed: 125 mph (200 km/h)
0 to 60 mph (0-95 km/h): 9.6 sec
Displacement 174 ci (2,850 cc)
Transmission : 5-speed manual
Max power: 145 bhp (108 kW) @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque: 162 1b ft (219 Nm) @ 2,750 rpm
Weight: 2,840 1b (1,290 kg)
Economy: 16.8 mpg (6 km/l)
John DeLorean had originally envisioned that the car would produce somewhere around 200 horsepower (150 kW), but eventually settled on a 150 horsepower (110 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 20 horsepower (15 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 150 horsepower (110 kW) engine.
The car was named the DMC-12 because of its original price of US$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 $63,131 in 2013 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 retail price.
The DMC-12 was only available with two factory options including a no-cost manual transmission or automatic transmission and the choice of a grey or black interior. Several dealer options were available, including a car cover; floor mats; black textured accent stripes; grey scotch-cal accent stripes; a luggage rack 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 moldings; intermittent/constant windshield wipers; and an electric rear window defogger.
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. According to senior personnel who worked at the Dunmurry factory, initial elimination of gas flap hoods has a simple if unglamorous explanation—Chuck Benington, Managing Director, did not like the gas flap design.
|Early pull strap||Mid 1981 silver wheel|
John DeLorean was 6 ft 4 in (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 built in to only a few of the late 1981 vehicles, and were added to all cars starting with 1982 production.
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 centre 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 center 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 driving 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 antenna 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 DeLorean have vinyl on one side, and headliner 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 traffic.
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. 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.
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 molds, 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 Ltd.
Only 16 right-hand drive factory-authorised DeLoreans were ever produced. These cars can be divided into two distinct groups:
- The first batch, known by enthusiasts as the "Wooler-Hodec cars", were converted by the UK company of that name. 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 VINs: 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 (license) 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 only factory-authorized 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 antennas, indicator repeater lights, no side marker lights, white forward-facing door lights, fog-light switch, and textured body rubstrips on the stainless panels. No catalytic converters or Lambda equipment were fitted as British legislation did not require them. VIN 5565 with the registration number AXI 1697 was a fully UK homologated example which would have been shown at the British motor show at Birmingham, UK in October 1982. It includes a unique rearward-facing twin exhaust, no catalytic converters and the UK specification engine as used by Volvo, but retaining the usual Renault ancillaries. The transmission final drive was also set at 3.88:1 versus the standard 3.44:1. Attention was paid to other unique details such as correctly offset wing mirrors.
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-authorized 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 program. 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. 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 modifications included:
- Different seat belt units fitted.
- The fitting of Rubbolite tail light clusters with a built-in foglight function. The foglight is a legal requirement in the UK.
- The fitting of a foglight switch to one of the center console dummy switches.
- A custom-made tail light surround and number (license) plate bezel.
- 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 license 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 "AXI" cars:
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 conversion process.
By contrast, the three "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.
In Film and Television
For Back to the Future see De Lorean DMC 12 time machine
De Lorean DMC 12 in Arthur, Movie with Russell Brand from 2011
De Lorean DMC 12 in Ashes to Ashes, TV Series from 2008 to 2010.