3,161 Genuine Miles! 1981 DMC DeLorean

You have to wonder whether the DMC DeLorean would have generated as much interest today if it had been a massive sales success. The fact that it was a disaster on so many levels has seen the car find its way into the realms of automotive folklore. After the company collapsed, values reached a point where owners struggled to give their cars away. Today, values have soared to the point where good examples can regularly change hands for $45,000, while $60,000 is pretty common. This 1981 DeLorean is not the lowest-mileage example that we have seen over the years here at Barn Finds, but with a genuine 3,161 miles showing on its odometer, it’s getting close. The time has come for it to head to a new home, so the owner has listed it for sale here at Bonhams. It is located in Carmel, California, and will go under the hammer with No Reserve on August 13th.

It seems that this DeLorean has led a sheltered existence. The listing states that it has always been stored out of the elements and the harsh UV rays. I doubt that I’ve ever seen one with stainless panels that shine so magnificently in my years of looking at and reviewing these classics. That stainless is one of the car’s most significant strengths because they mean that panel rot is never an issue. However, it is also one of its bugbears because minor dings and dents are impossible to hide. This car is as straight as an arrow, while the urethane nose and tail are about the best match I’ve ever seen. The seller doesn’t mention any frame rust, and provided the original epoxy coating is intact, all should be well. The glass seems to be free from flaws, and the wheels show no evidence of stains or physical damage.

Another first for me with this particular DeLorean is what is hiding in the trunk. With stainless panels and leather upholstery, some unique products were required if the owner was going to maintain the stunning appearance. I think that it’s safe to say that this is the first of these that I’ve seen that includes an original DeLorean Stainless Steel Car Care Kit. These were available from the company and included all of the products to keep the exterior in tip-top shape. Not only is this kit complete, but it also looks like it has never been used.

Another area of the DeLorean that was prone to deterioration was the vehicle’s interior. Today, replacement parts are readily available. When the company collapsed nearly 40-years-ago, owners found themselves out in the cold if anything went wrong. Thankfully, this interior is spotless and original, and the seller says it retains that new car smell. The seats are upholstered in black leather, and apart from some wrinkling on the driver’s seat, they look like they have just rolled off the showroom floor. The same is true of the rest of the trim, plastic, and upholstered surfaces. The original Jensen stereo is intact, and there have been no aftermarket additions. As well as presenting well, the interior is nicely equipped in a 1981 context. Luxury appointments include air conditioning, power windows, power exterior mirrors, a rear defogger, and a tilt and reach wheel.

Lifting the hood reveals the original 2,849cc PRV V6 that would have pumped out 130hp in its prime. This is where this car takes a slight downhill twist because that engine is bolted to the optional 3-speed automatic transmission. The production total of DeLorean automatics was pretty low, but that’s mainly because the transmission sapped a significant amount of performance from what was already an underpowered vehicle. I don’t have any figures to confirm how drastic it is, but it is guaranteed to be significantly slower than the 16.5 seconds ¼-mile ET achieved by the manual variant. The seller doesn’t indicate how well this classic runs or drives, but with 3,161 genuine miles on the clock, it should be a long way from worn out. The sale includes an enormous collection of documentation, including the original sale paperwork, sales brochures, and other paraphernalia.

The DMC DeLorean was beset with numerous quality control issues, which was hardly surprising when you consider that it was produced by a company that was rapidly imploding. Today, there are specialist services that can iron out all of the bugs, and this poses a question; If the DeLorean had been a good car when it was new, or a new car when it was good, could it have been a sales success? In the mid-1980s, nobody wanted these cars. Today, they sell like hotcakes. The auction estimate makes interesting reading, especially when you consider that the vehicle is lumbered with the less desirable automatic transmission. The auction estimate is for the car to sell for between $40,000 and $55,000. If I were a betting man, I’d place my money on the hammer dropping with the bidding closer to that lower figure than the higher one. What do you think?

Comments

  1. mike b

    Deloreans seem like good candidates for electric conversion. No one is nostalgic for their aural or performance qualities. And they still have a bit of futuristic vibe about them that would mesh well with near silent and more rapid acceleration.

    Like 7
  2. Gary

    Such a shame. These could have been so great with a proper engine and a mid engine design. In the end, just turned out to be an expensive novelty and the lure quickly wore off.

    Like 4
  3. mike b

    Boost the power w/ electric conversion. Back to futuristic.

    Like 1
  4. Rodney - GSM

    My nose gets itchy just looking at this…

    Like 1
  5. John E. Klintz

    I recently read about a guy on the outskirts of Houston who has purchased the remaining body molds as well as the rights to the DMC name. He apparently has plans to build some if he can get financing, but put a V-8 or other powerplant “back there.” My vote would be a Porsche flat six, but I doubt Porsche would allow that. I actually drove one back in the early eighties; it handled well (for the era) but was definitely slow.

    Like 1
    • Lando

      His name is Steve Wynne and he owns the DeLorean Motor Company. The main facility is just outside Houston, but there are official DeLorean repair centers in Orange County, CA and Florida. They have all of the original parts and new parts as well and are able to both refurbish and completely modernize classic DeLoeans.

      Like 6
      • John E. Klintz

        That’s it! Thanks so much Lando!

        Like 2
  6. Steve Clinton

    You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

    Like 3
  7. Howie Mueler

    A automatic? Yawn.

  8. Mark

    I grew up in PA, where salt on the winter roads rotted out a car in a very short time, so a stainless steel car seemed like a great idea. After the Back To The Future movies, I lost all interest in owning one. Anybody who saw the car would instantly think of the time machine.

    Like 1
    • JoeNYWF64

      Is this car unibody with a subframe for the drivetrain in back? Or does it have a “safety” box frame like a Bricklin?
      In either case, i doubt any part of the underside is stainless steel, let alone aluminum.

      • John E. Klintz

        It’s an X-member frame designed by Colin Chapman. Not sure of the material out of which it is made but it is allegedly stout and rigid. The body members are bolted to the frame.

        Like 1
  9. James Espey

    Car care kit is an original box, but bottles and chemicals are not.

    Jensen radio NOT original, all 81 models came with Craig radios.

    Most stainless scratchesae easily removed with the proper blending pad. Dings and even larger damage is fixable in almost all cases.

    In addition to the official DMC locations in Houston, Huntington Beach and Orlando, there is also one in suburban Chicago.

    Over 3.5 million new and reproduction parts in the Texas location. Virtual tours at http://www.deloreantour.com – DMC also has a full set of factory engineering drawings, as well.

    Like 2
  10. Doug Emde

    Had two of them, new and a year old, sold both years ago. The purported low mileage and wrinkled driver’s seat don’t equate, something is amiss (like 100,000 miles, maybe).

    • James Espey

      The “ruched” or “wrinkle” look was how they came new. Look at this photo from Car and Driver in June to see how they looked new, and with low miles such as this car – http://www.entermyworld.com/cat/articles/caranddriver/cdmay81c1x1.jpg – this one has undoubtedly been sat in by admirers over the years far more often than actually driven.

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