1981 DeLorean DMC12 - Toybox

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen

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Now known primarily for its movie role, DeLorean's coupe deserved more market success than it achieved

The DMC DeLorean should not need a whole lot of introduction for movie or car buffs, given its starring role in the eighties flick Back to the Future, and its sequels.


Conceived by colourful American car industry figure John DeLorean, the rear-engined, rear-drive two-seater was an attempt at a leap into the future of motoring that wasn’t entirely successful. With lines drawn by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, it ran distinctive stainless steel body panels and gullwing doors which in part justified the fairly heady price of US$25,000 back in 1981.

| Read next: DeLorean DMC12 Back to the Future tribute

delorean-rear.jpgGiugiaro’s lovely styling was probably the DeLorean’s standout feature

Its spec included a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo 2.85lt V6 powerplant with mechanical fuel injection and the choice of either a five-speed manual or three-speed auto transmission.

The company hit financial troubles fairly early and didn’t last. One of the contributing factors was DeLorean himself ended up being distracted by defeating a drug trafficking charge on the basis of entrapment by the FBI.

| Past Blast: DeLorean DMC-12


Exact production numbers are uncertain, but over 9000 is a reasonable place to start. A long-term resurgence in the popularity of these quirky vehicles has seen an international cottage industry build up around them. For example there is a DMC still running in the USA, supplying spares and selling cars, while a company called PJ Gray in the UK will build you one in right-hand drive. One of the partners, Chris Nicholson, travels the world providing on-site panel repairs for owner clubs.

delorean-wheel.jpgDeLoreans ran 14" front alloys and 15" rears

This example is from 1981 and is owned by long-term enthusiast James Politino. His first car, it was bought over a decade ago, sold, then bought back. He explains it’s one of a number of local cars that has been worked on by Nicholson – hence the ultra-straight body.

The drivetrain is fairly straightforward and the engine should be trouble-free, so long as it’s used. With mechanical fuel injection, the engine needs to be run reasonably regularly.

delorean-engine-bay.jpgBefore the V6 engine was settled on the plan had called for a Wankel rotary

Good straight bodywork is a high priority when sourcing a DeLorean. Unlike a normal mild steel painted body, you can’t simply resort to a little filler and paint to cover up a repair. With DeLoreans, you’re dealing with a huge main chassis, topped by a fibreglass body and stainless steel skin. Stainless panels require some knowledge and technique to get right, though there is a supply of replacements and parts availability generally seems to be quite good.

delorean-interior.jpgDeLoreans were all built as LHD. A few were converted to RHD as post-production units

Something over 100 examples are in Australia and there is a strong network of owner groups here and overseas.

This example is up for auction at Graysonline at the end of October.


DMC DeLorean coupe

ENGINE: 2849cc fuel-injected V6
POWER: 97kW @ 5500rpm
TORQUE: 207Nm @ 2750rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
BRAKES: Power-assisted discs (front & rear)
SUSPENSION: Independent – coils, double wishbones, tele shocks (f), coils, multi-links, tele shocks (r)


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