7k Original Miles: 1981 DeLorean

When you reflect back on the DeLorean, you start to wonder what it could have been if the cards had fallen favorably for John Z. DeLorean. The car was less than a sales success, but what few people realize is that there was a performance upgrade for the car in development when the ax fell on the company, and this would have had the potential to transform the car enormously. A huge thanks has to go out to Barn Finder Eric P for referring the DeLorean to us. This particular DeLorean was produced in 1981, and it resides in Bangor, Maine. It is listed for sale here on Craigslist with an asking price of $20,000.

With photos that are a bit lacking, we’re forced to rely somewhat on the owner’s description to determine the condition of the car. The first thing that he notes is that the steel chassis is solid and clean. The rest of the car looks good, except for one small problem. The owner refers to the fact that there are a couple of dings in the passenger side quarter panel. On most cars, this wouldn’t be a problem, because a bit of judicious hammering, a wipe of Bondo, a coat of paint, and no one will know the difference. When the body panels are made from brushed stainless steel, it’s a different matter altogether. They aren’t easy to see in the photos, but if they aren’t that bad, I’d probably be inclined to leave them as they are. If they are noticeable, then it might be worth sourcing a replacement panel, as these are still available new. Another positive with this DeLorean is the fact that the system for maintaining the gullwing doors in the open position appears to be working properly. This is important, as those doors are by no means light, and opening them, particularly from inside the car, requires all the help that you can get. The system could be prone to reliability issues, which is quite astonishing when you consider that it was designed by Grumman Aerospace, the same company that built the Lunar Excursion Module that performed so admirably in saving the lives of the Apollo 13 astronauts. Another thing worth noting is the color variation between the stainless steel body panels and the urethane nose and tail sections. This was a common issue when the DeLorean was new, so time isn’t ever going to improve this. It can be rectified, and if the next owner is seeking perfection, then it can be fixed. Having said that, if the next owner is seeking complete originality, then the variation should probably remain.

It’s hard to get a good look at the interior of the DeLorean, but with only a claimed 7,000 miles on the odometer, it should still look quite good. Interior trim utilizes a combination of grey leather on the seats and grey vinyl on most of the other surfaces. Contemporary tests on the DeLorean uncover some surprising facts about the car. The first is that the ergonomics aren’t actually that bad, with the exception of the high center console, and the pedals being awkward for those people who fancy a bit of heel-and-toe shifting. Cabin ventilation and air conditioning were actually rated as quite good. From a mechanical perspective, the car has been sitting for a number of years, so there is going to be a fair amount of work required to get the car running again. The good news is that the 2,849cc V6 engine does turn freely, and is hooked to a 5-speed manual transmission, rather than the pretty ordinary automatic unit. From a mechanical standpoint, it really was a case of “what could have been” with the DeLorean. When the company collapsed and production eventually wound down under the receivers, a company called Legend Industries was in the midst of developing a twin-turbocharged version of the DeLorean V6 engine, and this promised a lot more punch than the paltry 130hp that the standard engine gave. This had the potential to allow the car to deliver the sort of performance that the styling promised, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

I’m going to leave you with one last little snippet of trivia on the DeLorean, and this surrounds its choice as the vehicle for the “Back to The Future” franchise. The illustrious Mr. DeLorean claimed that his car was chosen because it looked futuristic. However, film producers Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale are reported to have told the Art Department at the studio to pick a car that “looks homemade.” Whether or not it looks homemade, a good DeLorean can be bought today for around the $30,000 mark. This one is nowhere near that sort of money, but it is a very low mileage example, and I would be surprised if it cost $10,000 to return it to decent mechanical health. One of the big advantages that the DeLorean has over similar cars such as the Bricklin is that it is still possible to buy new parts for a DeLorean, and this is something that doesn’t look as though it is about to change any time soon. There is no doubt that they are a car that is a triumph of style over substance, but I must say that I would be intrigued to drive a DeLorean fitted with the twin-turbo V6 because I suspect that it would be a very interesting car.

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Comments

  1. TimM

    Never really like these cars!! I think it it weren’t for the movie “Back To The Future” they all would have been forgotten buy now!! Certainly don’t like it at $20,000!

    2
    • DJ Dogbone

      I’ve had mine for 7 years and I love it. I don’t drive it every day but I do enjoy Cars & Coffee and the DMC community… and they are fun to drive with their long gears. Not fast cars but great touring cars. MY beef is the AC is always giving me trouble but with an old car, there’s always something. She’s relatively easy to work on and parts are available…when I picked her up, she was not too expensive so it’s been great. Plus, she’s usually a show stopper when you pull up, bonus.

      2
  2. Don Allen

    I just watched a movie on Prime called Framing John DeLorean. It starred Alec Baldwin. Sort of a strange production but the content was interesting. I would recommend seeing it if you have any interest in Deloreans.

    1
    • Edselbill

      Just saw it as well. Lot’s of interesting back story about John Delorean. But, it certainly didn’t imply he was innocent / framed… just “set up” and he took the bait.

