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Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

  • John DeLorean Was An Eccentric Engineer Who Soared Up The Ranks At GM on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#1) John DeLorean Was An Eccentric Engineer Who Soared Up The Ranks At GM

    Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, John Z. DeLorean demonstrated technical acumen from a young age. He attended Cass Technical High School before serving in WWII, and later earned master's degrees in automotive engineering and business administration from the University of Michigan.

    DeLorean briefly worked for Chrysler before accepting a position at Packard Motor Car Company in 1952. In 1956, he took an engineering job at General Motors, helping GM revitalize the Pontiac division. By 1961, DeLorean was made chief engineer of the Pontiac division, a title that helped him move head with his sporty, fast-driving, powerful muscle car designs.

    DeLorean introduced the GTO in 1963, a car that essentially put a bigger engine into the Pontiac Tempest model. The GTO proved successful and DeLorean continued to rise within the GM ranks. He became a general manager in 1965 - the youngest ever at the age of 40 - and headed North American operations for GM in 1972

    As he rose to the top, DeLorean made few friends. He pushed boundaries and found loopholes when it came to car design and production, but after the success of the GTO, he took on a persona that made other executives uncomfortable. Long sideburns, dates with supermodels, and flashy clothes - all behaviors that tapped into the young culture he hoped to bring to the automobile industry - were physical representations of his rebellious spirit, narcissistic tendencies, and defiant personality.

  • Against GM’s Wishes, DeLorean Created A Workaround To Put Big Powerful Engines Into Smaller Cars on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#2) Against GM’s Wishes, DeLorean Created A Workaround To Put Big Powerful Engines Into Smaller Cars

    The GTO - short for the Italian phrase gran turismo omologato - was DeLorean's biggest success. The design, however, was one that went against GM policies and standards of practice. DeLorean wanted to put a big, powerful engine into a small automobile frame, something GM executives were ardently against. To get around this, he devised a plan with Pete Estes, the head of the Pontiac division, to get around the policy. Instead of designing a new car that featured a V-8 engine, they'd simply offer an upgrade on the current Pontiac Tempest model. 

    The Pontiac Tempest was introduced in 1961 as a model that, according to Motor Trend magazine, had superior, "riding qualities... probably the best in its class... [with] a precise feel at highway speeds... [and] better than average handling at all speeds." When Pontiac presented the Tempest LeMans later that year, it was a sportier version of its predecessor. Continued tweaks and options on the design in 1962 and 1963 made the midsize Tempest the perfect candidate for even more innovation.

    While DeLorean and other Pontiac team members - namely Bill Collins, Russell Gee, and Jim Wangers - looked at the chassis of a Tempest one Saturday morning, Collins said, "You know, John, with the engine mounts being the same, it would take about 20 minutes to slip a 389 into this thing." In that moment, the GTO was born.

    Pontiac sold the Pontiac Tempest GTOs - the first of the so-called muscle cars - as a version of the standard 1964 Tempest. The bigger V-8 engine was a $295 upgrade.

  • DeLorean Divorced His Wife, Completely Made Over His Appearance, And Started Dating High-Profile Actresses And Models on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#3) DeLorean Divorced His Wife, Completely Made Over His Appearance, And Started Dating High-Profile Actresses And Models

    After the success of the GTO, John DeLorean underwent a transformation of sorts. The lifestyle that made his colleagues nervous wasn't representative of how DeLorean lived when he entered the automotive industry. Until the GTO, DeLorean looked the part of an automotive executive, donning suits and ties while going home to with his wife every night.

    As his position in GM rose, DeLorean began working out, wore shirts unbuttoned down to his lower torso, and grew out his sideburns. DeLorean spent an increasing amount of time in California, socializing with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Johnny Carson. He divorced his first wife, Elizabeth Higgins, in 1968, more interested in trying to win the affections of models and actresses such as Tina Sinatra and Ursula Andress. 

    DeLorean, 44 years old at the time, married his second wife, Kelly Harmon, in 1968 or 1969. Harmon (sister of actor Mark Harmon and daughter of athlete and sportscaster Tom) was a 20-year-old model. The couple spent most of their time on the West Coast and divorced in 1972.

    The following year, DeLorean wed again, this time to supermodel Cristina Ferrare. DeLorean, 48, and Ferrare, 23, moved to New York, where they lived on Fifth Avenue until the early 1980s.

  • DeLorean Resigned From GM After Someone 'Leaked' His Controversial Speech To The Media  on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#4) DeLorean Resigned From GM After Someone 'Leaked' His Controversial Speech To The Media

    As DeLorean made changes to his personal life, he continued to try to push GM in new directions as well. He advocated for smaller cars with better fuel efficiency. He criticized GM for not moving forward and for not being in tune with modern consumers, while simultaneously chiding the company for poor quality.

