Even now it’s hard to believe it ever happened. Remember the famous gull wings of the pride of Dumurry? And its big sell as the saviour of Northern Ireland with Protestant workers using one door of the factory and Catholics another? As it was written so it must be true, in the era of the hunger strike. It was one hell of a diversion from the Troubles and won us a different sort of headline for a while before fate caught up. a In one sense it was the most famous – or notorious – piece of Belfast engineering since the Titanic. And like the Titanic, it has risen from the dead.
A small Texas-based firm will restart production of the infamous DeLorean DMC-12 – of “Back to the Future” fame – early next year, producing a modernized version of the 1980s vintage car.
James Espey, VP of DMC Texas, said they plan to produce about 300 cars for four years.
Since acquiring the full stock of spare parts from the original DeLorean factory in Belfast, Ireland in 1997, they have become the go-to source for owners. Among their five locations, they see over 100 cars a year.
“We have a 40,000 square-foot warehouse filled with parts,” Espey said. That will enable them to build 300 new cars over the next four years from almost entirely original components while still maintaining ample spares for both old and new DeLoreans.
John DeLorean was an exotic bird, a genuinely gifted motor engineer who ran divisions of General Motors and had a touch of Hollywood glamour about him. His salesmanship took Belfast by storm. Secretary of state Roy Mason handed over a cool £100 million in subsidies. It was the hype over a poor spec below the bold design that killed the project, not the Troubles. Who cared if the gull wings weren’t practical? Quite a few, it turned out. When he ran out of funds, John Zachary tried a Californian ploy with disastrous results. Although caught on camera he escaped a cocaine rap on grounds of entrapment and the finding that had allowed himself to be set up. Although married four times, the car was his biggest romance and its image was etched on his tomb.
Hands up, who thinks the DMC looks amazing even today? I do.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London