Cheap Time Machine? 1981 DeLorean

Yes – Lucas, Prince of Darkness is associated with almost every British vehicle. We all know that Pintos blow up when a pine cone falls on them. Sedans have two doors too many. And, who doesn’t wonder about the condition of the flux capacitors on DeLoreans? I know that I do. The seller has this 1981 DeLorean listed here on craigslist just south of Tacoma, Washington with a bargain-basement price of $18,800! No, really. Let’s check it out and find out why.

We’ve seen many DeLoreans over the years here at Barn Finds and most of us know the basic history of the car, the history of John DeLorean, and the trouble that he got into towards the end of the car’s production in Northern Ireland. The DeLorean was only made for two years, with just under 300 cars titled as 1983 cars, but the bulk of the cars were made in 1981 and 1982.

The DeLorean certainly has one of the most recognizable shapes maybe of all time, not to mention the stainless steel body panels which just add to the (yes) iconic image. And, we all know about the gullwing doors, another very cool feature. I’ve mentioned before that after high school I worked in an indoor parking garage, washing and parking cars for doctors and dentists. It was maybe my favorite job of all time to have all of those new high-end vehicles to spend so much time in and around every day. A couple of the doctors had DeLoreans and one had his painted black, it looked so much better to me. I always wondered if the company could have made it if they wouldn’t have held onto the stainless steel body panels. The off-color nose and tail caps always bothered me, I don’t like the look of those not matching the body panels.

You can see that this interior needs work. I’m not sure what’s going on with the console but, thankfully, this car has the 5-speed manual. Some of them were automatics which made them even slower than the manual-equipped cars were. And, I we haven’t talked about the Back to the Future aspect of the DeLorean, but it has been done to death so we won’t go into it here. It is surely a big reason why these unusual cars have been kept in the public eye for the last 37 years since production ended. Hagerty is at $22,900 for a #4 fair condition DeLorean.

Here’s the engine. Ok, now you know the reason why this car is so much cheaper than almost any other DeLorean out there. The seller says that the engine, a 2.85L V6, made by a Peugeot/Renault/Volvo partnership, will need to be rebuilt and it has not run in years. Unfortunately, the seller lost their job and this car has to move to someone else’s garage to finish it. Since the anemic 130-hp engine is already out, would you rebuild it to keep the car original or add something a little stronger?


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  1. Dave

    How much trouble would it be to hook it up with a 4.3 Vortec?

    Like 3
  2. Classic Steel

    Hmmm replace power plant source…I was thinking one large bigass battery..
    but I need almost nuclear reaction power to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to get back in time…

    Like 15
  3. Arby

    “Has not run in years”
    Hell, they barely ran when they were new.

    Like 28
    • Brad T.

      I once saw one of these advertised for sale with a GM 3.8 V6 in it along with the original motor included, all up for 18 grand but that was back in 2003, shoulda, woulda, coulda, but didn’t!

  4. DRV


    Like 8
  5. Gaspumpchas

    Looks and sounds like a world of doo doo. There is a company making these, IIRC. Surely there must be someone who has shoehorned another Mill into one of these. I could not imagine getting rebuild parts for the original Mongrel Mill. 20 Large is a chunk of coin for a project with no engine. Good luck if you decide to take it on. Remanufactured Flux capacitors available on Ebay. Stay safe!

    Like 6
    • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

      Wikipedia has a good summary of the current DeLorean Motor Company, Humble TX. It has been selling parts and servicing vehicles for a long time.

      Like 2
  6. JoeNYWF64

    I would think Delorian could have made a much larger chunk of glass roll down in the doors – sure the doors are curved but so are the windows of the 2nd gen f-bodies. Other than the pokey motor, did this car have the leaks, body panel warpage & other problems the Bricklin had? If not, i would think all these Delorians need is a good engine swap.

    Like 2
  7. CJinSD

    Perfect candidate for an LS3/G50 swap, but I can’t even imagine what a G50 costs now.