    The clearest articulation of DeLorean's ideas and vision for the future was presented at a 1973 GM executive conference at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. The speech DeLorean gave was toned down, at the suggestion of his colleagues, but the brazen, unedited version found its way into the hands of the Detroit News.

    DeLorean's speech alienated his colleagues at GM, supporters and opposition alike. It was never clear how the speech got to the media, although many GM executives believed DeLorean leaked it himself. Regardless, DeLorean left GM in 1973, either voluntarily or at the urging of the corporation, and endeavored to establish a car company of his own. 

    DeLorean told The New York Times in October 1973 that he had no regrets about leaving, expressing his dissatisfaction for sitting in meetings all day. "Even at $650,000 a year, if the job is not satisfying, you do something else," DeLorean said. "I can live on $60,000 or $70,000 a year. I have always lived conservatively."

  • DeLorean Set Out To Start His Own Company And Make The Small, Sylish, Fuel-Efficient Cars That GM Was Against on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#5) DeLorean Set Out To Start His Own Company And Make The Small, Sylish, Fuel-Efficient Cars That GM Was Against

    In DeLorean's words, GM "had a moral responsibility to build smaller cars, especially in GM's case as America's major supplier of transportation equipment... We had a responsibility to do that - whether it was profitable or not. And what happened is that we didn't, and we left those cars to overseas."

    Where GM failed, DeLorean was determined to step in. DeLorean founded an automobile company, aptly named the DeLorean Motor Company, in 1975. By 1977, DeLorean, assisted by former collaborator at GM, William "Bill" Collins, and Italian designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro (of Alfa Romeo fame), had created an "ethical" sports car. Collins was soon replaced by Colin Chapman, engineer and founder of Lotus Motors in the UK.

    The DMC-12 was supposed to weigh less than all other sports cars - only 2,200 pounds - and get far better gas mileage. It had numerous features, including wing-like doors  - to "add sex appeal" - and, despite a smaller engine, could go from "0 to 60 mph. in less than eight seconds." According to DeLorean, the car would be made in a factory absent "spray booths and paint ovens" to protect employees from "[finding] out 20 years from now they have some funny lung disease."

  • The UK Government Offered DeLorean $100+ Million In Investment Capital, So He Built His Factory Outside Belfast - In The Thick Of The Troubles on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#6) The UK Government Offered DeLorean $100+ Million In Investment Capital, So He Built His Factory Outside Belfast - In The Thick Of The Troubles

    John DeLorean hadn't been lacking for support, enlisting private investors like Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr., and he took out a significant loan to support his efforts. As he shopped for government funds, he reportedly pitted supporters against each other, "flirting with Canada, Spain, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and... Detroit."

    When it came time to put the DMC-12 into production, DeLorean opted to take the UK up on its offer for financial backing. Despite having made an agreement with the United States to develop a factory in Puerto Rico, DeLorean reneged and opted to build his factory near Belfast in Northern Ireland.

    In exchange for bringing 2,500 jobs to the region, which was deeply entangled in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants at the time, DeLorean received $77 million from the UK. The agreement was reached in 1978; with additional private investment money, loans, and grants, the factory pushed out the first DMC-12s three years later.

  • The Factory Had Separate Entrances For Catholic And Protestant Employees on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#7) The Factory Had Separate Entrances For Catholic And Protestant Employees

    The site of the DeLorean factory was near Belfast, a location called Dunmurry, and it opened squarely in the middle of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. DeLorean feared conflict would break out among the workers, so he established separate entrances for Catholics and Protestants.

    From the perspective of residents, the different entrances weren't entirely the result of religious differences. Barrie Willis, former supplies director at the factory and eventual CEO, explained:

    It was misleading: the Catholic population lived on Twinbrook, and the Protestant population lived on Seymour Hill estate, on the other side of the railway line. So they came from different directions. Hence the two gates.

    DeLorean was concerned about his own safety and any actions taken by the Irish Republican Army, especially in light of the kidnapping and slaying of Thomas Niedermayer in 1973. Niedermayer had been the manager of the German Grundig electronics factory near the Dunmurry site.

    One additional concern for DeLorean was upsetting the spiritual order of the region. Fairy trees, located throughout the countryside, are to be honored and showed respect. They shouldn't be touched, trimmed, or cut down, but during the construction of DeLorean's factory, at least one fairy tree was said to have been upended by contractors.

  • DeLorean Tried To Manipulate The Media, Evoking The Name Of Rupert Murdoch  on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#8) DeLorean Tried To Manipulate The Media, Evoking The Name Of Rupert Murdoch 

    One of the main stories that exposed DeLorean's inappropriate financial dealings was written by John Lisners. A freelance journalist, Lisners started investigating DeLorean after the car manufacturer himself contacted him. DeLorean, via his assistant Marian Gibson, asked Lisners to reach out to a journalist in the United States who had written a critical account of his time at General Motors. DeLorean offered Lisners £25,000 plus expenses to get the reporter to New York so he could be served legal notice to bar publication of the book. Lisners declined and found his interest in DeLorean acutely piqued.

