Cars We Love: DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12 might have captivated teenage cinema-goers and fascinated sci-fi buffs in the mid 1980s, but in reality the striking coupé was poorly finished and technically far behind its rivals. So how is the gull-winged time machine received today? Classic Driver investigates…

A rare encounter

Driving along a French highway this summer, I was approached by what turned out to be a DeLorean DMC-12, its shiny steel body glinting in the midday sun. I had never seen the quirky gullwing in the wild before and I was slightly taken aback. While I was among those who saw the original Back to the Future at the cinema, I'd always dreamt of the hoverboard rather than ‘Doc’ Brown’s time machine. But this well-kept example, spotted completely out of the blue, instilled a new sense of longing. After all, nothing ever came of the hoverboard, did it?  

An ethical vision

The DMC-12 wasn’t ‘just' another 1980s sports car. It was an innovative concept dreamt up by John DeLorean, who had given up his managerial job at General Motors in order to go it alone. His idea was for an ‘ethical’ sports car, with compact dimensions, efficient performance and high levels of safety. To top it off, Giorgetto Giugiaro was entrusted with designing the elaborate coupé, which has now secured a position in the collectors’ market.

With its distinctive stainless-steel body, the DMC-12 polarised opinion and, ultimately, the production process failed to correspond with DeLorean’s ‘ethical’ vision. Furthermore, the build quality of the approximately 9,200 examples built at the Northern Ireland plant left a lot to be desired. Following a mammoth financial crash, the whole automotive industry was struggling  sales of the DeLorean were nowhere near as high as expected and, in 1982, Margaret Thatcher (the Prime Minister responsible for the huge co-financing agreement with DeLorean) turned off the money tap. Suffice to say, good examples today are rare. 

The model pictured

The DMC-12 pictured here is from the collection of the Texan Sam Pack, and has covered just 200 miles. It will be offered by RM Auctions on 15 November. If you were going to take the plunge on this quirky Eighties wedge, you’ll find few examples finer than this one. 

Photos: RM Auctions

This article is part of the series 'Cars we Love', in which we bring you our favourite classics and modern classics, every Saturday morning.