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What Happened to the DeLorean?

delorean with one door raised

What is the first car you found yourself really obsessed with? 

For drivers of a certain age, it was very likely the DeLorean. This car’s futuristic design and cool color scheme were already enough to make it a hit with young, impressionable minds, but what really made this car famous was its prominent appearance in the Back to the Future movies. 

These days, though, you hardly ever see this vehicle on the road unless you’re at a classic car show where owners protect their luxury vehicles with the right car insurance. Just what happened to this possibly rarest luxury sports car of all? Keep reading as we explore what happened to this amazing vehicle! 

The Original Creation of the DeLorean 

As a company, DeLorean was created by John Zachary DeLorean in 1975. Previously, DeLorean worked as a division head for his eventual competitor: General Motors. Nevertheless, as he looked into the late 1970s and beyond, this innovator decided there were more than a few things he wanted to change about the automobile industry. 

By 1981, the glorious DeLorean cars were in production. However, only two years later, this iconic car would cease being made. Ironically, by the time Marty McFly and Doc Brown helped make this car famous in Back to the Future, it had already been out of production for two years! 

To understand what made the DMC DeLorean sports car such a hit, we need to focus on the classic design that made it one of the most famous cars in history. 

A Car Built for the Future 

In retrospect, it’s not hard to see why the DeLorean was chosen for a film with “future” in the title. That’s because, from the top down, John Z. DeLorean designed a car that would make people think it was from the future. 

Part of this is due to the stainless-steel design. Even if you’re not much of a car buff, it’s easy to look at the stainless-steel body of this vehicle and know that it’s like nothing else you have seen on the road. 

The car’s futuristic scheme kicks into overdrive when you see the doors open. The gull-wing doors open from the bottom rather than from the side, giving the impression that a driver is getting into his own spaceship rather than a sports car. 

From stainless steel body panels to gullwing doors, this vehicle looked like some kind of prototype or concept car from the future. Unfortunately, this car wouldn’t leave its true mark on society until a long time after the manufacturer went bankrupt. 

Production Quality Problems 

In 1983, the production of the DeLorean DMC-12 ended because the company went bankrupt. Given how cool the design was and how popular the car became, you might be wondering: Just how did it get to this point? 

One reason the company only ever produced 9,000 DeLoreans is that it experienced many production issues. At the factory, assembly line workers did not have the necessary engineering experience. As such, the project had quality control issues from the earliest months. 

It also doesn’t help that John DeLorean promised a different model of car than he ultimately ended up delivering. Initially, the man promised to design a small car with a fast engine. In reality, the cars produced at his factory weren’t nearly as fast as famous vehicles from General Motors’ history, including the Pontiac Firebird or Pontiac GTO. Furthermore, despite the big talk, this new company’s founder delivered an automobile with poor handling and poor fuel efficiency. In the end, the car will always be a design classic, but the original DeLorean Motor Company produced something that very few people really wanted to drive. 

When a Good Deal Goes Bad 

Despite the fact that DeLorean founded his own business in Detroit, he ended up producing his signature automobiles elsewhere. At first, he had plans to manufacture them in Puerto Rico. However, he soon received a better offer from the British government. Once he agreed to the offer, he began producing his vehicles in Northern Ireland. 

The deal seemed great at first, and John DeLorean ultimately received $120 million in grants to help produce these automobiles. However, it then took three weeks to ship the cars across the Atlantic to interested buyers in America. In addition, the currency exchange really hurt the company founder and effectively made each sale less profitable than it could otherwise have been. 

In order to continue to achieve desired profits, the car was priced much higher. Ultimately, though, the high price ended up being just one more reason customers weren’t interested in this model until it had ceased being produced and served as an onscreen time machine. 

delorean car with doors up

Consumers Balked at the High Price 

When the DeLorean was still being manufactured, it sold for a whopping $25,000. That may not seem that expensive these days. But if you adjust for inflation, that is equivalent to more than $72,000 in today’s money. To put things into better context, this was half again as expensive as a Chevy Corvette at the time! 

If the car was still being sold when Back to the Future came out, the company might have made a major profit. However, the company was largely tied to its founder, and his burgeoning legal troubles would spell doom for the brand before the film savior could appear. 

DeLorean Gets Busted 

In retrospect, it’s difficult to imagine that DMC went bankrupt only two years after beginning production of its titular vehicle. Nonetheless, the company going bankrupt in 1983 makes a lot more sense when you learn the founder was arrested in 1982! 

After a successful sting operation by the FBI, John DeLorean was arrested after being caught on film agreeing to provide the funding for a cocaine smuggling operation. In turn, he was hoping to use proceeds from the smuggling to prop up his company, which was currently bleeding money. 

In the end, the charges didn’t stick due to entrapment laws, but it didn’t matter: One week after he was arrested, John DeLorean’s company filed for bankruptcy due to insolvency. Eventually, an Ohio-based company bought the remaining stock and sold each vehicle for $21,000. 

A Car That Went Back to the Future 

Two years after the company went bankrupt, Back to the Future came out. This movie featured the DeLorean as a car that could travel through time and fly through futuristic landscapes. 

Many younger fans of the movie are unaware of the complicated history behind the DeLorean. In fact, this history is why Marty McFly is so shocked that Doc Brown chose this, out of all car models, to turn into a time machine! 

Over the course of the film series, six traditional DeLoreans were used. Additionally, the crew had a special fiberglass car to make the flying scenes happen. Out of those automobiles, the fiberglass one was turned to scrap, one car was destroyed (at the end of the third film), and two were left abandoned. 

These days, only three of the film cars remain: two owned (and sometimes displayed) by Universal Studios and one you can view on display at Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. 

A New CEO and a New Future 

Despite the success of Back to the Future, those movies are now decades-old. Pop culture nostalgia could only keep the DeLorean alive for so long. 

Fortunately, Stephen Wynne took over as DMC CEO in 1995. He doesn’t actually make new cars, but he helps restore old DeLoreans for new buyers. He is able to do so because he has over 4 million spare parts that these vintage vehicles need. Whether on display or on the road, there are still 6,500 DeLoreans out of the original 9,000-car run, and many of them have been restored with the help of this CEO. 

There is even a slim chance we will see new models of this classic design. Back in 2019, Wynne claimed he wanted to take advantage of the brand’s equity to create some kind of SUV or even electric vehicle. While there have been no real updates since then, the idea of an electric DeLorean seems perfectly in line with the futurism this brand is known for! 

Protect Your Own Classic Car with Affordable Auto Insurance Today! 

Now you know what happened to the DeLorean, and you know if it weren’t for the modern DMC helping restore these older vehicles, we might never see them again. 

Do you have a vintage car of your own? In that case, it’s equally important that you know how to protect it. The best way of doing so is through classic car insurance. Instead of getting it through your current company, this may be the perfect time to find a new insurer. 

If you’re ready to protect your vintage car like never before, it only takes a few minutes to get a quick online quote from Freeway Insurance, though speaking directly to an expert by calling 800-777-5620 or in person at a local office is always an option available to you! 

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