    Like 1
  8. Joe

    The Ford Pinto didn’t blow up anymore than many other small cars back in the 70’s. You should have your facts straight before you put them to print.Perhaps the most illuminating data comes from NHTSA fatality rates per million vehicles for 1975 and 1976. In the published chart, the Pinto is responsible for 298 deaths per million cars in 1975, making it on par with the Chevrolet Vega (288) and Datsun 510 (294), but considerably safer than the Datsun 1200/210 (392), the Toyota Corolla (333) and the VW Beetle (378). In 1976, the Pinto’s 322 deaths per million cars was slightly higher than the Chevrolet Vega (310) and AMC Gremlin (315), but better than the Datsun 510 (340), the Datsun 1200/210 (418) and the VW Beetle (370). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ultimately directed Ford to recall the Pinto. Initially, the NHTSA did not feel there was sufficient evidence to demand a recall due to incidents of fire. The NHTSA investigation found that 27 deaths were found to have occurred between 1970 and mid-1977 in rear-impact crashes that resulted in fire. The NHTSA did not indicate if these impacts would have been survivable absent fire or if the impacts were more severe than even a state of the art (for 1977) fuel system could have withstood.

    Like 7
    • JimmyJam

      I think Scotty G was just trying to be funny Joe. Everyone knows it takes less than a pine cone to blow a Pinto up! ;)

      Like 10
    • David R Member

      Don’t know why you felt it necessary to “fact check” a pine cone would make a Pinto explode.

  9. Vin_in_NJ

    Since the engine is non-running, I’d opt to utilize a company to convert it to electric. Would be far more reliable and more interesting at a show

    Like 4
    • Ward William

      I am not sure that the flux capacitor can be converted to work with an electric setup. If you reverse the flow, they have a tendency to explode while you are in warp state, and the result is little bits of you scattered throughout history. Do you really want to risk that ?

      Like 2
  10. Dave

    What, no patina?!

    Like 5
  11. Daniel Blancher

    I thinking i would see what i could do as far as oversize pistons and boost compression with a dome or milling the heads .i would go a little farther and see about a cam. I guess what i am saying try to keep the engin but boost the HP.before change it out for something different

  12. Skippy99

    These cars are a bit of a nightmare to restore. Yes, DMCUSA has many of the parts, and a few folks have put other drivetrains into them, but the most difficult item to repair/replace, and it is ALWAYS rusting, is the X-frame under the car and they are astronomically expensive. Nothing bolts directly to anything on the body either. All of the stainless actually attaches to a fiberglass subshell, which bolts to hangars attached to the frame. I have restored a lot of pretty expensive cars and have always wanted to restore one of these, but after really looking into it, I just can’t justify buying one of these iconic but mediocre cars and setting an unlimted restoration budget.

    Like 2
  13. Stacey Hagan

    I have a friend who put a crate LS into his Delorean. It sounds as mean as it looks now. Porsche 6 speed too I think.

  14. Rich.

    Love Joe’s comments – but he should get out a little more. Or maybe buy a Corvair…. :)

    Like 1
  15. Mark Houseman

    Had an ’81 in the late ’90’s with 7k original miles, could never get it started. It was mint but useless because of some “typical” fuel issue. Sold it for 12k as is.

    Like 2
  16. Louis Chen

    I wouldn’t mind getting one of these to work on! Personally John had a good idea & design. Unfortunately he got into fiancial problem in the end. I would se if i could fit one of those good Toyota V-6 engines. It would certainly give it more pizzazz. Too bad the car is too far away! However, I live in Houston, I’d drop by a DMC refurb. joint and may be find one.

  17. Ward William

    Come on folks. It cries out for an LS3 swap. Why would you consider any other possibility considering the drive train is already out.

  18. Zeke

    There is no such thing as a cheap DeLorean. If you doubt this, watch Hoovies garage on YouTube.

    Like 1
  19. Timmy Rosario

    I am 16 years old and I’m looking everywhere online for a DeLorean that’s under $1,000!! I just want to get a time machine from the past to bring to the newer generation, and for My Aunts Arthritis events. I’m literally saving pennies, yes pennies for this car!! I’ve tried asking for a job and my parent’s don’t think I’m mature enough to get one.

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