For a short period in the nineteen eighties, this was one of the most famous cars in the world. It starred in the hugely popular Hollywood movie trilogy, Back to the Future, where a modified DMC-12 played the part of a time machine built by an eccentric inventor. But actually, there’s much more to the DoLorean than its film career – indeed the story of how it came about deserves a movie all to itself…


Designed in the late nineteen seventies, its ‘wedge’ shape was the height of fashion when it was launched, and that was just the start. It was the only car of its era to sport gullwing doors, which pivoted upwards rather than outwards, and the only car of its time to come with brushed stainless steel bodywork, rather than conventional painted mild steel. Radically different to everything else around, it made its Ferrari and Lamborghini rivals look old from the moment it went on sale. Yet despite its striking styling and glitzy movie career, the DeLorean turned out to be an expensive failure. Just 9,200 examples were built between 1981 and 1982 before the car company imploded amidst a scandal of epic proportions…


The DeLorean story is complicated and full of high drama, and includes some of the greatest names in automotive history. One is Colin Chapman, the charismatic English founder of Lotus, who was called in at an early stage in its development to engineer the DMC-12. The angular body is by one of the greatest car stylists of the modern era, Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro. To this, add the founder of the company, American John DeLorean, who managed to persuade high profile celebrities to lend him the money to develop and build the car. Belfast in Northern Ireland was chosen as the place to built it in 1978, but by late 1982 his company was bankrupt and he had been arrested by the FBI for drug trafficking. He was later found not guilty, but by then his reputation was destroyed.


The car sold for $25,000 in 1980, putting it up against the most expensive cars in the world. With a steel backbone chassis, over which sat a fibreglass body covered by stainless steel panels, it was highly costly to produce. DeLorean even made three gold-plated cars for American Express, selling for a massive $85,000. Strangely though, despite the supercar body, the DMC-12 ended up with a Peugeot engine from a family saloon car – a 2.9 litre V6 which put out a modest 150BHP. This is the DeLorean’s weak point, giving the car mediocre performance. It’s still beautiful to drive however, and a very special place to sit in.


Today, around 6,500 of these special cars survive, mostly in the USA and UK. There’s a thriving club scene, and DeLorean owners are passionate about what is one of the most interesting supercars of the twentieth century. In 2016, what better way of going back to the future is there?