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DeLorean DMC 12: Still awesome, 30 years onThe DeLorean DMC is one of the most iconic cars of the 20th century. XCAR got behind the wheel and charts how John Z. DeLorean came to build this glorious, aluminium-engine movie star.
[NOISE] [MUSIC] You already know what this is. It's one of the most famous cars on the planet. [MUSIC] It's a DeLorean DMC-12, the car of the future, from the 80s. [MUSIC] The EMC 12 story is an interesting one. It involves a brilliant engineer, a great idea for a new sustainable economical car, and a. Pretty massive downfall. But to get to the short of it we need to have a look at the man whose name was above the door. John Z DeLorean. Born in 1925 DeLorean was educated in Detroit. After getting a degree in industrial engineering he went to Chrysler's post grad automotive engineering course where as well as earning himself a degree he did rather well. He was an engineering wonder kin. His career saw him at Packard then on to GM where he rocketed through the ranks. His biggest achievement other than becoming the company's youngest division head at 40 was being credited for the Pontiac GTO. From there he headed up Chevrolet and was certain to head up the whole company, but instead he left in 1973. His rock star life style, external business interests and other things weren't really gelling with the firm's top brass and that led to his departure. He stated that he simply wanted a change. After a little time in the rider world, DeLorean decided he was gonna revisit an old idea. One he had at his old job. He was gonna build his own car, his own car company. In 1974, he announced just that. Initially, he was gonna build a small commuter car, an eco-car. But then he saw gold wing doors and. All of a sudden, it became a sport's car. To realize his dream, he needed money so he took out loans from the Bank of America and got some fairly high profile investors in the form of Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr. and also set up dealer shareholder program. He managed to set up his business without spending a single penny of his own money, which is pretty impressive. It's a skill he had [MUSIC] Until the very end. The idea behind the car he wanted to make was an ethical one. Something with affordable running cost, decent performance, a corrosion free body, and decent safety measures. The first car, a prototype called The DeLorean Safety Vehicle, appeared in the mid 70s. It was designed by Guijarro and was pretty spectacular. However overtime the car was completely reengineered. The prototypes. Were pretty awful when they were prototypes. The car's original chief engineer Bill Collins found his baby handed over to Colin Chapman and Lotus. When Chapman first saw the prototype he was less than impressed and it was quite a job to get him to agree to develop the car. However, when he got to work, he took all the unnecessary materials out of the prototype. Ended up sitting on a double wide chassis. That was remarkably similar to the Lotus Espirit of the time. The body was a glass fiber composite. And the panels were just bolted on top of that. It's said that, if you put stainless steel panels on an Espirit of that vintage. Well the two cars weigh pretty much the same. Then there's the matter of the engine. Now many were considered but it was the 2.8 liter V6 from a Persian [UNKNOWN] Volvo tire that got the gig. Despite the fact it had 2.8 liters to play with it only had 130 horsepower. Was pretty awful, especially considering that it was supposed to go in a car that weighed 1200 kilos, and was designed to take on the Porsche 911. When it came to setting up his factory, DeLorean looked at areas with high unemployment. The Republic of Islands and Porta Rico looked promising, but the British government stepped in and offered him a ludicrous sum of money to set up in Northern Island. In 1978, Don Murray Belfast saw the DeLorean factory steadily come to be. The idea behind the location of the factory, and the Government was pretty smart. As you know, at the time, Northern Island was not a fun place to be, there was horrific fighting and blood was being shed by the gallon. Belfast was an area of high unemployment. And it was thought that, if jobs were introduced to the area, it may help quell the horrific violence. With the factory set up remarkably quickly. And production due to start in '79. Some issues insured production began in 1981. Then the bit we largely know about. The cars were built, shipped out to the US, and [UNKNOWN] for sale. But there were. A couple of problems. At 25,000 dollars, they cost more than a Porsche 9/11 and weren't all that well built. The car was developed by the folk at Lotus who weren't used to making cars for mass production. As such the DMC12 was a mass produced hand built car. Things were off to a shaky start. The doors were a bit of an issue. They had a tendency to get stuck. So if you had to jimmy your way out, there was a chance that once you closed the door, you couldn't get back in again, or vice versa. Then there's the alternator. In the early cars it was pretty bad. It would discharge power. Over time. That meant a lot of customers ended up stranded. When the first batch of cars left for the US, they were sent to a quality assurance program, just so they were up to snuff for their customers. What the guys in the US saw was not pretty. They were in no fit state. To go on sale. As such, they spent a lot of money basically rebuilding the cars. That said though, people really liked the