IDB suggests Clive Sinclair considered buying into Lotus Cars and manufacturing in De Lorean plant at Dunmurry #20yearrule

Production of the DMC-12 car commenced in February 1981 in the purpose-built 500,000 sq ft building on the outskirts of Dunmurry. In an earlier post I outlined some of the details contained in Ken Bloomfields’s papers about the De Lorean project that were released this morning in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

A year later production was discontinued in February 1982 when De Lorean Motor Cars Limited was put into receivership. Employment peaked at 2,636.

Another June 1983 file also released this morning gives more detail to the understanding that Clive Sinclair considered producing the Sinclair C5 electric vehicle in the defunct De Lorean plant at Dunmurry.

Lotus had a large hand in the design of both the gull-wing DMC-12 and the diminutive chassis for the Sinclair C5. (It’s a cruel irony that more C5s were manufactured than DMC-12s … though eventual sales figures were very similar.)

But rather than just investigating the production of the C5 in Dunmurry, the Department for Economic Development (Industrial Development Board) paper suggests that Sinclair was also considering buying a controlling interest in Lotus Cars Ltd and had much larger plans for the south Belfast plant.

In May 1983 the receivers granted an option to Mr Clive Sinclair for the purchase of the remaining plant and machinery in Belfast. Mr Sinclair is considering the purchase of a controlling interest in Lotus Cars Limited and has tentative plans for the manufacture of cars at Dunmurry commencing in 1985. If these proposals move ahead Mr Sinclair will wish to discuss financial assistance towards the development of these plans with IDB.

NB Mr Sinclair and his associates have emphasized the absolute need to maintain the confidence of this information since Lotus Cars is a publicly quoted company. [emphasis added]

Did the IDB mix up the C5 electrically powered tricycle with a Lotus car? Or did Sinclair really have a larger ambition?

Ultimately, the Sinclair C5 was assembled in 1985 in Wales.

The counterfactual history of Lotus cars being (even partially) manufactured in Dunmurry is like a crazy dream after eating too much cheese!

Photo of C5 via Prioryman on Wikipedia.

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  • Barrie Wills

    As managing director of Clive Sinclair’s 1983 vehicle project and a party with Clive to the discussions with the IDB, I can categorically state there was never a plan for the Sinclair C5 or any other electric vehicle to be manufactured in Dunmurry. The confidentiality referred to in the IDB document related to Clive Sinclair’s planned purchase of the Chapman family controlling equity in Group Lotus and an extended plan to build a small 3-cylinder 850cc Lotus at volumes of 20,000 per annum in the former DeLorean plant. The story behind this and the reason for it not going ahead is to be part of the prequel/sequel to my 2015 book John Z, the DeLorean & Me, to be published in October 2017.

  • Thanks for clarifying … keep in touch about the book

  • Barrie Wills

    Your welcome. I’ll send an email so you are on my records.

  • Nigel Searle

    Barrie, You may remember me from Sinclair. Though my involvement was primarily with the computer side of the business, I do remember Clive asking me to meet with people from Lotus. I’m looking forward to reading your book later this year. Best wishes.

  • Barrie Wills

    Nigel – how good to hear from you. Of course I remember you. Are you still in contact with Clive? I haven’t heard from him in more than five years. I’m not sure how private this exchange is. I’d like to confer with you on the Sinclair bits of my current book. Could you please email Best regards. Barrie

  • Barrie Wills

    I cover most of the events referred to in my book, John Z, the DeLorean & Me – tales from an insider. I suggest a read of that is in order to provide a balanced view, Slugger. Barrie Wills (third and final chief executive of DeLorean Motor Cars Limited, Dunmurry, Northern Ireland)