Live Auctions

No Reserve 5-Speed: 1981 DMC DeLorean

I would hate to estimate just how many articles have been written over the years about the failure of DeLorean, but I suspect that the number would probably run well into six-figure territory. Like so many vehicles scattered throughout automotive history, it marked the spot where automotive ambition and reality collided, and the result was pretty messy. However, it seems that every cloud has a silver lining because the car that was a dismal failure in the early 1980s has become a classic with a solid following today. This 1981 model needs some TLC, but the owner is including most of the parts required to return it to a roadworthy state. If you feel that the time is right for you to join the growing clan of DeLorean enthusiasts, you will find this one located in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding currently sits at $30,200, with the reserve now met.

There are sometimes design features on classic cars that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, they tend to polarize potential buyers. That is the case with the DeLorean. The brushed stainless finish that was a standard feature on the vehicle is nothing if not distinctive, but it didn’t win universal favor. That is why you will occasionally see these cars with dealer-applied paint jobs. The other weakness of the stainless finish is that dings and dents can prove challenging to fix. That doesn’t seem to be an issue here, with the panels appearing to be very straight. The usual color difference between the stainless and the urethane on the nose and rear of the vehicle is visible here, and there isn’t much that can be done to address this short of painting the urethane. The glass and wheels appear to be in good condition, and the owner makes no mention of rust issues. The weak point here is the frame. These were epoxy-coated during construction, and if the epoxy has remained intact, there shouldn’t be any dramas. If it has come away for any reason, it can cause some headaches. It would be worth inspecting the car’s underside to ensure that all is well in this area, although the owner does state that it is solid.

If the drivetrain configuration that John DeLorean had envisaged for his car had come to fruition, it would have been a different animal. His vision was for a mid-mounted Wankel rotary, making the vehicle lighter and better balanced than it eventually became. Time and financial constraints meant that the DeLorean was developed with a rear-mounted 2,849cc fuel-injected V6 that produced 130hp in its prime. Hooked to this would either be a 5-speed manual or an optional 3-speed automatic transaxle. Thankfully, the original owner didn’t tick that box on the order sheet, because this one is a manual. Equipped with the 5-speed, a DeLorean can cover the ¼ mile in a leisurely 16.5 seconds. Swap to the automatic, and you can time it accurately with a sundial. The owner claims that the vehicle has a genuine 12,000 miles on the clock, and judging by the vast collection of paperwork he holds, I suspect that this can probably be verified. The documentation dates back to day 1 for this classic and is a great bonus when determining the car’s value, both now and into the future. The owner says that the DeLorean runs, and he has recently spent $6,000 on the engine and its ancillaries. He is including receipts for the work but emphasizes that there is still more to be done. However, most of the parts for this work are included in the sale. The list includes a new set of tires, a full set of belts, new rear brake calipers, a new master cylinder, a new idle speed control valve, and new valve cover gaskets. Installing all of those parts should occupy a fair chunk of the colder months, but it will go a long way towards returning the vehicle to a roadworthy state.

If there’s one aspect of this DeLorean that impresses me, it’s the interior. Despite the car being marketed as a premium sports car, some of the interior trim’s quality could be found wanting. Plastic is renowned for deteriorating badly, and even the stitching on the leather seats would come undone with monotonous regularity. That isn’t the case here, with the interior presenting quite well. I can’t spot anything that requires attention, but even if parts are needed, they remain readily available. Apart from leather upholstery, a DeLorean comes equipped with air conditioning, power windows, power locks, a leather-bound tilt/reach wheel, a rear window defogger, and an AM/FM radio/cassette player. That wasn’t too shabby back in 1981.

When the DeLorean Motor Company collapsed, there was every chance that its single model offering would disappear into the pages of history like so many similar vehicles. However, these are a car that has found a new lease on life, and values continue to rise at a steady rate. This one isn’t roadworthy, and yet it has already attracted 24 bids. Tidy and original examples regularly sell for $45,000, but it isn’t unusual for a pristine, low-mileage example to top $60,000. It might be 40-years too late, but the DMC DeLorean has become a desirable classic. If the illustrious Mr. DeLorean was still with us, that would be enough to gladden his heart.


  1. Michael Malcewicz

    Says the car sat in barn for 30 years in Ebay description. It will need a lot of work to bring it back. If it sat on a dirt floor, you can bet there is rust on the none stainless steel parts that are plain steel. Bids at $30,600. What do the say, fools and their money??

    Like 2
  2. Douglas Emde

    What is the VIN? Mileage? I had 2, one bought new and one in 1983(an ’81). Both sold years ago for too little. This one is an early model based on gas flap.

  3. martinsane

    The “lady fox” vanity plate is more than a curiosity for me ar least.

  4. 70/72 Monte Carlo

    I am not a DeLorean Car guy. But as the owner of First Generation Monte Carlo’s, a 70 and 72 when I was younger. And a garage with a 70 and 72 currently, I am a John DeLorean GM guy. DeLorean Is a GM Icon. He and Pete Estes were involved with the design/development of the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Chevy Monte Carlo. His DeLorean cars were futuristic and contemporary for the time they came out. But just like Tucker, DeLorean could not overcome the government and the established car manufacturers.

  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    sold for $35,000.

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