John DeLorean next to his iconic DMC-12. Picture from Forbes.

 

On this day in history : John DeLorean is born!

 

On January 6, 1925, John Zachary DeLorean was born on the East side of Detroit, Michigan. His parents were immigrants — his father, Romanian and his mother, Austrian.  His motor company produced one model, the DMC-12 and perhaps you’ve heard of it.

 

Marty McFly, anyone?

 

That’s right, the DMC-12 was the futuristic flying wonder in the popular movie starring Micheal J. Fox, Back To The Future. 

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Marty McFly and “Doc” Brown on and in the DeLorean. (Picture from dailymail.co.uk)

And did you know, at the last moment Steven Spielberg switched the time hopping machine from a refrigerator to the DeLorean? He made the switch because he was afraid children would harm themselves trying to mimic the adventure by playing make believe inside a fridge and freeze.

Marconi-1073
One of the few produced at our very own Marconi Automotive Museum.

Before lightening struck and DeLorean’s  DMC-12 became the iconic stainless steel of marvel it is today, he began working as an engineer for Packard Motor Company and  later took a position with General Motors (GM).

 

As a child, his brother, Chuck DeLorean was quoted describing his brother as a smartypants.

 

“When the rest of us were reading comics, he was reading Einstein’s theory,”

 

John had won a scholarship to the Lawrence Technical Institute, but was drafted to serve his country in World War II. After his service, he was then convinced by a family member to attend the Chrysler school of engineering.

Hope they got a nice birthday present each year! 

 

During his stint with GM he was dubbed as the brains behind the Pontiac GTO — “the first muscle car” — and the designer of the Firebird, along with other successful models. He shimmied his way up the corporate ladder and found himself as the youngest manager over the Pontiac division and then the youngest head of Chevrolet.

DeLorean standing next to the 1967 Pontiac Firebird as part of the Paul Ingrassia's book. (Picture found at nydailynews.com)
DeLorean standing next to the 1967 Pontiac Firebird as part of the Paul Ingrassia’s book. (Picture found at nydailynews.com)

 

 

One year after accepting a cushy position as vice president, he decided to pursue his own automotive industry ideas and opened the DeLorean Motor Company in Dunmurry, Ireland. His business pitch to the British government proclaimed he could build an ethical sports car that was fuel efficient and safer than the rest.

 

But, the vehicle didn’t handle well, it was too expensive, and not the quickest sports car on the track . The DMC-12 had a $25,000 price tag making it costlier than a supped up Corvette or Porsche 924 Turbo. The automobile didn’t sell as many as projected and DeLorean scrambled to come up with the financial backing to keep his dream afloat.

The Marconi Museum's DMC-12
The Marconi Museum’s DMC-12

In October of 1982, the British government announced the factory would be closing its doors. And with terrible timing the only thing going his way, DeLorean was arrested on drug trafficking charges in Los Angeles that same day.

 

He was accused of smuggling 50 pounds of cocaine in a briefcase through L.A.’s airport (LAX) and brokering the deal with a former drug smuggler turned FBI informant. John claimed the government had set him up, taking advantage of his known money troubles. In August of 1984, a jury acquitted DeLorean of the accusations.

@MarconiMuseum
@MarconiMuseum

While DeLorean was dragged through the court system for numerous charges including money laundering, drug smuggling and multiple divorces, Back to the Future  helped keep his head above rising financial waters.

After a long life, he passed away on March 19, 2005 at the age of 80.

 

A journalist for roadandtrack.com wrote:

 

A rebel to the end, DeLorean was buried in Troy, Michigan, wearing a black motorcycle jacket, blue jeans, and a denim shirt. He was interred beneath a headstone featuring his iconic DeLorean DMC-12, still with an outstanding warrant for his arrest back in England.

 

And I personally believe, it’s the perfect way to end a piece about the long haired, bad boy superstar of the auto industry.

 

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