      As a car guy, I was jumping out of my seat when they were talking about the GTO, yet showing mixed videos of old NASCAR Pontiacs, and Bonnevilles as if they were real 1964 GTO’s. LOL

      Back to the car. Meh.. I feel like there are so many that were stashed away that the supply will always be there until some indescribable, improbable, astronomical for no reason market price increase puts them all into auctions and then EVERYONE will seem to want one. (like what happened to VW Samba buses). Then, all of a sudden, they are investments.

      1
      • Ralph

        I’m going to see that in the next week or so, DeLorean is one of those guys who was very talented but his rep is way over blown and a guy who generally thought he could do it better than the companies he worked with and when he finally got his chance, he put out something worse, more compromised and shoddy than anything he complained about GM making.

  3. CanuckCarGuy

    Interesting back-story with John DeLorean, and the styling on these is sharp, but I’d prefer a Bricklin. Equally problematic perhaps to operate, but the bang for the buck potential is higher IMHO and the styling is better.

    2
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Can’t say I’ve ever ‘really’ wanted one, just didn’t trip my trigger. Personally I think if they’d gotten a better drive train lined up it could have made a different. The anemic Peugeot engine just wasn’t aligned with the intention of the vehicle.

    I’ve seen a couple of YouTube videos and on some automotive websites on peoples ways to correct this issue. I think the best one was a turbo LS that the owner figured out how to get in there. Personally I think that’s a little overkill, something like an EcoBoost V6 would be a better solution.

    4
  5. Andy

    The front and rear fascias are color correct. Early cars had wheels that matched the color to the end caps. Wheel color was eventually changed to match the stainless color.

    Center console is high because that is actually the backbone frame of the car which ran down the middle. Designed by Lotus.

    1
  6. That AMC Guy

    Actually, it was the handyman’s secret weapon, duct tape, that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts. :) (Well that, along with some brilliant on-the-fly engineering by all involved.)

    Along with other materials on hand, duct tape allowed the crew to adapt the command module’s square lithium hydroxide canisters to the round receptacles in the LEM’s environmental control system. They would have otherwise suffocated due to CO2 buildup since the LEM’s system was not designed to support 3 astronauts all the way back to earth.

    As for as the DeLorean, it’s nice to see one that has not been hacked up into yet another “Back to the Future” tribute!

    1
    • Miguel Member

      Give it time. The new buyer can always give it to Video Bob for the conversion.

      1
    • Terry Bowman

      I knew there was a reason I always keep a roll of duct tape in my truck. Have used it many times for different reasons. Just use some last weekend, while at work. Had a bandaid on my face that would not stay on while out in the sun, so I took a piece of “Duck Tape” and placed over the bandaid, problem solved. Did not look good, but a side window in your car being held up with a piece doesn’t either. A must in any tool box.

      1
  7. Dave

    The true science is derived from the USS Eldridge legend. The story has it that anyone not protected from the magnetic field became melded with the steel deck plating.

    When the DeLorean carried Einstein two minutes into the future the car’s steel license plate was ripped off by the magnetic field. Einstein was protected by the car’s stainless steel Faraday cage, as Doc was about to explain to Marty just before the car reappeared.

    Fun stuff.

    2
  8. CCFisher

    Interesting that a complete, functional, low-mileage DeLorean still isn’t worth as much as its original sticker price.

  9. Cj

    Buy it for less than asking, then send it directly to the Delorean Motor Company in Humble, Texas. They’ll upgrade the power plant and make the car like new in every respect. You’ll have more in it than it’s worth, but to the true DMC fan, it’s not the same expense as it would be to you and me.

  10. Skippy

    I was looking for a DeLorean project for a long time and finally gave up. There are NO decent cars left for less than $20k and if this car is even at 70%, with onky 7k miles for that price it is a pretty good deal…especially if the frame is not rusty. Yes, they suck as actual cars, but like a few other iconic cars, the fun in this is to be seen in it. The price of these cars has doubled in the past 3 years. Not because of BTTF, but because they are unique, low volume, collectible cars and demand has outstripped supply. They will never be great cars, but they will be collectible until the generation that first saw them is dead.

    3
  11. luke arnott

    Overpriced when new,built by a workforce with no experience of car production in Northern Ireland.The whole concept was to provide jobs with taxpayers money and it didn’t work!

  12. Terry Bowman

    Lots of Politics behind the DeLorean. Too bad, just think of the possibilities!!!

  13. Bob McK Member

    I almost bought one when they were new. Still want one, but no space in the shop today. This sounds like a good buy for someone.

  14. Gary D. Oliver

    Drove one when they were new. I didn’t like the claustrophobic feeling when inside with the door closed. Only a tiny window to push money out at the toll booths. I popped the clutch and the car was mushy feeling, not solid if you know what I mean.

    John Z was the General Manager when I worked at Pontiac Motor. Best boss we ever had. Very charismatic man.

  15. Southbound

    Sucks the white lines off the road as it travels.
    Engines were under powered and junk. Many were painted because the stainless steel skin was hard to maintain.

  16. Mike Hawke

    Sold to a dealer with dreams of profits

    1
  17. Mike

    Hello. No this car was not sold to a dealer. I am the one who bought this car. Im in the process of upgrading the fuel system.

    • Marty M.

      Problems with the flux capacitor?

      1

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