What REALLY happend to DeLorean?

Everyone knows the name. DeLorean. Maker of great cars. The man that single handedly save Pontiac from bankruptcy. The man who designed all the “ultra safe” Volvo’s for so many years. And the visionary behind the DeLorean 12, the worlds most advanced car at the time.
But what REALLY happened to him? I’ve heard various stories. Some say that he was actively smuggling narcotics. Others say he was just told to look the other way. Anyone know the straight dope?

This comes from a vague memory on this point so take it with a grain of salt.

I believe DeLorean was ultimately found to be a victim of overzealous federal agents. Basically, the federal agents were found to have (I forget the proper term) ‘coerced’ DeLorean into dealing in cocaine. Ultimately I think DeLorean was set free but the entire fiasco doomed his company.

I just remembered. The federal agents were guilty of entrapment and DeLorean was set free (he actually never spent any time in jail except for perhaps his initial arrest till he made bail).

Such a shame. The DeLorean would have changed auto manufacturing for the better years before the industry gave safety real thought. :frowning:

Come on, who else in the early 80’s had 4 wheel disk breaks and crumple zones. The doors were designed so that no side or front impact could prevent rescue workers from getting in. And you only needed 3 inches away from the car to completly open the doors!

Nitpick: The Vega and the Chevette were certainly superlative, but not in a way that compliments their brainchild, Mr. DeLorean.

Sometimes you have to work with what you’re given.


A brief explanation is above.


“The man who designed all the “ultra safe” Volvo’s for so many years.”
Really? Is this true?

I thought Volvo’s safety was the product of a decades-long concern and R&D effort.

“The Vega and the Chevette were certainly superlative, but not in a way that compliments their brainchild, Mr. DeLorean.”
Yeah, no kidding.

I came within a whit of never having been able to be exposed to the Wisdom of Cecil and the Straight Dope due to a near-fatal and rather low speed car accident while in a Vega.

Vega “crumple zone” = your torso.

So… if the Volvo-DeLorean safety connection is true, why did the DeLorean brainchild Vega come out as being nearly as unsafe as a lit cigarette in a fuel tank?

I can’t acutally vouce for the Vega itself. I haven’t done the research. But unless I’m mistaken, DeLorean played a key roll in the development of many of the late 70’s early 80’s Volvos. That was how he raised capitol for HIS car company.

He mysteriously vanished after travelling at 88 MPH.

Sorry, but somebody was going to say it.

Another guy who has a similar history to DeLorean is Malcolm Bricklin, who founded Subaru Of America and went downhill from there. His next project was a vehicle of his own name, the Bricklin SV-1, which debuted in the mid-1970s. It was designed to be a very safe car (SV = Safety Vehicle), and for its time it was, but it never caught on and not very many were produced. After that, Bricklin founded the American branch of Yugo. It’s hard to get much worse than that.

-Andrew L

I have a friend whose sister once owned a DeLorean. He said it was by a wide margin the most trouble-plagued car he’d ever heard of. No system on it – engine, brakes, steering, suspension, instruments, heater, radio, electrics, etc. – made it through the first 1000 miles without some complaints. The car became so unreliable that it could not be driven, and was relegated to the status of garage art. After a year it was sold to a collector, who did not ask, but simply showed up with a flatbed truck to take it home (it was apparently not the first DeLorean he’d come across).

I’m puzzled by the comment on how you could park close to another vehicle. He said that the door forced you to park in a far corner of the lot, and to learn how to wriggle out a window when someone parked near you – claimed he’d done so a good many times.

First part: Bah.

Second part: Most higher end Japanese and German vehicles… My 79 280ZX had 4 wheel disc and I think crumple zones. Pontiac Trans Ams had 4 wheel disc as an option since the lates 70s. Vette’s have had 4 wheel disc since the 60s.

The Delorean with its mix-mash of import and domestic parts was a reliability nightmare. For the love of god, I think it even had a Renault powertrain. In the 80s this was not a good thing.

The Bricklin was made in Canada in the mid-late 70s, if memory serves. I still see the odd one every year or so still driving. Their huge poorly fitting bumper is what sticks out in my mind. I believe they had Ford powertrains, like a 351C so at least they had a “bit” of power to back up their “exotic” looks… unlike the DeLorean.

I was under the impression that the thing that killed Delorean was the automobile itself. Aside from reliability problems that were previously mentioned, I also recall things like Johnny Carson saying that air whistled through the gull wing doors. He made quite a few jokes about it on national TV, and the general impression that I had was that a lot of people were rather underwhelmed with the car once they bought it.

DeLorean penned an interesting mid-career memoir of his exciting years as the head of Pontiac in the mid-late '60’s (when Pontiac enjoyed success with a number of successful “muscle” sports cars): On A Clear Day You Can Almost See General Motors (from around 1973, IIRC). Even years after Ralph Nader made his name exposing the dangers of the Corvair, DeLorean took pains to defend it from what he saw as the alarmist cries of hand-wringing activists. But in spite of this obviously questionable lapse in judgement, I was still impressed by his exciting, iconoclastic career, equal parts butting heads in the executive offices [that legendary Sloan School of Management corporate culture at G.M., y’know] and meeting the then-untapped teenage Baby-Boomer demand for affordable sports cars.

(Isn’t it curious, though? The problems of a fishtailing sports car in the '60’s help to propel the high-profile career of a self-appointed public advocate, who goes on to play the role of spoiler in the 2000 presidential election…)

But ever since the '80’s failure of his signature make – what with his cocaine trafficking arrest, problems with the IRS, bankruptcy, and divorce [IIRC] – DeLorean’s life has, sadly, gone to the dogs. Literally. The latest for DeLorean is an upcoming custody battle for the two English sheepdogs he left behind in his New Jersey mansion after the bankruptcy.

I had a dentist in the 1980s who said he had owned a DeLorean. When I asked him how he liked it, he made a loud sucking sound. He said it was the worst car he had ever owned.

I used to have three MGBs: a 1966 my mom bought new and gave to me when I was in high school, and two 1977s. Usually two were running at any given time. Occasionally all three ran, and sometimes only one ran. I learned to appreciate the old joke: “Why do the English drink warm beer? Because their refrigerators are made by Lucas.” (Still the MGBs were fun to drive.)

Does anyone remember the Cutty Sark whisky print ad that saluted John DeLorean? I have one cut out of a magazine.

Not long ago on Fark there was a link to an eBay auction for a replica Flux Capacitor that went for $550. People looked up the buyer and found out that he/she also purchased a replica flux capacitor switch for about $100, and not one but TWO DeLoreans.

Here’s a good summary of the troubled history of the DeLorean – it was built in Northern Ireland, of all places. I like the quote from Car & Driver: “Abysmally short of any standard of commercial acceptability.”

And here’s an update on the troubled Mr. DeLorean himself.