Here’s yet another entrant in the catalogue of cars that sounded great in theory, yet which sadly underdelivered in the real world. The DeLorean DMC-12 enjoys cult status as the vehicle that propelled Marty McFly and Doc Brown through time in the Back to the Future blockbusters, but it was no time-bending machine in the non-celluloid dimension.
The brainchild of auto industry genius John Z DeLorean, the edgy looking coupe was anything but conventional with its gullwing doors and brushed stainless-steel body panels. The DMC-12 was fabricated in a purpose-built factory in Ireland, and the original plan was to roll out 30,000 cars a year. In reality, just 9,200 cars were built — most of those poorly — when production was halted just two years after it began.
The concept plans called for a lightweight composite chassis, but this was unviable for the production car, so its makers ended up going with a glassfibre underbody, mounted on to a steel backbone, which was much heavier than the original proposal. The only available engine that would fit was a weedy 2.9-litre V6 (shared by Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) that eked out a modest 170bhp — or 130bhp with US-spec anti-smog gear. Its manufacturer quoted a 0-60mph (0-96kph) split of 8.8sec, but that figure was decidedly optimistic.
Despite costing more than a Porsche 911 in its day, the DeLorean had the feel and ambience of a kit car, and its gullwing doors not only tended to be leaky, they also trapped occupants inside when the electrical system failed.
The final nail in the coffin was banged in when John Z DeLorean was nabbed in a money-laundering sting involving cocaine trafficking.
Truth be told, the DMC-12 wasn’t a terrible car, and its Lotus-engineered suspension set-up negated many of the handling nasties of its Porsche 911 contemporaries (the DeLorean was also rear-engined). Its Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned styling also set it apart from anything else on the road. The DeLorean DMC-12 had potential, but unfortunately it just came out half-baked.