Reliving the DeLorean experience in Belfast…

Duncan Campbell’s 2009 short film ‘Make it new John’ is on at Belfast Exposed on Thursday night. The archive footage is almost enough to make you crave for early 80s Belfast when the cars rolled daily down the Donegall Road on their way to export from the docks.

Much rarer than an 1950s Morris Minor, you can still buy one (when they come in), or have your old one serviced from the new DMC. But even the parts will cost you an arm and a leg. There was only ever 9,000 of them built by a ‘cross community’ workforce in Dunmurry.

The ambitious project brought a lot of long term unemployed into highly skilled work. Cost overruns meant he had to look to a Thatcher-led government which had already begun to lay waste to much of Britain’s heavy industry. He found no sympathy with what was a legacy project from Jim Callaghan’s Labour government.

The rest is almost exclusively film history…

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As I reguarly made the train journey to Belfast it was always good to see the factory and the line of De Loreans. From 1979 to 1982 I lived in Dungannon (yes I know there was no railway in Dungannon then) and on a Sunday morning the De Loreans would be road tested on the M1. Presumably they had some kinda permissions in regard to speed limits.
    The odd thing is that 9,000 were built but many more DM radios were built. Circa 1982 they were readily available, courtesy some people in the cross community workforce.

    Yet my fondest memory is of the first time I saw one up close. It was on display in the entrance to the old Belfast Co-Operative store in York Street, a regular haunt for me and the lady who became Mrs FitzjamesHorse1745. We were standing watching it with a group of people and a little boy said to his daddy.
    “I dont like the colour daddy”
    And the daddy said “its not painted yet,son”
    Absolutely true story. And I can never think of DMC without thinking of the Belfast Co-Op.
    But the oddest aspect of the DMC story is the sense of “did that really happen? was a sports car made in Belfast at the height of the troubles”
    A peculiar footnote.

  • Turgon

    Much of the problem was with the design of the car: it ended up much heavier than it should have been. Part of that was because the originally envisaged production process had to be redesigned. The idea of a stainless steel unpainted car was one which had not been tried before (nor since and it seems with good reason).

    The suspension was also a problem. Having a rear engined rear wheel drive car can be more difficult to set up. This was solved by having Colin Chapman’s Lotus look at the suspension: I think they completely redesigned it. That created delays and costs, though apparently when they had finished it handled well and safely (not a trivial achievement when Porsches of the same period with the same layout had a reputation for being difficult to drive).

    Then there was the problem that the Peugeot / Renault / Volvo V6 was inadequately powerful especially with US emissions control equipment like catalytic converters (remember those were not required on European cars at the time).

    All the above lead to a marketing problem. The DeLorean was not really a luxury car and nor was it a sports car. It was not as luxurious as say a big Mercerdes coupe nor was it as fast. It was also nowhere near fast enough to be a competitor for the Porsche 911 which the engine layout and suspension might have suggested. The vehicle was over priced for what it was and impressive to look at as it was that alone was not enough especially when there was a lack of percieved history to the marque as there would be to say Mercerdes or Porsche.

  • oracle

    There were design flaws but the modifications made to the original design meant that in fact the De-Lorean was 4.5kg light in the centre.

    To balance this out every De-Lorean thereafter had a 4.5kg tub or P38 Isopon mixed up and smeared into a void near the engine compartment.

    Now whether this is a True story, I sold them nearly 60 cases 4×4.5kgs of the stuff myself or a cover story by the fly-boys who were ordering goods with company order books, in order to resell them to other members of the motor-trade.
    But if they were fly-boys there was other more resellable products that could have been ordered with a vastly greater profit margin.

    So I think it’s true

  • 2 frys 2 teas

    accident repair also a complete headache.

  • tacapall

    I remember the De Lorean well, I worked in the factory repairing them when damaged, a great deal of money went on the presses that manufactured the doors, wings bonnets etc and there was problems with the chassis which was eventually sorted after a lot of training of the workers on that side of the assembly line and trial and error. I remember a gold plated one was made and myself and others repairing the little kinks that went with the presses, security guards standing behind us with little bags collecting the dust from our sanders machines. You would have to believe that other car manufacturers considered the De Lorean a threat to their future profit as there was a family saloon type car being designed for the European market, in the end thats what closed him down.

  • JAH

    Don’t forget that the £ collapsed famously hitting dollar parity one week. If did for DMC, MG and Triumph as well.

    DeLorean wrote a best seller ‘On a Clear Day You Can See GM” which had one chapter on the Corvair that turned out to be prophetic regarding his own fate:

    “How do Moral Men make Immoral decisions.”


  • Munsterview

    oracle : “But if they were fly-boys there was other more re-sellable products that could have been ordered with a vastly greater profit margin….”

    Seems that things were not much different North or South ! Fords in Cork also had the reputation for parts ‘walking’

    Story goes that two workers leaving Fords in Cork before production closure, they were looking at a third worker ahead dressed in a big long overcoat and stumbling along awkwardly.

    First one ” Come here to me boy do you see Gerry, is he all right?”

    Second ” Erra nothing at all wrong with him, if he got a good push and he will start”