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John Delorean and the Delorean Motor Company

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

John DeLorean was a John Zachary DeLorean was an American engineer, inventor, and executive in the U.S. automobile industry, as a General Motors "golden-boy" executive, he widely known for being the youngest GM executive to run a division, Pontiac and became known for designing the Pontiac GTO. By this time, DeLorean earned an annual salary of $200,000, with yearly bonuses of up to $400,000. He was ubiquitous in popular culture. At a time when business executives were typically conservative, low-key individuals in three-piece suits, DeLorean wore long sideburns and unbuttoned shirts.

DeLorean continued his jet-setting lifestyle and was often seen hanging out in business and entertainment celebrity circles. He became friends with James T. Aubrey, president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and was introduced to celebrities such as financier Kirk Kerkorian, Chris-Craft chairman Herb Siegel, entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., and The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson.

DeLorean left General Motors in 1973 to form his own company, the DeLorean Motor Company. A two-seat sports car prototype was shown in the mid-1970s called the DeLorean Safety Vehicle (DSV), with its bodyshell designed by Italdesign's Giorgetto Giugiaro. The car entered into production as the DeLorean. The car's body distinctively used stainless steel and featured gull-wing doors. It was powered by the "Douvrin" V6 engine developed by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo (known as the PRV). Here is a clip with a brief history of John Delorean:

The manufacturing plant to build the new car was built in Dunmurry, a suburb of Belfast in Northern Ireland, with substantial financial incentives from the Northern Ireland Development Agency of around £100 million. Renault was contracted to build the factory, which employed over 2,000 workers at its peak production. The engine was made by Renault, while Lotus designed the chassis and bodywork details. The Dunmurry factory eventually turned out around 9,000 cars In 1980, an American Express catalogue featured an ad for a DeLorean plated in 24-karat gold. According to the ad, only 100 were going to be manufactured and sold for $85,000. In total, only 4 were actually purchased.

Production delays meant the DeLorean did not reach the consumer market until January 1981 (nearly a decade after the company was founded), and in the interim, the new car market had slumped considerably due to the 1980 US economic recession. This was compounded by unexpectedly lukewarm reviews from critics and the public, who generally felt the uniqueness of the DeLorean's styling did not compensate for the higher price and lower horsepower relative to other sport coupes on the market. While interest in the DeLorean quickly dwindled, competing models with lower price tags and more powerful engines (such as the Chevrolet Corvette) sold in record numbers during 1980–81 in spite of the ongoing recession. By February 1982, more than half of the roughly 7,000 DeLoreans produced remained unsold, DMC was $175 million in debt, and the Dunmurry factory was placed in receivership.

After going into receivership in February 1982, DMC produced another 2,000 cars until John DeLorean's arrest in late October, at which point liquidation proceedings were undertaken and the factory was seized by the British government for good.

The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather on October 22, 1982:

On October 19, 1982, DeLorean was charged by the US government with trafficking cocaine following a videotaped sting operation in which he was recorded by undercover federal agents agreeing to bankroll a cocaine smuggling operation. The FBI set him up with more than 59 lb (27 kg) of cocaine (worth about US$6.5 million) in a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport after arriving from New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated DeLorean was the "financier" to help the financially declining company in a scheme to sell 220 lb (100 kg), with an estimated value of $24 million. The government was tipped off to DeLorean by confidential informant James Timothy Hoffman, a former neighbor, who reported to his FBI superiors that DeLorean had approached him to ask about setting up a cocaine deal; in truth, Hoffman had called DeLorean and suggested the deal (which DeLorean then accepted) as part of Hoffman's efforts to receive a reduced sentence for a 1981 federal cocaine trafficking charge on which he was awaiting trial. Hoffman (whose name was redacted on the original indictment) also stated that he was aware of DeLorean's financial troubles before he contacted him, and had heard him admit that he needed $17 million "in a hurry" to prevent DMC's imminent insolvency.

CBS Nightly News with Dan Rather obtains the videos with a chronology of the meetings by dates that led up to the bust:

Taken together, these two elements allowed DeLorean to successfully defend himself at trial with the procedural defense of police entrapment. DeLorean's lawyers successfully argued that the FBI and DEA had unfairly targeted and illegally entrapped DeLorean when they allowed Hoffman (an active FBI informant who only knew DeLorean casually) to randomly solicit DeLorean into a criminal conspiracy simply because he was known to be financially vulnerable. Another factor was DeLorean's lack of criminal history, whereas Hoffman was a career criminal who stood to directly benefit if he was able to convince DeLorean to incriminate himself on tape. The DeLorean defense team called one witness, Carol Winkler, DeLorean's Administrative Assistant. Her call log proved that Hoffman made the initial call. DeLorean was found not guilty on August 16, 1984, but by then DMC had already collapsed into bankruptcy and DeLorean's reputation as a businessman was irrevocably tarnished. When asked after his acquittal if he planned to resume his career in the auto industry, DeLorean bitterly quipped, "Would you buy a used car from me?"

On September 21, 1985, DeLorean was indicted on charges he defrauded investors and committed tax evasion by diverting millions of dollars raised for the company to himself. He was acquitted of all charges.

A news report that speculated that the value and image of the Delorean Motor Car rose in stature even after his personal reputation was tarnished:

The Delorean Motor Car was cemented into pop culture history with the blockbuster 1885 film, "Back to the Future". Here is the iconic scene with Marty McFLy (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the Delorean DMC "Time Machine":

Press the Cool Button to check out this cool

Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine motion statue

available now on Entertainment Earth:

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