Meticulously Maintained: 1981 DMC DeLorean

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John DeLorean was famous for being the driving force behind many of the more desirable and potent models to emerge from General Motors during the 1960s. Unfortunately, he became infamous for founding a company bearing his name that produced a car that failed to live up to its promise and hype. Some viewed the DMC DeLorean as the worst car in automotive history. However, the ongoing development of replacement parts and modern engineering techniques mean the DMC can become a reliable and comfortable long-distance tourer. The seller has been the custodian of this 1981 DeLorean for nearly twenty-three years and has meticulously maintained the vehicle throughout that time. They don’t wish to part with it, but changed circumstances mean it needs a new home. The DMC is listed here on eBay in San Diego, California. Bidding sits below the reserve at $43,200, although there is a BIN option of $85,000.

The DMC DeLorean broke the rules on many fronts. Its brushed stainless steel panels are distinctive but don’t appeal to everyone. The company demonstrated a history of introducing running rather than annual changes, and our feature car reflects that thinking. It carries the hallmarks of a vehicle that rolled out of the factory after August 1981 but well before that year’s production run ended. This is confirmed by the VIN and the hidden fuel filler that the company introduced in August. Early versions also included a radio antenna embedded in the windshield, but reception issues saw the company install a whip antenna to the passenger-side front fender as an interim solution. This car carries both of those changes, and its overall presentation is tidy for a DeLorean. The brushed stainless shows no evidence of bumps or bruises, while the urethane nose and rear sections exhibit no issues beyond the typical color mismatch. The seller doesn’t mention frame rust, and if the factory epoxy coating is intact, it shouldn’t be an issue. The glass is excellent, as are the distinctive wheels.

Apart from quality control issues, disappointing performance is often quoted as one reason the DeLorean failed to sell in respectable numbers. Originally conceived as a mid-engine sports car powered by a Wankel rotary or Ford V6, design consultant Colin Chapman knew such dreams were beyond the company’s budget. Therefore, the DeLorean came to market powered by a rear-mounted 2.8-liter V6. With only 130hp on tap, it failed to produce true sports car acceleration. Buyers could select a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission, and, unfortunately, this car features the latter. It means that the ¼-mile journey would take approximately 17.5 seconds, which is hardly earth-shattering. To comprehend the scale of the mountain facing this classic, it is worth comparing its performance with that of the 1981 Corvette. Both were two-seat sports cars, but the ‘Vette placed 190hp at the driver’s disposal. With the same journey taking 16.7 seconds, many potential buyers struggled to justify the additional $10,000 to own the gull-winged DeLorean. It may seem that this story has nothing but doom and gloom, but nothing could be further from the truth. The seller purchased the car in 2000, entrusting its ongoing maintenance to DeLorean Motor Company California, located in Huntington Beach. They performed a host of recent work on this classic, with invoices supplied to the winning bidder. The seller encourages potential buyers to contact that organization to gain insight into this car’s overall condition. However, for buyers seeking a turnkey vehicle, it has to be a prime candidate.

The positive news with this classic continues when we assess its interior. It features acres of leather trim, with the seats wearing new covers. There is no sign of abuse or wear, with the car carrying the hallmarks of a vehicle treated with respect. The original radio/cassette player made way for a CD unit, but there are no other aftermarket additions. The luxury appointments may seem modest by modern standards, but the air conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, rear defogger, and tilt-and-reach wheel were considered cutting edge in a 1981 sports car.

Some cars suffer from an unfortunate curse. If they had been good when they were new, or new when they were good, they could have attained enormous sales success. The DMC DeLorean encapsulates these problems, with early examples plagued by quality issues and disappointing performance. However, ongoing development by specialist organizations means buying a vehicle like this 1981 model with some confidence is possible. Its condition is excellent for its age, it is essentially unmolested, and the right people have whirled their spanners on it for the past two decades. The BIN figure is above the market average, especially considering the original owner’s transmission choice. It has attracted eleven bids, although whether any of those individuals would be willing to push the price toward the BIN is an open question. Do you think they will, or will the seller need to settle on a lower figure?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Howie

    Yes we all know these are not quick or fast, i still like them, but this is a automatic, and $85k is way too much.

