Initiated in 1974 as an "ethical sports car," the 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12” was designed by Bill Collins, another on­e-time Pontiac engineer. Lotus of England eventually reworked the entire concept, which emerged as a $25,000 rear-engine two-seat coupe with gullwing doors, steel X-member backbone chassis à la Lotus, all-independent suspension, and fiberglass inner body with stainless-steel outer panels.

1981-1982 DeLorean DMC12
1981 DeLorean DMC-12 coupe.  See more pictures of sports cars.

The car features many proprietary components -- notably French "PRV" V-6 and five-speed transaxle. It was assembled at a new purpose-built factory in Northern Ireland. The “DMC-12” was promoted to the skies, but sales never met estimates. Numerous assembly problems forced costly fixes, and the firm's finances were both complex and evidently shady.

The 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12” was the most notorious car since the Tucker, not so much for its abundant faults as the scandal involving its creator: former Pontiac engineer, Pontiac/Chevrolet chief John Z. DeLorean.


The coup de grâce was DeLorean's 1982 indictment on drug charges. He was later cleared of allegations that he bilked some of his investors, including the British government, which had bankrolled the plant. DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982, forcing some 1200 late-production cars to be sold at some $6,000 off list by a Columbus, Ohio, liquidator. A planned sedan and turbo conversion were left stillborn.

Today, the “DMC-12” seems an honest if flawed car. And unlike Preston Tucker, John Z. built more than a token few. Still, the model remains a classic case of a swinger's ego overpowering common sense.


Pluses of the 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12:”
  • A controversial modern failure
  • Decent performance (under 10 seconds 0-60)
  • Small but enthusiastic owners group
  • More "finished" than a Bricklin (though that's not saying much)
  • Some glitches already rectified on some cars
  • Some cars painted post-purchase
Minuses of the 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12:”
  • Tail-happy rear-engine handling
  • Mediocre drivetrain
  • Vision astern nearly nil
  • Next to no luggage space
  • Tight cockpit
  • Inconvenient "mail-slot" door windows
  • Awkward gullwing doors
  • Quality still highly variable despite owner fixes
Production of the 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12:”
approx. 8,500


Specifications of the 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12:”Wheelbase, inches: 94.8
Length, inches
: 168.0
Weight, pounds
: 2840
Price, new
: $25,000 (U.S.)


Engines for the 1981-1982 DeLorean “DMC-12:”

Type Size
Horsepower Years
ohv V-6
174 cc
130 1981-1982

Want more information about classic cars? See: