Buying and Maintaining a Car
A Delorean Shopping Primer

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By COJones100
November 21, 2006

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Ah, the Delorean...

What a neat story. I'm surprised nobody has made a movie out of it, yet. Boy Wonder auto exec hangs with movie stars and models and gets his hair styled. As ego inflates, he decides to pursue the ultimate vanity: building a car with his name on the bumper.

The Hell of it, for me, is that he got so much of it right. He was able to put together the money. He was able to hammer out a prototype, and shine it up for production. Any car is made of compromises, and he had to make a few because in one way or another they were all deal breakers. But he built a factory and a dealer force and about eighty-five hundred cars. For one quarter, he outsold Porsche. He could have gone all the way with it, but he ran out of financing and the dollar went to Hell and took the economy with it and it wasn't a good time to be seen laying 5000 workers and treating yourself to a new $25,000 sports car. If he'd been able to get a better motor... if he'd been able to get the Turbo model done and certified... if only there had been colors... if only the first twelve hundred cars weren't crap. There are a lot of near-misses in the car.

But the basic componentry is good. Most of it is European manufacture, often installed upside-down (taillights) or on reversed corners (front suspension). Lots of English Ford, lots of Peugeot, Renault and Volvo, including the PRV6 and transmission. Not a real screamer, it provides "adequate" power to a car that looks like so much more�especially in the context of what we were looking at in 1982. Lotus reengineered Giugiaro's design along the lines of their Esprit: backbone chassis with lots of heavy-duty epoxy for corrosion resistance. That, and the body panels, of course, along with the fiberglass inner tub makes for a pretty rust-free situation, as twenty-five year old cars go.

You can still get pretty much all of the parts. Maybe you have to know to order German Ford marker lights or a Volvo water pump, but it's all still available. The guys from Ohio who bought the residue ran the factory for a good while just building parts. Even the funky door-opening torsion bars are in good supply, and you can have all the wrecks you want--fenders and quarter panels are available, too. Join one of the clubs. Visit the websites and drop by the tuners.

One of the things Delorean wanted to do was to produce an "ethical" sports car. For that reason, (in print), and because his was such a tiny operation and had no real money, (in reality) changes and updates were introduced as they became viable. Some things never got the attention they needed, and so some failures like the speedometer cable are notorious (look over ever inch of every car, don't trust the "actual miles"). But running changes are about all that distinguishes the early cars from the last ones. In general, there are two locations for the radio antennae mast; in the front fender, and poking out of the quarter panel sail. You want one in the fender. The car was offered in only two colors of interior, black and silvery-gray. You want gray. There were some cars with a smooth hood and others with a fuel-filler door. You want the door. There were five speeds and automatics. You actually want the automatic, though it saps a good bit of the response from the only 130hp. Any deviations, plus high mileage, deduct from the "ideal" DMC.

With 8500+ cars built, it'll never be a collectible. There will always be someone, somewhere, with a clapped-out '81 willing to sell it for less than you want for yours. Hell, that joker who wanted to be known as the killer of JonBenet Ramsey had a Delorean for a while�painted his Guards Red, sadly. But it'll always be a fun car, an interesting car, and a serviceable car. If you want something unique, modern and fun you can do a whole lot worse than a good Delorean.

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