    Lisners went on to meet with Eddy Koopman, a mutual friend of DeLorean's, who told him about the engineer's excessive spending. Lisners also stayed in touch with Gibson, who contacted him in 1981 and had him come to New York, ready to provide an exclusive story. Gibson laid out the details of how DeLorean was hoping to restructure his company - taking it public - a move that would negatively affect his investors and the British government alike.

    Lisners had the story of a lifetime, one he tried to sell to several London-based newspapers. By that time, media mogul Rupert Murdoch controlled four major national papers, including the London Times. Lisners contacted the newly appointed editor at the Times, Barry Askew, who was enthusiastic about the story. Askew took the story to Murdoch.

    As Lisners waited for his story to go to print, he contacted DeLorean for comment. DeLorean told him, "John, you're never going to get this story published." Why? Lisners asked. "I know who you are and where you are from and you will not get it published because I am a friend of Rupert Murdoch."

    DeLorean was right - Murdoch shut down the story, sending Lisners to the Daily Mirror. While the Mirror gladly published Lisners's work, the journalist was soon banned from all of Murdoch's publication outlets.

  • DeLorean Burned Through The Money At An Alarming (And Highly Suspicious) Rate on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#9) DeLorean Burned Through The Money At An Alarming (And Highly Suspicious) Rate

    Even with the massive amounts of money put into the DeLorean factory and production of the DCM-12, it wasn't enough to prevent financial strife. Barrie Wills, former director of supplies and CEO, explained: 

    The biggest problem we had was that the first business plan that was developed once the project had come to Northern Ireland made it quite clear we’re going to run out of money the day we produced the first car... We always knew that. And that’s why we were constantly under pressure to try and persuade the British government to give us just a bit more money. But that wasn’t forthcoming.

    One of the hurdles to receiving more funding from the British government was Margaret Thatcher. Never a supporter of the factory, Thatcher was aware that DeLorean took roughly $18 million from company finances before the factory was underway. Wills confirmed: "Even before I had started - and I was employee number 12 - John had siphoned off around £18 million of investors' money."

    John Lisners published an article in 1981 revealing DeLorean's plans to restructure the company, a move that would enrich stockholders but leave stock-less investors in financial straits. Thatcher, by then Prime Minister, withdrew promises to provide DeLorean with additional funds, leaving DeLorean desperate to keep his company afloat.

  • When The DeLorean Was Finally Unveiled, It Was Loaded With Problems And Didn't Live Up To The Company's Lofty Promises on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#10) When The DeLorean Was Finally Unveiled, It Was Loaded With Problems And Didn't Live Up To The Company's Lofty Promises

    Car and Driver magazine had an "overwhelmingly positive" first impression of the DMC-12 but was well aware of the hiccups that went into production. The first five cars the publication saw "were abysmally short of any commercial standard of acceptability: switches popped loose, parts fell off, the rattles had squeaks, doors jammed shut, doors refused to latch, and windows fell out of their tracks."

    The problems characterized most of the first DeLoreans that hit the market. Many investors had pre-ordered their cars, including Johnny Carson, who'd invested $500,000 into the company.  Unfortunately, when Carson took his new car for a spin, it broke down just a few miles from the lot. A rescue vehicle sent to retrieve Carson also broke down. 

    The earliest DeLoreans were subject to a recall in November 1981 due to faulty suspensions - not to mention the features that had failed to deliver. The car didn't achieve the promised speeds and, in spite of being heralded as a car that would cost the same as a Corvette - roughly $14,000 - it ultimately ran about $25,000.

  • The Company Unveiled A Crazy-Expensive 'Gold' DeLorean As A Promotion - And Sold Two on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#11) The Company Unveiled A Crazy-Expensive 'Gold' DeLorean As A Promotion - And Sold Two

    Sales of the DeLorean didn't meet expectations, with only about 6,000 finding their way on the roads by 1982. In addition to the standard DMC-12, the company also produced an even more expensive version of the car - this one plated with 24-karat gold.

    According to the original ad for the gold-plated DeLorean, it was "the car of the future - a sports car so spectacular that it surpasses the imagination." DeLorean indicated it would make 100 of the gold-plated versions, telling consumers that time was limited on such an exclusive luxury car. The DeLorean was equipped with...

    A richly appointed Connolly English and Italian glove leather interior, multi-speaker high output stereo system, air conditioning, full instrumentation and electrical locking, a rear-mounted, light alloy overhead cam PRV V6 2.85 litre engine, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, Lambda Sond/catalytic emission control, 5-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic transmission, counter-balanced gull wing doors with cryogenically pre-set stainless steel torsion bars - to name just a few of its features.  

