Rare in Red: 1981 Delorean DMC-12


While there are always a few of the stainless steel DeLorean DMC-12’s floating around, far rarer to find are the ones that were painted by the factory. Some owners have taken matters into their own hands and splashed some color on the gullwing bodies, but this low-mileage example here on eBay is said to have received its red exterior while being assembled at the factory. 


Although it is unfortunately an automatic transmission-equipped example, the rarity of its exterior color makes this survivor-grade find a compelling purchase regardless of whether there’s a clutch pedal. With just 30,000 original miles, it has remained in excellent condition, indicating it was intentionally preserved rather than a forgotten barn find left to rot.


These cars were never as fast as their exteriors promised, even more so with the automatic. However, I would argue this example will be the center of any DeLorean gathering regardless of its performance credentials. This particular car was found in a garage after being stored in 1993, and the seller promises it runs well enough but will need new fuel injectors to smooth out some roughness at idle.


Seeing the door jambs painted gives you some comfort that the factory-applied paint claims are true, but I would still do some digging to find out more. There are plenty of DeLorean enthusiast groups out there which should be able to do some VIN decoding to confirm its authenticity, but that’s assuming the factory kept records. What do we think – is this a real-deal DMC-12 painted by the factory?


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  1. dj

    Missing the DMC emblem in the grill. So I’d say one of the owners painted it.

  2. Paul

    From what I have read about painted Delorean’s, there were only three and they were farmed out not painted at the factory. The three were, a red, black and a yellow. The owner of the red one had it stripped to bare metal before he realized what he had. The owner of the black car had it painted blue and they do not know where the yellow one is. There was not paint shop at the Delorean factory. Now, do we believe everything we read on the web? The author of the article I read either was or a self proclaimed authority on the subject…

  3. Brian

    Yeah. I remember when these were new. A lot of dealers painted these red. Saw a few myself. I may be wrong but I don’t think the factory painted any of their cars.

  4. The Walrus

    Nothing about this car screams ‘low mileage garage queen’. From it’s improper stance, to its incorrect tires to it’s very off body seams to the missing grill emblem, this thing more likely screams ‘I may have been painted at a dealer at some point after an accident’. Not buying the ‘it came this way’ line.

  5. Rocko

    They are all low mileage because no one wants to drive them.

    Like 1
    • Slick51

      I’m curious as to what you drive, or what you consider to be an acceptable ride. Comments like this make me shake my head.

      • Lewis Jones

        an AMC Pacer is a cooler car, and your question, A Range Rover and Bandit Trans Am, also a ’69 Vette for road racing.

  6. dirtyharry

    The seller does not claim it was painted at the factory. He said it was a dealer paint job. It looks like hell too. One of the main things that made these cars interesting was the stainless panels. It is possible to strip these and refinish them. I drove one and was so disappointed. That PVR drivetrain hooked to an automatic, what a dog. Worth buying if the price is right, fix the panels and drop in a V8, these cars should have always had a V8. Nobody really wants a PVR motor do they?

  7. brakeservo

    Seller has “interesting” eBay name,and even more interesting feedback comments.

  8. Dave Wright

    In the old days, we assumed a painted Delorean had been wrecked and repaired. Pretty tough to polish bondo.

  9. Greg72

    Not only has this one been painted, but has a flat hood (which were not available until later in the production run- ’82 / ’83) and a missing front emblem- this car has almost certainly been hit in the front.

  10. RockabillyJay

    Pretty sure I saw this exact car for sale at the Pomona swap meet about 10 years ago…

  11. daniel wright

    I cant tell if it’s just the photo but the brake pedal rubber looks worn smooth.

  12. David Rucker

    I don’t claim to be an expert. I do however own 2 of these cars, belong to several clubs and groups, have many friends that own them, and have met several people that worked for DeLorean when it was in business. All paint jobs were either dealer or owner painted. All cars from the factory were bare stainless, gray or black interior, auto or manual, with the exception of 3. The 3 non stainless Ds were actually 24k gold plated for a promo for American Express and came with a tan interior. All other factory paint job or v8 engine stories are actually in reference to a different gull-wing car the Bricklin which at first glance may resemble the DeLorean but is a very different car completely unrelated to the DeLorean Motor Company.

  13. jaymes

    dealer respray? used car dealer maybe. i bet theres body damage under the paint

  14. Rock On Member

    The best part of the eBay ad ….. the guy spells DeLorean wrong!!!

  15. Alan (Michigan)

    Those extra large rear tires would normally indicate that there is excessive power on tap. Goes to show, appearances can indeed be deceiving!

  16. Willie

    Well This red one was seen in Ontario. Taken back in 2003.

  17. Mchael

    There was a red DeLorean on EBAY not too long ago. It was donated by someone and in pretty crappy condition. Wonder if this is it a bit cleaned up. For sure is the same color

  18. Brian Joseph

    After the DeLorean factory closed,all the inventory was transferred to Consolidated stores in Columbus ohio. They painted one car red and gave it away in a contest .

  19. Michael Fertig

    If you read the description on ebay it doesn’t say factory red, it says dealer painted red!!!!!!

  20. James Waters

    #661. Was one of the ones painted red it’s now back to SS brush only 3 were painted but not by factory

  21. cudaman

    Had a 1981 with 7k miles. Could never get it running. The only painted ones were wrecked ones……

  22. Slick51

    No DeLorean was painted by the factory.

  23. Tyler

    I’ve seen guys over on LS1 tech putting the LS4’s from the front wheel drive Impala’s into these cars & turning them into the car John DeLorean envisioned.

  24. Hej

    You know what always puzzled me about these cars, that not many folks utilize them as a decent base for mods …like a Pantera. It would seem that an incredibly underpowered sports car wanna-be like the DeLorean should be tinkered with far in advance of a strong, original De Tomaso, but one does not seem to find many that were played with.

    • michael

      what ya mean??? Ever watch ‘Back to the future’?
      I’ve seen plenty of DeLorean tinkering there

  25. Philip

    Factory red no way. I nearly bought one of these in 1993 for 2000$ with 3700 miles on it. The Peugeot or PVR motor was garbage from mile one. The injection systems are garbage from new and the cars ran poorly coming off the delivery truck. That motor was too smogged out once the US pollution controls that were mandatory sucked the rest of the life out of them. That is why they are all low but miles, no one drive them because most won’t or can’t run. Not many even know how to work on them, which is why they sit.

    These cars are screaming for an all aluminum LS motor conversion, n better yet a Supercharged LS. No rear wheel drive platform necessary it’s fairly straightforward to build and fabricate the needed parts to do the conversion. If they can put a LS motor in a Fiero, a DeLorean will be a piece of cake.

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