    Like 10
  2. John EderMember

    Que the “Drop a flux capacitor in it.” comments…

    Like 4
    • Jimmy Novak

      Oh, please ….

      Like 0
  3. bone

    The cars dated style brings back a time that brought us Max Headroom, pastel geometric shapes on everything , Joe Isuzu and leg warmers – all very dated things, and stuff that should be left in the 80s .

    Like 6
    • Maggy

      Joe Isuzu is giving you a frowny face .I forgot about that

      Like 4
  4. Maggy

    Customer had one with a Volvo v6 which I’ve seen in inboard boats. Never cared for these but that’s my o.Car couldn’t get out of it’s own way and was uncomfortable to sit in imo.

    Like 1
  5. Steveo

    You could have a garage full of better, more interesting vehicles for less than the bid, and certainly for less than the BIN. To each his own, I suppose. If I ever get that itch, I’ll just buy a Fiero and some sheet stainless…

    Like 3
  6. Steve

    I would place the Yugo above the DeLorean on the worst automotive list.

    Like 5
    • Jimmy Novak

      Please, Steve, do tell us all your personal travails with the Yugo(s) you owned.

      Like 1
    • Dave

      Buy a new Buick, get a Yugo thrown in for free.

      Like 1
  7. Motorcityman

    Should have stopped when u were ahead with the Pontiac Trans Am Johnny D !!

    Like 2
  8. Lando

    I think they’re going to have to settle on lower. First, the automatic and secondly – the car doesn’t have the power antennae – it has that ugly front fender antennae – which I truly believe cheapened the look of the car, dramatically. I can see it on a Firebird, Mustang, and Camaro of the time, but in 1981, the base price of a DMC-12 was $25,000 – which was a lot of money back then. Furthermore, they were road tested against Corvettes, 308s and 928s of the time. Granted the performance numbers didn’t match those others, but looks wise it did. Can you see a 308, 928 or even Corvette of the time without a rear fender power antennae and replaced with a front fender static one? I certainly can’t.

    Like 2
  9. Jimmy Novak

    Please, Steve, do tell us all your personal travails with the Yugo(s) you owned.

    Like 2
    • Steve

      Never owned one; heard many travails from owners. Had travails with a LeCar though – it was a four door version, couldn’t get out of its own way. When the AC compressor came on it felt like an anchor had been thrown out.

      Like 5
      • Gary

        I test drove one after a brake job and tried to pass a car when the a/c kicked on. I had to get back behind the other car as it felt like the engine quit. No, just not enough power.

        Like 2
      • SunbirdMember

        I have a 94 Sunbird 2.0, 5 speed. Have to switch AC to vent to pass or go up a hill. Been that way since new.

        Like 1
  10. Motorcityman

    He can’t, they weren’t running……and if they did he needed a chase car to pick up the parts that fell off as he drove! 🤣

    Like 2
  11. Jim ZMember

    I had an opportunity to work on one of these in the late 80’s. Had to sort out a fuel injection problem. On the test drive after repaired I was dismayed at what a ‘pooch’ this thing was.

    Like 2
  12. Paul N

    for 85K, it better come with a generous supply of plutonium.

    Like 3
  13. Terry

    If there is anything more annoying than a rotted out pile of Chevy it’s one of these piles of crap. Who cares, stop putting these things on here.

    Like 1
  14. jim

    Someone will buy it only takes one person out of millions to have interest and the seller ill smile all the way to the bank and sing oh happy day

    Like 0
  15. PRA4SNW

    Made it to $47,600, Reserve Not Met.

    Seller should reach out to that bidder and make a deal.

    Like 0
  16. Lawrence Fitzgerald

    The DeLorean Company flew me out to sunny California to interview for an Instructor;s position. This provided opportunity to drive and evaluate the car. Three different sizs tires, windows did not roll don [if the A/C failed you were toast, other than setting toe there was no way of making
    front end alignment adjustments and the V-6 engine was not known for performance. Did not take the job would have destroyed my career.

    Like 1

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