    The price tag was $85,000 - "chargeable, of course, on your American Express Card account." For comparison, a Porsche 911 ran for $27,700 in 1980, while a Corvette cost just over $16,000 in 1981.

    Only two gold-plated DeLoreans were sold, one to a buyer in California and the other to a customer in Texas.

  • Desperate For Funding To Keep His Factory Afloat, John DeLorean Got Embroiled In A Massive Coke Deal on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#12) Desperate For Funding To Keep His Factory Afloat, John DeLorean Got Embroiled In A Massive Coke Deal

    The DeLorean company continued to hemorrhage money. Cars were underselling, the British government denied John DeLorean additional funds when he made a request in January 1982, and the future of the entire enterprise was dire. As the British government placed the company in receivership, the Belfast factory got shut down, and some 2,500 workers were laid off, the depths of DeLorean's desperation became clear.

    On October 19, 1982, DeLorean was detained and charged with possession of coke. According to FBI Special Agent Richard T. Bretzing, DeLorean "expressed an interest in financing some operation that would return quickly on his investment." DeLorean had, with the assistance of his FBI-informant neighbor, agreed to a deal through which he'd offer up DeLorean stock in exchange for more than 50 pounds of coke. This amount was only a fraction of the 220 pounds he'd agreed to purchase.

  • DeLorean Was Caught On Tape But Was Acquitted When It Was Established That An FBI Informant Had Brokered The Entire Deal on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#13) DeLorean Was Caught On Tape But Was Acquitted When It Was Established That An FBI Informant Had Brokered The Entire Deal

    Despite being caught on videotape with large quantities of coke - even declaring it was "better than gold" - DeLorean was acquitted of charges in 1984. That the whole exchange had been orchestrated by an informant provided DeLorean a successful entrapment defense. To further bolster his case, DeLorean hadn't actually exchanged equity as a part of the deal - or ever intended to do so. After a 22-week trial, DeLorean walked away from eight counts of substance conspiracy, possession, and distribution.

    His legal problems were far from over, however. DeLorean's third wife, Cristina Ferrare, filed for divorce in 1985. She took custody of their children, Kathryn and Zachary, who would continue to struggle with their father's actions for decades to come. Ferrare later recalled:

    I was worn down…As much as I loved John and I know he loved me, he was emotionally unavailable... When I thought about all the stuff that he did, I said, "I can't. I have to move on." I lost all of my endorsements. No one would hire me. I was in a bad place, and I needed to get my children into a normal atmosphere.

    DeLorean's investors also began to take legal action. In 1985, DeLorean was indicted on federal fraud charges, accused of bilking investors out of $12.5 million. The indictment also claimed DeLorean used almost $9 million of the funds for personal purchases and to acquire Logan Manufacturing, a company that made equipment to groom ski slopes. 

    DeLorean escaped a fraud conviction but spent the subsequent two decades fending off civil litigation. He paid millions of dollars to investors, creditors, and shareholders, eventually having to declare personal bankruptcy in 1999. 

    DeLorean passed in 2005. By then, he'd married a fourth wife, Sally, with whom he shared a small, one-room apartment in New Jersey.

  • By The Time 'Back To The Future' Came Out - The Car's Shining Moment - The Company Had Already Shut Down on Random DeLorean From 'Back To The Future' Has An Even Crazier Real-Life History Than We Imagined

    (#14) By The Time 'Back To The Future' Came Out - The Car's Shining Moment - The Company Had Already Shut Down

    John DeLorean declared bankruptcy in 1999, but the DeLorean Motor Company had long since been defunct. In 1982, the British government investigated allegations of financial misappropriation, but no charges were ever brought against DeLorean. A few hours before DeLorean was brought in on substance charges in October 1982, the factory in Northern Ireland had been shut down.

    In the midst of DeLorean's legal woes, his car was about to gain widespread attention because of its central role in the 1985 movie Back to the Future. According to Bob Gale, co-writer and producer of the movie:

    There was something dangerous, something counterculture, something so very gorgeous about just how beautiful that car was. And we loved those gull-wing doors.

    The choice of the DeLorean coincided with its namesake's legal troubles and the aftermath of the company's bankruptcy, but it also revitalized the car itself. John DeLorean even sent a letter to the film's director, Robert Zemeckis (who had originally wanted to use a refrigerator to travel in time), thanking him for using - and saving - the car.

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About This Tool

DeLorean Motor Company is a mysterious automobile company in the United States. The special thing about the company is that it has only produced one model of car, called DeLorean.In the science fiction movie "Back to the Future", the car DeLorean that can travel through time and space, was mass-produced in real life, but the company went bankrupt before the movie was released. The founder of the company is John DeLorean. This Englishman was once known as the most daring car businessman in history, and may also be the biggest car liar in history.

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