DeLorean, but sadly not enough to buy one. The US car market was in pretty dire shape and the fact they just kept producing them, leaving a ton of unsold cars set in Belfast being dirtied by a nearby factory. In early 1982, the company was in receivership and it closed it doors later that year. Around 9000 cars had been made. Far fewer than the company had promised to produce. The money ran out and no one agreed to fork out. Anymore. The car and the business had failed. A last minute reprieve was apparently possible. But the paperwork requiring DeLorean's signature was on his desk while he flying to LA to talk to some men about some white powder. In mid-air, the deadline to save his company passed. When John Z. landed in LA he was quite spectacularly [UNKNOWN] as part of an FBI drug sting. Although he did later clear his name, it took a while to do so, but that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin. His car had failed, his company was gone, and, later down the line, he applied for bankruptcy, his reputation in. Tatters. The great engineer John Zed DeLorean was done. His car, with it's good looks and golden doors wouldn't entirely die though. Not thanks to a small film. You may have heard of it, Back to the Future. It cemented the DeLorean as a cult car. Many don't know the DeLorean as a DeLorean, but as the back to the future car. And today, I have one. I've wanted to drive one of these since I was about. That big. I had no idea about the car's troubled past or anything like that. All I knew was that it looked cool, had doors that opened upward, and it was Marty McFly's ride. So then. What's it like? This car has an interesting story to it. It's owned by the guy who runs the DeLorean. Comes to means today, cuz it was bought way back when, as a graduation present for a young girl. And she's had it pretty much forever, and she reached a point where she wasn't really driving it, and wondered how much it would cost to restore it. They gave her a figure, and she went, you know what? If I spend all that, I'm still never gonna drive it. So he bought it, so he's fixing it up. This is a car that's been lived in. It's got About 67,000 miles on it. Bear in mind this is a car from the very early 80's. I think it's held up remarkably well. The controls are really really heavy. They are beginning to show their age and steering has a weird dead spot right in the middle which is slightly concerning. And it's, it's heavy and not spectacularly. Seed backing. The transmission again isn't brilliant. It's quite slow it's quite sluggish and when it does change it kind of jolts ya. It gives you a kick in the spine. Even when you're cruising around in auto it just- little jolt. And if you're "on it." If you're trying to give it some, well it's a bigger jolt and that's less comfortable. Now speaking of trying to get "on it" as it were the engine is. Which is a completely original car, unmolested, unmodified. Even though, the guys at Dolorian can give you a little bit of extra dough. The engine's reputation for being a bit rough is, is entirely true. It is not a fast car. It doesn't give you that acceleration that you would associate with a sports car, even one from the 80s. And the car feels quite heavy. So trying to put it into a corner any speed if the gearbox decides to put itself into a gear that gives you some save. Torque? It comes in a little bit wobbly, a little bit smooshy but then again it was made for the US market. This particular one yeah, it's not the greatest example in the world but, having driven it, it's a great thing to take off my life list. It's a big thing to have done. This is. Easily one of the coolest cars on the face of the planet. There is so much space in here. It's really comfy, you can stretch your legs out. There's no penned in nature to it. This doesn't feel like a, a more European sports car. It feels like you can stretch out, rest, sit in a nice. Comfy leather seat and just drive as far as you wanted. The suspension, even though it's soft and soggy for handling purposes and cornering purposes, just eats up little lumps and bumps. The brakes are terrible. The brakes are really, really bad [LAUGH] Let's see, I hope you're certain now. You do have to wait quite a while. So, we're doing 14 miles an hour. On the brakes. C'mon. Turn around. C'mon. And stop. Not right. And then, back up to 14. C'mon car, pull us into position Oh, there we go. The engine doesn't sound good. It's not super efficient. But you just can't help but love it. It's so cool. The biggest disappointment though, and it's only a minor one really, because nobody cares about the handling or the drive because of the car itself, it's far greater than the sum of its parts, the big disappointment for me is that the speed dial only goes up to 85 which means I can't [UNKNOWN]. And that makes me sad. I'm in a DeLorean, and the doors open upwards, and it's made of stainless steel. And it's one of the coolest cars on the face of the planet, and it will forever be one. [MUSIC] [NOISE] We have this car because although the DeLorean Motor Company is dead, the DeLorean Motor Company is still alive in Humble, Texas. They'll restore your DMC 12, sell you a used one, or sell you some rather lovely DMC 12 inspired stuff. While DeLorean's initial idea was pretty clever because checkered development led to an interesting finished product. Further one under owed for oddity I suppose. One thing is certain though, this car is going to remembered fondly for years. Its creator less so but his story is another one for another day. [MUSIC]