March 24, 2005 by

John DeLorean


Categories: Business, Military

jdelorean.jpgJohn Zachary DeLorean, an engineer and entrepreneur who developed several cars for top automakers before branching off on his own, died on March 19 of complications from a stroke. He was 80.
DeLorean was the eldest son of a Ford Motor Company foundry worker. The Detroit native attended the Lawrence Institute of Technology on a music scholarship, served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II and earned a master’s degree in automotive engineering from the Chrysler Institute. He worked for the Chrysler Corporation until 1952, then was named head of research and development at Packard.
In the 1960s, DeLorean developed the Catalina and Bonneville for General Motors’ Pontiac division. He encouraged the automaker to offer smaller, sleeker models and helped produce the Tempest, Pontiac’s first compact car. DeLorean also premiered the Pontiac GTO, a souped-up hotrod with a V-8 engine, and marketed it to young, affluent men. Dubbed “The Goat,” it was widely acknowledged as one of the first “muscle cars.”
Although DeLorean’s success at GM seemed virtually guaranteed to take him into the higher echelons of the company, he resigned in 1973 to launch the DeLorean Motor Car Co. in Northern Ireland. In the hopes of generating 2,000 new jobs, the British government sank $120 million into the $200 million project. Eight years later, DeLorean’s unpainted, stainless steel sports car hit the streets. The gull-winged DeLorean DMC-12 became a household name after it was featured as a time travel machine in the “Back to the Future” films, but poor reviews and quality control issues kept consumers from buying the vehicle.
At the same time, DeLorean faced serious legal troubles. In 1982, he was arrested in Los Angeles and accused of conspiring to sell 55 pounds of cocaine — worth $24 million — to salvage his business. DeLorean claimed he was the victim of entrapment and fought the charges in court. Despite the existence of a videotape on which he accepted the delivery of a suitcase full of cocaine, DeLorean was acquitted by a jury in 1984. His company eventually collapsed after producing less than 9,000 cars. DeLorean was cleared of defrauding the company’s investors, as well, yet his legal entanglements forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1999.
During his hey day, DeLorean was known for his playboy lifestyle and flamboyant personality. A workaholic, he reportedly slept for only four hours a night. After his arrest, DeLorean settled down and became a born-again Christian. The former automobile industrialist lived his final years on social security and occasional consulting fees. To honor the automaker, 25 owners of DeLoreans parked their cars in front of the Royal Oak, Mich., funeral home where his memorial service was held.

10 Responses to John DeLorean

  1. Carlos RIVERA


  2. Daun Slagle

    I drove my fisrt 5 speed 1981 DMC-12 at age 17, back in 1986. The car was only 5 years young at that time. I knew then that it was my goal and dream to one day own one of my own. On November 1, 2004, that dream came true. When I’m behind the wheel of it, every head turns to stare. Someone always has a smile on there face to see it. They are such a beautiful peice of artwork. Mine is in mint condition with very very low miles. My only regret in owning my “D” is that she has to remain parked and covered for such long periods of time. That is such a waste of what she was built for. She deserves to be shown off, and take her place on the road to be admired as she always is. John’s dream became my dream… Thank you John Zachary DeLorean for your hard work, ambition, commitment and devotion. I protect your dream everyday, as I care for this car. I hold you at no fault of commiting a crime for doing the same. And in researching your life story my next dream is now to find and restore a GTO, at some point. You will always live on. You were done a great injustice. Your cars were so before their time.

  3. Lisa Doyle

    My father Frank Doyle died of cancer 6 weeks before John DeLorean’s passing. Dad was an avid car fan and often had at least 4 cars simultaneously, with usually only one in the “project phase” at a time. He passed that passion on to me. A few years ago he shocked (and amused) everyone by buying a DeLorean (he was 72). He couldn’t identify two switches on the console so labeled them “Flux capacitor” and “Time warp.” After his death, my mom signed over the car to my brother and I. It’s a pretty cool memento of Dad.

  4. nora wujcik

    My husband, Jos. Wujcik worked with DeLorean back in the early 50’s at Paramount Engineering Co. In those days there were many up and coming car designers. They kept track of each other over the years. DeLorean was known as the flamboyant one. My husband’s last big auto project was a model for U.S. Steel which appeared in the Detroit car show in Jan. 1969. DeLorean came by to see it, and there was reminiscing back and forth. My husband went to Ford Motor after he left Paramount, and worked on the Edsel. At that time John DeLorean was with GM.

  5. Aaron J. Platt

    America has lost both a brilliant automotive designer and engineer as well as a decent and honorable man. The father of the GTO, Grand Prix and Monte Carlo as well as the DMC-12, DeLorean offered the people so much and changed our perceptions of car design. A victim of government entrapment, he was able to defeat Uncle Sam’s persecution in two trials, only to be bankrupted by greedy lawyers.
    I hope that this great man may finally rest in peace. John Zachary DeLorean has left the building.

  6. Adrian Hamilton

    During the 1970’s I was employed as a Car Sales Executive for a Vauxhall Main Dealer in the United Kingdom; John de Lorean was an inspiration to me. I for one will always remember him as the charismatic icon that he was. John wherever ‘somewhere’ is? I for one know you’ll be doing the right thing.

  7. Delorean Florin

    Hello! My name is Delorean Florin, i am from Romania, and my grandfather was brother whit John Delorean’ s father. I am glad that i founded so much information about my uncle. It is true, my grandfather, gave me some pictures with John father, from his wedding. They couldn’t keep in touc because of the cumunists! They didn’t allow to corespond with persons from democratic states. Sorry from my english!

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