Painted Stainless Steel: 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

One of the defining characteristics of the DeLorean is its brushed stainless steel finish. If the panels are straight, they can look stunning. The weakness is that if the vehicle receives any form of panel damage, it’s impossible to disguise. This 1981 example doesn’t have that issue. It wears a combination of black and gold paint, which helps to disguise any panel problems. It has recently come onto the market and has been listed for sale here on eBay. It is located in Flanders, New Jersey, and spirited bidding has pushed the price along to $16,600. However, the reserve hasn’t been met.

While most DeLoreans were delivered with the brushed finish, occasionally, buyers were seeking something different. A tiny number left the factory with a painted finish, but dealerships painted some at the buyer’s request. That is the case with this car, and the combination of black and gold has dramatically changed the vehicle’s appearance. The fact that the original wheels also received color-coding was smart and gives the car an integrated look. The paint has a few marks and scars, but it generally holds a respectable shine. The panels also have some minor dings, but addressing these should not be difficult. One of the weak points in any DeLorean presentation is the color difference between the stainless panels and the urethane sections on the nose and rear. That isn’t an issue here, as they have also been finished in black. The owner says that there is no visible rust, which isn’t any real surprise when you consider the materials used in the body. It would be well worth the effort to check the vehicle’s underside because that’s where problems are more likely to rear their ugly head. The frame was epoxy-coated at the factory, and if the coating has remained intact, things should be sweet. If the epoxy has come away for any reason, then rust can then become an issue. The glass appears to be in good condition, and the distinctive gullwing doors operate as they should.

DeLorean owners were often disappointed by the performance of their purchase, and it’s easy to see why. John DeLorean had envisaged the car fitted with various engines, and the original intent was for it to be a high-performance mid-engine sports car. The harsh reality was that none of these plans came to fruition, and the DMC eventually went to market with a 2,849cc rear-mounted V6 that produced 130hp. At 3,243lbs, the vehicle was relatively heavy when that power was taken into account, That meant that in 5-speed form, the DeLorean struggled through the ¼ mile in 16.5 seconds. Sadly, this one is the rarer automatic version, and being a 3-speed, its performance figures are even slower. However, it does appear to be in good mechanical condition and is ready to be driven and enjoyed. All of the brake calipers have been fitted with new seals, and the fluids have been flushed. The vehicle’s servicing is up-to-date, and the owner says that the engine sounds strong and healthy. The transmission also shifts smoothly, so the open road is just waiting for this classic.

In a 1981 context, buyers of a DeLorean didn’t really want for anything. They received leather trim, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, a leather-bound tilt/reach wheel, a rear window defogger, and an AM/FM radio/cassette player. The interior of this DeLorean is tidy, but it shows some of the wear and issues common in these cars. The leather on the seats is worn around the edges, and the rear of the driver’s seat sports a split. Some of the plastic is looking discolored, and the original radio/cassette player is missing. The A/C also doesn’t function, with the compressor currently disconnected. However, parts to address these issues are surprisingly easy to find, and apart from the air conditioning, everything works as it should.

The DMC DeLorean could easily be described as a triumph of style over substance. If John DeLorean’s original dream had been realized, then this would have been a car that would have possessed legendary levels of luxury and performance. Its failings were all due to a lack of development time and a budget that was anything but adequate. The DeLorean remained unloved for years, but today, they have become something of a cult collectible. Nice examples can comfortably sell for $45,000, while $60,000 is not out of the question for the right car. I don’t think that this car will threaten those figures, and I am not convinced that the custom paint will add anything to the value. However, a standard DeLorean will always attract plenty of attention, so this car could potentially increase that significantly. That might make it worth considering if the reserve hasn’t been set too high.


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  1. alphasud Member

    I think one would have to expect a lower value due to the car being painted. That black and copper with matching wheels screams the 80’s. The automatic is also a big letdown and from what I heard they are not that reliable. I was in high school when these were new and I remember looking at one of the car magazines showing a company that anodized the stainless and gold was one of the options. Pretty cool because the brushed finish made the car unique like the original.

