Car Maker – Con Man
Recently on a trip to London I went in to St Martin Models in Cecil Court, a model car shop specializing in die cast model cars and there it was, a 1/18 scale model an exact scaled down replica of the DeLorean DMC-12. The DeLorean DMC -12 is commonly referred to as, The DeLorean, it was the only sports car ever produced by John DeLorean’s DeLorean Motor Company for the American market over a two year period, 1981 to 1982.
Who was John DeLorean?
Well for those of you who have forgotten or don’t know, John DeLorean was the son of a Ford factory worker and grew up in Detroit during the great depression. He excelled at school and obtained an engineering degree from Lawrence Technical College later followed by a masters at the Chrysler Institute.
John DeLorean began his career with Packard, then an old-fashioned car maker facing extinction, DeLorean helped to revive it, when he left in 1956 he had registered 12 patents. He then joined General Motors at their Pontiac division who were also in trouble with their image, and became well known in Detroit for creating the 1961 Tempest, a best-selling, fast, small car. In 1965 he launched the GTO for Pontiac, a fast car which had a great youth appeal, and at 40, John DeLorean became the youngest vice-president in General Motor’s history.
DeLorean needed well in excess of $100 million to finance his stainless steel gull-winged dream. So, he assembled a team, registered a company, raised over $12 million from one hundred investors in the United States and he then approached the Industrial Development Authority in 1977. The IDA examined the project in detail and concluded that they had serious misgivings about viability of the project and they also doubted the oversell approach of DeLorean, therefore, they declined to finance the production of his car.
DeLorean was somewhat shocked by the IDA’s decision not to fund the production of his car in Ireland, so, he immediately approached the British government with his project and they decided to take the risk and £77 million was pumped into the project through the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) despite the fact that there were strong indicators that the car may not rack up the projected sales figures that DeLorean indicated in his presentation to the NIO.
Even though the British Treasury still had doubts about DeLorean’s project the NIO were anxious to create jobs in Belfast in order to reduce unemployment and the civil unrest that existed at that time. The NIO decided it was a gamble worth taking and the assembly plant was constructed in Dunmurry in South West Belfast and production officially began in January 1981 and the first DMC-12 rolled off the production line on the 21 January 1981. DeLorean’s dream had finally become a reality.
All in all approximately 9,000 were made including three 24-Carat Gold Plated models and there are still 6,500 on the roads worldwide with approximately 100 of them owned by enthusiasts in Ireland. Of the three 24-Carat Gold Models, one of these is on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum, Los Angeles the second is at the National Automobile Museum, Reno, Nevada and the third gold plated model is held by a private owner in La Vale, Maryland and has been for sale on line with a price tag of $250,000, but still seems to have remained unsold.
Despite a brilliant early engineering career, John DeLorean was a world-class con man and among his victims of fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion were the British, American and Swiss Governments. In 1982, DeLorean was arrested in a multimillion dollar cocaine bust. He had hoped that the money could help re-float his insolvent company, however, he was acquitted on the basis of illegal entrapment.
John Zachary DeLorean, car maker and con man born 6 January 1925 and died 19 March 2005.
PJ Lynch Company
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