By Wikipedia / Edited for ModernRacer.com
In the late 1970s, flamboyant former GM executive John Z. DeLorean--known for the success of his Wide Track Pontiacs--set out to build the perfect sports car, with plans to sell it for just $12,000 (thus the nomenclature "DMC-12"). Enlisting the help of Lotus for engineering and Giorgio Guigiaro for the design, DeLorean looked primed for success. The DMC-12 was named with the goal of producing the car for $12,000 but once the long development process was complete it retailed at close to $28,000.
In October 1976, the first prototype DeLorean DMC-12 was completed by William T. Collins, chief engineer and designer (formerly chief engineer at Pontiac). Originally, the car's rear-mounted power plant was to be a CitroŽn Wankel rotary engine, but was replaced with a French-designed and produced PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) fuel injected V-6 because of the poor fuel economy of the rotary engine, an important issue at a time of world-wide fuel shortages. Collins and De Lorean envisioned a chassis produced from a new and untested manufacturing technology known as Elastic Reservoir Moulding (ERM), which would contribute to the weight characteristics of the car while presumably lowering its production costs. This new technology, for which De Lorean had purchased patent rights, would eventually be found to be unsuitable for mass production.
These and other changes to the original concept led to considerable schedule pressures. The entire car was deemed to require almost complete re-engineering, which was turned over to engineer Colin Chapman, founder and owner of Lotus. Chapman replaced most of the dubious material and manufacturing techniques with those currently being employed by Lotus; specifically, the existing suspension and chassis from the Lotus Esprit were used in the DMC-12. The original Giorgetto Giugiaro body design was left mostly intact, as were the distinctive stainless steel outer skin and gull-wing doors. (Giugiaro had also designed the Lotus Esprit.)
The DMC-12 would eventually be built in a factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a neighborhood only a few miles from Belfast City Centre. Construction on the factory began in October 1978, and although production of the DMC-12 was scheduled to start in 1979, engineering issues and budget overruns delayed production until 1981. By that time, the unemployment rate was high in Northern Ireland and local residents lined up to apply for jobs at the factory. The workforce was comprised of both Protestants and Catholics who were happy to put religious differences aside and work together as a team. The production personnel were largely inexperienced, but were paid premium wages and supplied with the best equipment available. Most quality issues were solved by 1982 and the cars were sold with a five-year, 50,000-mile (80 000 km) warranty.
Although the DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following John DeLorean's October 1982 arrest, unassembled DMC-12s were completed by Consolidated (now part of KAPAC). A total of about 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and December 1982. Almost a fifth of these were produced in October 1981. Very few cars were produced between February and July 1982, although serious production returned in August that year. At least one source indicates that only 8,583 DMC-12s were ever produced.
The body of the DMC-12 was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and clad entirely in brushed SS304 stainless steel. Except for three cars plated in 24k gold, all DMC-12s left the factory uncovered by paint or clearcoat. The stainless steel panels are fixed to a glass-reinforced plastic monocoque underbody. The underbody is affixed to a double-Y frame chassis, designed from the Lotus Elan platform.
Another novel feature of the DMC-12 is its gull-wing doors. The common problem of supporting the weight of gull-wing doors was solved by other manufacturers with lightweight doors in the Mercedes-Benz 300SL and an air pump in the Bricklin SV-1, although these designs had structural or convenience issues. The DMC-12 features heavy doors supported by cryogenically preset torsion bars and gas-charged struts. These torsion bars were manufactured by Grumman Aerospace to withstand the stresses of supporting the doors. These doors only extend 11 inches outside the line of the car, making opening and closing the doors in crowded parking lots relatively easy. Much like the doors fitted to the Lamborghini Countach, the DMC-12 doors featured small cutout windows, because full-sized windows would not be fully retractable within the short door panels.
The Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6 engine inside a De Lorean car.The DMC-12 is powered by the PRV V6, developed jointly by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo. The engine is derived from the Volvo B28F, fitted with a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system and modified to be mounted in reverse. The PRV is a 90-degree layout, displaces 2.66 liters, and has a compression ratio of 8.8:1. The engine block and heads are cast of light alloy and the engine features single overhead camshafts driving two valves per cylinder. When new, this engine was rated for 130 hp at 5,500 rpm and 153 lb-ft at 2750 rpm.
Two transmissions were available for the DMC-12: a three-speed automatic and a five-speed manual transmission, both with a final drive ratio of 3.44:1. The manual transmission is a Renault 30 gearbox. Most cars were fitted with manual transmissions. The engine in the DMC-12 is mounted behind the rear axle, much like the VW Beetle and Porsche 911. The transaxle stretches forward between the axles.
The underbody and suspension of the DMC-12 were based largely on the Lotus Esprit, with a four-wheel independent suspension, coil springs, and telescopic [[shock absorbers. The front suspension used double wishbones, while the rear was a multi-link setup. In its original development stages, the car is said to have handled quite well. Considering that Lotus's reputation was built largely on the handling prowess of the cars the company produced, the DMC-12's smooth ride wasn't a surprise. Unfortunately, changing safety standards in the U.S. required modifications to the suspension system and an increase in the vehicle's factory ride height, both of which had adverse effects on the car's handling capabilities.
John DeLorean had originally envisioned that the car would produce somewhere around 200 horsepower, but eventually settled on a 170 horsepower output for the engine. However, stringent new US emissions regulations required that parts such as catalytic converters be added to the vehicle before it could be sold in that country. Although the new parts qualified the vehicle for sale in the US, they caused serious reductions to power output, to 130 horsepower. The 40 horsepower loss seriously impeded the DMC-12's performance, and when combined with the forced changes to the vehicle's suspension system, the US versions were regarded as disappointing. DeLorean's comparison literature noted that the DMC-12 could achieve 0Ė60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which would have been good for the time, but Road & Track magazine clocked the car at 10.5 seconds. However, it's possible that the factory performance numbers were achieved using a European spec car with the 170 horsepower engine.
New DMC-12s had a suggested retail price of $25,000 ($650 more when equipped with an automatic transmission); this is equivalent to approximately $56,000 in 2005 dollars. There were extensive waiting lists of people willing to pay up to $10,000 above the list price; however, after the collapse of the DeLorean Motor Company, unsold cars could be purchased for under the retail price.
Prices for DMC-12s vary widely with quality and demand, which varies over time. However, as of 2005, running examples command approximately $15,000 and excellent low-mileage examples have changed hands for twice that sum. There are an estimated 6,000 surviving DMC-12s today. A Texas-based company called the DeLorean Motor Company sells refurbished DMC-12s starting at $37,500, priced according to condition. The cars are available with modern amenities, such as performance engine upgrades, two-toned heated/cooled seats, and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights. This company has no relationship with the original DeLorean Motor Company.
The original alternator supplied with the early production DMC-12s could not provide enough current to supply the car when all lights and electrical options were on; as a result, the battery would gradually discharge, leaving the driver stranded on the road. This happened to DeLorean owner Johnny Carson shortly after he was presented with the vehicle.
Several special-edition DMC-12 cars have been produced over the years, including several that were used in the films of the Back to the Future trilogy.