  2. Mitchell Gildea Member

    If the Bandit went Back to the Future but by way of Eastbound and Down

    Like 15
  3. Rick

    I don’t hate it, but I liked the fully black one that was for sale a while back much better. Much more sinister looking (especially with blacked out windows). If I had money to burn there would be an LS4 FWD powertrain under the bonnet for reliability and lowered springs all around. But that’s just me.

    Like 4
  4. Mr Exotherm

    I like the look of a painted DeLorean but that solid color hood, at least in that color, doesn’t work for me at all.

    Like 3
    • stu

      For me, I looks like they ran out of black paint. The gold hood is crappy….

      Like 1
  5. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    I was 28 years old in ’81. I lived in Somerset County, Bridgewater two, NJ.
    I remember a abandoned car dealership, Buick I think, on routes 202/206. When these first came out, I’d pass that abandoned dealership everyday and one in the empty lot, there were about 100 Delorean cars. No. It wasn’t a Delorean dealership, who ever imported them from Ireland was using the lit as a holding corral. It was just a sight to see do many stainless steel cars in one place.

    Like 4
    • Walter

      Was 20 in ‘81. Remember passing that lot which was visible from I287. I was breathless first time I laid eyes on the mass of DeLoreans!

      Like 1
  6. bud lee

    If these cars were any slower they’ed go back in time ( pun intended ) . Also , other than the gull wing doors , their styling isn’t much different than a Chevette .

    Like 4
  7. Clkr23

    The correct make is “DMC” and the correct model is “DeLorean”. Rather than “DeLorean DMC-12” as most sources will say. Also, exactly zero left the factory painted (unless you count the bumpers). The three gold cara were not paint.

    Like 1
  8. Claudio

    I am into convertibles and always have been so this is a no go
    Nevertheless, i think a fiero is a better buy than this thing
    I believe that i was under 20 when i first drove one for a customer and what a slug
    The v6 fiero is a better choice and easier to upgrade and maintain
    Without the movie there would be no hipe for this thing …

    Like 3
  9. Johnny Major

    As many have pointed out……These cars were extremely sluggish and very under powered. The “toll booth” windows were completely useless and they had a very bad rear blind spot on both sides. If the company hadn’t gone under, DeLorean’s long term plan for the car was upgraded suspension and a 500 hp V8.

  10. Paul Willson

    been their, done that years ago. when I was single. had one for 1 year that was enough. mech, ok. but to tight inside!!! at 60 I don’t think I could stand the small space better for a guy under 6 ft tall. I met John d at the New York auto show. at 6 ft 4 I cant believe this was comfortable for him to drive it

    Like 1
  11. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Our favorite seller from Flanders, NJ!
    Always has interesting stuff, check out his other listings.

    Like 1
  12. mainlymuscle

    Deloreans definitely look better painted and this is one of the nicest I’ve seen ,has a JPS Lotus vibe going on.These are cheap enough,that a restomod might be in order.A turbo 6,or small LS,and of course a 5 speed manual,would do wonders .

    Like 2
  13. Rick RAothermel

    When I lived in Portland Oregon in 1981, the DeLorean store was RON TONKIN GRAN TURISMO. When the cars started arriving the dealership was displeased with the exterior conditions and sent several to be painted. I recall one yellow, a couple of reds and a black, but my favorite was the white one.

  14. kevin

    You can buy a flux capacitor from O’reilly’s if you want to time travel:

  15. DRV

    Mainlymuscle is exactly right.
    John DeLorean had a brother who lived across the street from me when I was in high school. He owned a Caddy dealership in Cleveland that also had his brothers cars. Every DeLorean for sale there was painted and done at the dealership. His personal special car in the garage was an original Corvette Gran Sport painted black about the time nobody cared what they were.

    Like 1

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