After years of working for GM as an automotive engineer and executive, John DeLorean struck out on his own in 1973 to build a new car company. By 1975, the DeLorean Motor Company, or DMC, had been founded, and a prototype of what would become the DMC-12 was already in development.
In order to build the capital to sell the DMC-12, John DeLorean enlisted the help of Hollywood celebrities Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr, who both put up sizable investments to support the operation. In addition, dealerships looking to sell the DMC-12 were also invited to invest, and doing so made them shareholders in the company.
The DMC-12 was to have a number of innovative features, including an all-new chassis design made with a new technology called Elastic Resevoir Moulding, and power was to be supplied by a rear-mounted rotary engine provided by Citroen. Neither of these technologies were used, however, as the ERM chassis was not suitable, and the rotary engine was not efficient enough for the mileage sought by the company--especially important, as at the time, the world was in the midst of a fuel crisis. A Peugeot/Renault/Volvo engine, known as the PRV, was chosen as a replacement powerplant, and the chassis was sent to Colin Chapman of Lotus for a redesign. The end product was a backbone chassis similar to that used in the Lotus Esprit, but up top, the car remained very similar to its initial Giugiaro design, complete with stainless steel panels and gullwing doors. Design setbacks and production issues delayed the start of production, with the first cars leaving DeLorean's Northern Ireland factory in 1981.
The DMC-12 got its name from the initial target sales price of $12,000, although by the time the cars started rolling into dealers, unforeseen costs pushed the base price to well over $25,000, making them as expensive as other sports cars that offered much more performance. In U.S.-spec trim, the PRV V6 engine made just 130 horsepower.
Just one year after production started, DMC was in bankruptcy, with the doors closing on production in November 1982. Sales had chimed in at only around half of what was expected, and DeLorean was left to again look for cash. Later that year, the FBI accused DeLorean of attempting to fund his operations through a drug smuggling scheme involving cocaine. DeLorean successfully defended himself against the government's charges, but the company was done for, having only built around 9,000 cars.
By 2007, a new group, based in Texas, had bought the rights to the DMC name, as well as all its spare parts. DMC Texas offers a complete range of replacement and high performance parts for DMC-12s, and a very limited number of complete cars are built from the remaining stock of parts each year.
The DMC-12 is best known today for its appearance as the time machine in the "Back to the Future" film trilogy, so chosen, according to the films, because of its stainless steel construction. And, as Doc Brown says in the first film, "Besides, if you're going to build a time machine, why not do it with some style?"... View more