What is the connection between Hollywood, an American businessman, time travel and a mountain of cocaine big enough to make Keith Richards’ knees shake? Answer: the DMC DeLorean, AKA the DMC-12, AKA the car of Back to the future.
This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of Back to the future, so let’s go back in time and pay homage to the real version of the 88 mph gull-wing carriage, powered by Mr. Fusion. Press it, because it’s a wild ride.
[Read:[Read:[Ler:[Read:Remembering Nucleon, Ford’s 1958 nuclear powered concept car that was never]
But why a time-traveling DeLorean?
Most of the world, certainly outside the US, probably had no idea of the DeLorean of the same name, until it appeared in Back to the future, which debuted on the screens in 1985.
First, the time machine Back to the future it was never really designed to be a car, much less a DeLorean. According to director Robert Zemeckis, speaking in the commentary of the films on DVD, the time machine was first a laser device, which was discarded because, um, boring!
In the second draft, it was a refrigerator. But, apparently, the filmmakers were concerned about encouraging children to go into refrigerators and get stuck, so the idea was also dismissed.
Eventually, the film’s producers decided that you would like the time machine to be mobile, so they looked for cars. The DeLorean was chosen because of its radical appearance and iconic seagull wing doors. In fact, its “spaceship” appearance was also credited as one of the main reasons for its choice. The DMC-12 was made of brushed stainless steel and was not painted, because apparently DeLorean did not want to spend money on painting equipment.
On a interview with Esquire, the film’s co-creator, Bob Gale, said the film was offered $ 75,000 to use a Ford Mustang. Gale basically told Ford to stuff himself and responded with, “Doc Brown doesn’t drive a bloody Mustang!” and so, the story was made.
The importance of Gale’s observation should not be underestimated. The films were full of other product placements – everyone remembers Nike’s sticky shoes and Mattel’s Hoverboard. But by 1985, the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) had already doubled, meaning that Gale’s firmness in the DeLorean was even more valuable and kept the car from getting lost in the annals of time. Instead, we have one of the most iconic movie cars of all time.
When the films were released, the car had already developed a name for itself, for reasons that had little to do with the vehicle and everything to do with the playboy who invented it.
The man, the legend
John DeLorean, the man who would later found the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC), was a believer in the automotive world. He was the chief engineer for iconic muscle cars, such as the Pontiac GTO and Pontiac Firebird. He worked for many years at General Motors before separating from the American automotive giant in 1973.
In 1975, he founded the DeLorean Motor Company with the aim of producing an “ethical” sports car. One that is safe, reliable and built to last. Think of DMC as the Tesla of your day. I wanted to challenge the status quo.
For the design of the DMC-12, DeLorean called for one of the most influential and unknown car designers, Giorgetto Guigiaro. The Italian stylist had a way with the pencil that saw his drawings go from paper to silver on more than one occasion. His Lotus Esprit became James Bond’s famous underwater car.
With this pedigree behind the project, you think DMC-12 would make history books in its own right. But it was not like that, because the car was not exactly good and John DeLorean was in the habit of overtaking a little.
The first and only DeLoreans
The first DMC-12 hit the roads in 1981, and about 9,000 units were built.
To make the car, DeLorean turned to the British government, which invested £ 100 million in taxpayer money to build a factory in Northern Ireland. The British government thought they were generating thousands of jobs in an area hit by the war, DeLorean thought he was getting a lot out of his dream.
The DMC-12 had a 2.85 liter V6 engine, with 130 hp, mounted behind the drivers who operated the rear wheels. Drivers had the option of manual 5-speed or automatic 3-speed transmissions, quite typical for the early 1980s.
There was just one body style, with those iconic gull-wing doors and no paint options. The entire car was finished with brushed stainless steel, which some owners continue to use the WD-40, not soap and water like any other car.
It all came together to produce a car that was not practical, particularly fast, and did not handle as a sports car should. And because of mechanical failures that needed to be resolved, production was delayed and the car ended up costing much more than originally planned.
It was called DMC-12, as it originally sold for $ 12,000, but several surplus and production challenges took its price to $ 25,000.
Although there are no accurate records of how many DeLoreans have already been sold, reports suggest that the car had no problem initially capturing the hearts and minds of the American auto audience. But it failed to turn initial interest into consistent sales.
A year later, in early 1982, almost a decade after DeLorean left GMC to start his eponymous company, some 7,000 vehicles remained unsold.
Add that to the economic downturn and the DeLorean company was on a tightrope.
A slippery slope
British PM at the time, Margaret Thatcher, ordered DeLorean to raise more money to keep the company in business and support its employees. DeLorean, enraged, said the British government was closing its factories in Northern Ireland on the grounds that its Catholic officials were “tithe of the Irish Republican army”.
But the reality was that DeLorean needed $ 17 million to save his company from bankruptcy – are US $ 46.5 million, representing inflation.
Throughout 1982, DMC’s financial situation worsened and DeLorean was left with few options.
In October 1982, he found himself in a hotel room in Los Angeles with a man he trusted in the hope of saving his company. The man, James Hoffman, a formerly convicted drug smuggler, claimed that DeLorean had sought him out seeking to enter into a cocaine deal to generate funds to support his bankrupt business.
During the meeting, a suitcase allegedly full of 27 kg (about $ 6.5 million) of cocaine was placed on a table. The discussions also alluded to a larger deal, in which DeLorean would partially finance the sale of $ 24 million of the drug. He agreed and was videotaped saying that the white material is “better than gold. “
DeLorean was promptly arrested at the hotel for violating the narcotics law.
However, James Hoffman was working with the FBI as an informant. According to reports, DeLorean never wanted to go along with cocaine trafficking. In fact, it was Hoffman who approached and coerced DeLorean into making a false deal, in an attempt to provide information to the FBI and reduce his own sentence.
DeLorean was able to prove that he was “acting” all the time. He went with Hoffman after threats were made against his family.
On August 16, 1984, DeLorean was acquitted on reasons for government imprisonment.
DMC will never be forgotten
Unfortunately, a week after DeLorean’s arrest, his company went bankrupt, and in December 1982, just two years after the first cars were sold, DMC was no more and the British government closed the NI plant.
It wasn’t just DeLorean’s drug smuggling antics that took him to hot water, he also had a history of misappropriation of company funds. DeLorean has spent many years dropping legal cases related to the fall of his beloved car business. In 1999, he declared bankruptcy. The story of his life was transformed into a film of his own, called See it Framed John DeLorean.
DeLorean never gave up on his dreams and, in recent years, tried to resurrect DMC by designing and selling watches, glasses and sunglasses. He hoped he could eventually get enough support and funding to relaunch his car company. In March 2005, John DeLorean died of complications from a stroke.
The DMC-12 may not have been DeLorean’s best car, and it may have reached its premature end because of its Machiavellian antics. But it was these antics and self-confidence that gave rise to the idea in the first place, and eventually led to Back to the future filmmakers to choose it as their time machine.
Back to the future may have helped make the DMC-12 one of the most iconic cars of all time, but it – and its creator – must be remembered for much more than that.
Elon Musk bought $ 45 million in Tesla shares since ‘that marijuana joke’ – now it’s worth double