Image credits: © DeLorean.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

John Z. DeLorean was a veteran of Chrysler and Packard and joined Pontiac in the mid-1950s and with 'Bunkie' Knudsen, helped engineer the performance-based transformation that the company, including the introduction of the Pontiac GTO. He became head of Pontiac in 1965 and Chevrolet by 1970, ultimately becoming V.P. of GM's entire car and truck production in 1972. A year later, DeLorean left G.M. and organized the DeLorean Motor Company, soon introducing the DeLorean Safety vehicle two-seater prototype. It wore styling by Giorgetto Giurgi Giorgetto Giurgiaro of Italdesign, with stainless-steel body panels, gullwing-style doors, and PRV (Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo) V-6 engine. It was called the DMC-12 and was manufactured in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a location chosen partly due to the large financial incentives from the Northern Ireland Development Agency.

Engineer William T. Collings, formerly chief engineer at Pontiac, completed the first prototype in October of 1976. Initially, plans were to use a centrally-mounted Wankel rotary engine, but when Comotor production ended, the Ford Cologne V6 engine was considered. The fuel-injected V6 PRV engine was eventually selected, and the mid-engine location of the prototype was switched to a rear-engined installation of the production models. The chassis was initially to be formed from a new and untested manufacturing technology known as elastic reservoir moulding (ERM), which was hoped would reduce production costs and lighten the vehicle. After DeLorean acquired the patent rights it was eventually found to be unsuitable for this application.

Numerous changes to the original concept nearly led to a complete re-engineering of the entire project. Ideas that never made it into production included the Pirelli P7 tires, a unit construction plastic chassis, airbags, 10-mph bumpers, and the mid-engine layout. Engineer Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus Cars, was tasked with solving some of the engineering issues. Chapman simplified the design by removing many of the exotic and unproven materials and manufacturing techniques with tried-and-true features employed by Lotus, such as the steel backbone chassis.

The first prototype was known as the DSV-1, or DeLorean Safety Vehicle. Later development models were referred to as the DSV-12 and eventually the DMC-12, with the '12' representing the target list price of $12,000 upon release. Unforeseen costs and delays resulted in production finally commencing in late 1980. The first production car rolled off the assembly line on January 21st of 1981 having a base price of $25,000. By this point in history, the hype and list of anxious buyers had dwindled considerably, and production output soon outpaced sales volume. The highest month of sales was October of 1981 when 720 vehicles were sold. By December, the U.S. was falling into recession and interest rates continued to rise which proved detrimental to sales.

Undeterred by the sluggish economy, John DeLorean doubled production of his sports car and by the close of 1981, DMC had produced 7,500 cars built had only sold approximately 3,000 units. Just 350 were sold in January of 1982 and the following month the company entered receivership. By the end of May 1982, production at the factory was shut down. In July of that year, a discount was offered to dealerships along with a 5-year/50,000 mile warranty with the first year or 12,000 mile portion secured by a major insurance carrier but this attempt to stimulate sales was not successful.

The 1981 models sold for US$25,000, and in 1982 the MSRP rose to $29,825 and again in 1983 to $34,000. After the collapse of the DeLorean Motor Company, the unsold cars were sold for less than the retail price.

The 2.85-liter PRV engine delivered 130 horsepower at 5,500 RPM and 153 lb-ft of torque at 2,750 RPM. They were backed by an RPV-designed five-speed manual transmission that was built at the Renault facility in Normandy. Zero-to-sixty mph was accomplished in 8.8 seconds when equipped with a manual transmission. The automatic transmission gave the DeLorean a 0-to-60 mph time of 10.5 seconds. The top speed was achieved at 109 miles per hour.

The DeLorean used an independent suspension with double wishbones in the front and a multi-link setup at the rear. Coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers were used all around. The steering was a rack-and-pinion unit with an overall steering ratio of 14.9:1, 2.65 turns lock-to-lock, and a 35-foot turning circle. It rode on cast alloy wheels wrapped with Goodyear NCT steel-belted radial tires. Power-assisted disc brakes were located at all four corners, with 10-inch rotors in the front and 10.5-inches at the rear.

