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Red 1981 DeLorean DMC12 with Only 981 Miles

Uncovering Red DMC12

Cars always seem more interesting when there are stories that go along with them, and does this car have stories! The seller bought this DeLorean recently from the original owner, a 90-year old friend of his, who bought it in 1982 because his daughter liked the car and the color. That’s right, it’s a painted DeLorean. There’s more to the story, and we’ll get to that, but for now find it here on eBay with bidding almost to $25K with several days to go before the auction ends. And if you’d like to see it in person, it can be found in Morgan Hill, California.

Red 1981 DeLorean DMC12

How does a 30+ year old DeLorean come out of long term storage in a barn looking brand new? And how does it get to be red, when these cars were sold with unpainted stainless steel bodies? That last question is easy: nobody knows. The best guess is that the DeLorean dealer painted the car before it was sold, maybe to help it sell. The red paint certainly looks good on the car. But why was such a good looking car stored in a barn for 31 years? It seems the owner’s knees couldn’t take the movements needed to get into and out of the car. Seeing as he’s slowing down now at age 90, he decided to sell.

1981 DeLorean Interior

The car has recently had work done to deal with the 31 year layoff, and it runs and looks great, but there are potential problems with the documents, the VIN, and license plates that might not be as simple to deal with as the seller suggests. Since the car has lived in California it would be wise for a prospective buyer to check out the paperwork and the car’s status carefully with the DMV.

981 Mile DeLorean DMC12

With only 981 miles showing it’s not surprising that the car would look virtually brand new inside, but the underside also looks like it just underwent a complete money-no-object restoration. Since this is billed as a unique, ultra-low mile car, potential buyers will need to judge the car’s appeal against the stories about the car’s papers and the well-known limitations in the DeLorean’s drivetrain and design. Do you think the car’s low miles and good looks make it worth buying despite those potential issues?


  1. MH

    What an amazing car to own. But I would rather buy something else for that kind of $.

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    • Kurt

      Yes it is an amazing car. I am the owner of this vehicle at the moment. There seems to be lots of confusion on the title. I have the new title in hand and the smog papers too. The CHP cleared the VIN of the car just months ago. This is why it doesn’t appear on AUTOCHECK yet. But speculation is speculation. People can think anything they want.


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      • Arturo Vazquez

        Hey Kurt. If it’s originally painted we may be the first owners of that red Delorian. My dad bought it new for my sister and her favorite color was Red so he had the dealer paint it. My sister sold the car to someone for $3000 after the transmission had took a dump and sat in the garage for a few years. When my dad found out he flipped. It was the last time I saw that car. I would love to see if it is actually my sisters old car. If you can find out the last name on the title was Vazquez. Please let me know. If you decide to sell it let me know as well. Thanks

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  2. Anastos

    I grew up in LA and there was a guy I went to high school that drove a red DeLorean so I can’t imagine they’re too uncommon.

    That said, if anyone’s worried about title/plate issues, I know a DMV service in San Jose that can handle all that stuff on the up and up for a few hundred bucks.

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  3. jerry wayne

    Most DeLoreans that are painted are typically hiding Bondo

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  4. Joe

    Everyone knows why these cars were painted … because they were damaged and it’s the only way to cover up the bondo.

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  5. Rich

    with an inaccurate vin and a plate from a stolen vehicle, I don’t think I’d bite on this one. That underbody looks too good to be true as well. Something just doesn’t smell right.

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  6. Mark E

    At $25k plus you’re getting into the area of a decent restored one is priced. True, very low mileage ones have sold for much more but they don’t have the problems or questions this one has.

    I’m continually amazed how collectible these have become. A poorly designed car with a truly awful drivetrain and build quality that would make the worst of the UK seem superior. (The prep center would receive new cars from Ireland and check/modify hundreds of items, taking dozens of hours per car) Feature it in one famous movie and it has cult status. Doesn’t make sense but maybe that’s just me.

    Finally, yes, I remember seeing pics of painted DeLoreans for sale brand new. And yes, they were red.

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  7. RockabillyJay

    I remember seeing a red one at the Pomona swap about ten years ago..so that’s three red ones in CA? Hmmmm

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  8. Ed P

    I like the DeLorean better in red than the natural stainless finish.

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  9. mike

    we had one of the red ones in eastern PA. back in the day.look better than the plain stainless steel ones i think.

