Obama’s presidential limousine is not the only car making marks on the streets of Northern Ireland this week (take a look at this video); the infamous DeLorean (yes, this is the correct way to write its name) brand is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the region. While we’d like to say the celebration is for the brand’s birthday, it’s mere one year of life from 1981 to 1982 makes it inappropriate to do so. In fact, any auto marque that can make the also extinct Oldsmobile brand (remember that?) look strong and still have a quasi-cult following is something of a feat. Northern Ireland is in fact a very significant player in DeLorean’s history. Among the various investments that John DeLorean secured, and eventually flatlined on, was investment from foreign governments; this was before he turned to drug trafficking. Mr. DeLorean did not seek out cheap, unfair labor to build his cars though, he wanted to help the unemployed, and there was no better place at the time to give someone a job than in Northern Ireland. Soon enough he took up a last-minute offer from the Northern Ireland’s Industrial Development Board, an offer that was ultimately made to create jobs and reduce sectarian violence in the region. The only model that the brand would churn out in the Emerald Isle was the famous DMC-12.
Most commonly known simply as the DeLorean, the DMC-12 was the one and only model to come from the brand, and in its short life and small litter of about 9,000, the car still garners international attention for its exotic “good” looks and Hollywood associations. With most relating the car to its cameo in the hugely popular “Back To The Future” franchise, the DMC-12 evokes a futuristic and bizarre design scheme that undoubtedly catches your attention, though not always for the right reasons. If the DeLorean is actually a peak into the future, we’re doomed. But we all know the controversy surrounding the cars design so we’ll stop bullying. Under all the stainless steel panels (all except for three plated in 24-karat gold left the factory uncovered by paint or clearcoat) is a powerhouse that is anything but exotic or supercar worthy. With a French-designed and produced PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) fuel injected 140 horsepower V6 mated to either a 5-speed stick or 3-speed auto, the U.S.-spec reached 60 in a blisteringly cold 10.5 seconds. Although bad, this was still likely an improvement over the initial plans to install a Citroën Wankel rotary engine. Based largely on on the Lotus Espirit, the car had four-wheel independent suspension, a comfortable ride and 4-wheel disc brakes; all features that you could consider admirable in the early eighties. Also, while the name DMC-12 came from its original list price of $12,000, new DeLoreans had a suggested retail of $25,000, or about $60k today.
So, while the car had a very short life, controversial styling, little power and likely illegal substances in the trunk, it is an automotive pariah that receives love and admiration across the globe. And if it is mostly because of its perceived ability to travel through time, so be it. Happy 30th DeLorean.
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