The list of options was short and included the manual or automatic transmission and a grey or black interior. Standard features included the gull-wing doors with cryogenically treated torsion bars, leather seats, an AM/FM cassette stereo system, power locks, power windows, and power mirrors, tinted glass, stainless-steel body panels, and body side moldings. There were intermittent/constant windshield wipers, an electric rear-window defogger, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel. Some dealers offered their own list of options that included a luggage and ski rack, black textured accent stripes, car care cleaning kit, sheepskin seat covers, a car cover, and grey scotch-cal accent stripes.

Six DeLorean chassis were used during the filming of the Back to the Future trilogy. For the 'flying' scenes, the car used was manufactured out of fiberglass.


by Daniel Vaughan | May 2020

Related Reading : DeLorean DMC-12 History

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1981 Vehicle Profiles

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 vehicle information

Coupe
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro

The DMC was rear-engined with a composite molded chassis and gullwing doors. Styling was by Giorgio Giugiaro, derived from his Tapiro concept-car design of 1970. The bodywork was composed of brushed stainless steel, the idea being that it would never....[continue reading]

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 vehicle information

Coupe
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro

Chassis Num: SCEDT26T6CD010427

This 1981 Delorean DMC12 is a very original example with only 355 miles on the odometer. It is powered by a V6 engine that displaces 174 cubic-inches and produces 130 horsepower. There is a three-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel independent s....[continue reading]

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 vehicle information

Coupe
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro

In the last sixty years, very few new car enterprises have been launched from the ground up. However, with years of experience in the auto industry, John DeLorean knew that if he wanted to build his own car design, creating his own company was the m....[continue reading]

Chassis Num: 0726015143

This particular DeLorean was powered by a two-liter, four-cylinder engine by Citroen, mounted transversely and placed mid-ship. There is a four-speed manual transaxle, fiberglass monocoque tub with front and rear stainless steel subframes. Suspensi....[continue reading]

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 vehicle information

Coupe
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro

In the long and colorful pantheon of automotive moguls, John DeLorean stands out; first at GM and later at the eponymous DeLorean Motor Company. Trained as an engineer, he quickly moved from Chrysler to Packard to GM where he is credited as the force....[continue reading]

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 vehicle information

Coupe
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro

The DeLorean features counterbalanced 'gullwing' doors, rear-mounted engine and brushed 304-grade stainless steel body panels, which are not painted and will never rust. Inside, the seats are leather, there are power windows and mirrors, tinted windo....[continue reading]

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 vehicle information

Coupe
Designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro

Chassis Num: SCEDT26TXBD004239

This DeLorean DMC12 has a 2,849cc overhead cam V6 engine fitted with an after-market BAE single turbocharger and produces approximately 195 horsepower at 5,500 RPM. There is a five-speed manual transmission, power assisted disc brakes, and an indepen....[continue reading]

Coupe
 
Coupe
Chassis #: SCEDT26T6CD010427 
Coupe
 
Chassis #: 0726015143 
Coupe
 
Coupe
 
Coupe
Chassis #: SCEDT26TXBD004239 

Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

1981 DMC-12
$25,000-$162,550
1981 DeLorean DMC-12 Base Price : $25,000

Model Year Production

#1#2#3DeLorean
1986Chevrolet (1,368,837)Renault (1,305,191)Ford (1,253,525)
1985Chevrolet (1,418,098)Renault (1,322,887)Oldsmobile (1,192,549)
1984Chevrolet (1,655,151)Renault (1,429,138)Ford (1,180,708)
1983Renault (1,491,853)Chevrolet (1,175,200)Toyota (1,068,321)
1982Renault (1,491,853)Chevrolet (1,297,357)Toyota (1,068,321)
1981Chevrolet (1,673,093)Renault (1,295,713)Toyota (1,068,321)
1980Chevrolet (2,288,745)Renault (1,492,339)Ford (1,162,275)
1979Chevrolet (2,284,749)Ford (1,835,937)Renault (1,405,330)
1978Chevrolet (2,375,436)Ford (1,923,655)Renault (1,240,941)
1977Chevrolet (2,543,153)Toyota (1,884,260)Ford (1,840,427)
1976Chevrolet (2,103,862)Toyota (1,884,260)Ford (1,861,537)

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