Back to the future – the only possible headline


Delorean tombstoneEven 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.

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  • Nevin

    Turning heads in Bushmills!

  • scepticacademic
  • Thomas Barber

    “with Protestant workers using one door of the factory and Catholics another”

    I worked in De Lorean for years and thats the first I have ever heard of workers using seperate entrances depending on which side of the religious divide they came from. There was only one factory carpark on the Dunmurry side so all those who drove to work went in through the same entrance and those who walked used the nearest entrance and one of those entrances was on the Twinbrook side.

  • Zig70

    It never really did it for me, smelled of Renault.

  • aquifer

    “It was the hype over a poor spec below the bold design that killed the project” I thought he just drove into an American recession while the IDB insisted he keep paying the new car workers to make cars.

  • Turgon

    The DeLorean had number of problems as a car. Undoubtedly the recession did not help but the car was flawed despite being a very attractive design.
    There were build quality issues which although sorted early are hard to shake off especially at the luxury end of the car market.

    The car was powered by a somewhat inadequate engine. It was a Renault V6 which whilst not fundamentally a bad engine was not sufficiently exotic at the car’s price range. It was also underpowered delivering only about 130bhp in American tune. In contrast an equivalent Porsche 911 SC of the 1980s was lighter and producing about 200bhp.

    The car somewhat fell between two stools: not sporty enough to be a Ferrari 308/ Porsche 911 competitor yet not enough of a luxury vehicle to rival a big Mercedes SL or SLC.

    There was also the difficulty with the design. Rear engined cars are difficult to do well – Porsche has taken decades to get the 911 right and Chevrolet had awful trouble with the Convair. It is difficult to get a big powerful engine in them without making them far too tail heavy and compromising the handling. Lotus had to reengineer the DeLorean and although be report it handled and rode well (Lotus products are always said to do so) that will have added delays etc.

    In addition it is always difficult to base a car range on a single product especially one at the premium end of the market. DeLorean was also used to big firms with multiple product lines. I believe he had planned other vehicles but that never came to fruition.

    DeLorean had a great deal more talent than Danny Bahar who tried a few years ago to take Lotus from a small niche sports car manufacturer and chassis consultancy firm and turn it into another Ferrari. Bahar failed as did DeLorean. Making money from a car firm is difficult especially an independent specialist firm.

  • ted hagan

    I was reading something about hidden hunger strike slogans being carved into the back of the car dashboards.