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    • Matt J

      I used to see one in Penn Valley on Centennial Rd. Is this you? I lived on Flat Rock. Matt

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  10. Clay Bryant

    I think everyone missed the boat on the paint.I saw one here in Nebraska before anyone had seen them and they were doing some cross country test driving at night.It had electrical problems and the mechanic had problems getting ahold of the main office to sort things out.If you were there you would know why they painted some.If someone touched the stainless and then drove it around any dusty climate,you had hundreds of fingerprints show up and it looked like crap.I read some articles later on and they explained why they were going to paint some if the customer so desired.Like COPO cars.Anything to make a sale.If you live in Bakersfield,California the mechanic back then now has 2-3 transmission shops there and his name is Johnny.Ask him and he’ll tell you the same.(Old age has it’s privilages if you’re a well read ol’ gearhead and full of life experiences)p.s….Tell him “Hi” for me.

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  11. VIKING

    Nice car, but terrible engine. It has a French built V6, that the camshaft lobs would wear out in a very short time. I know this, my friend have a Volvo repair shop, and some of the high end volvos used this engine for a short time, but thank GOD they stopped using it,

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  12. Alan (Michigan)

    Looks more like something that will find its’ way into a collection, to sit for many more years than one which will be driven. Plate/VIN issues aside, I just don’t see someone buying this who wants even occasional transportation in it.

    Like 1
  13. scot

    ~ Why couldn’t the red block B23 turbo motor be fitted to the Delorean?

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  14. DRV

    His brother had a Caddy dealership in Cleveland that was a DeLorean dealership too where he painted all of the ones he sold. He also had one of the original Gran Sport Corvettes.

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  15. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Reports of that time period said as sales flagged DeLorean started to paint their cars in hopes of upping sales.

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  16. Barry

    I love the color so for me at least it makes it the best looking DeLorean I’ve ever seen.

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    • Dickie F

      I agree Barry – the best DeLorean I have ever seen.

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    • Brian

      I’ll third that! I’d never really thought about it, but I guess I never knew that you could paint stainless steel (or whatever these were actually made of), but I also really like the concept! Now, I’m starting to wonder if Johnny D had made his cars in fiberglass or some sort of high impact plastic with a wide pallet of colors if they could have made these cars cheaper to buy and improved sales? How much more fun would these cars have been if they’d dropped in 350 Corvette motors instead of retread french/Volvo engines! Sure, the early 80s Corvette engines weren’t what they had been 15-20 years before, but performance upgrades would be unlimited today! Coulda, shoulda, woulda…

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      • Philip

        I remember seeing a brand new red one in the show room at Hahn chrysler delorean in yakima wa

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  17. Dutch 1960

    Back in early 1982, the Cadillac dealer in Pomona also held the DeLorean franchise. They had at least a dozen new DeLoreans on the lot. About 2/3 of them were painted red, and the other 1/3 were bright yellow. I assume the dealer (who had an extensive service and body shop on site) had painted these things in order to get them sold and off the lot. They certainly did stand out in a sea of tame metallic blue and beige Cadillacs.

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  18. ConservativesDefeated

    Very curious and interesting seller story about the pla e. Sounds completely implausible which may mean it’s true. Given that the car was hardly ever driven one has to wonder whether the original owner saw the error of his original purchase. Knees aside.

    On the other hand the fact the present seller has not apparently squared the plate and VIN problem away says something.

    Whoever buys it will put it in a garage and wait for the inevitable bubble.

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  19. Mike O'Handley

    Weird coincidence,

    I just watched an episode of Classic Car Rescue on Velocity Channel where they picked up a red Delorean that had been sitting in a barn a couple hundred miles north of Toronto in Canada.

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    • Elizabeth

      I just saw that too!
      Red paint was hiding bondo.

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      • Clay bryant

        You have better eyes then me.Of course I didn’t see the all black helicopters or Russian tanks hidden in South dakota either.

        Like 0
  20. Cameron Bater UK

    I hate to rain on your parade but there is only ever two reasons why a DMC 12 is painted;
    1. To hide filler from crash damage
    2. to make maintanance easier (stainless steel smidges like a B***h).
    In the experiance of my close circle of friends its usually the former, the previous owner has damaged the bodywork and had it filled over and painted as you can’t pull or push the dents out like you would in a normal car thatnks to the Glass fibre shell underneath the bodywork, you can get BNOS or BNN (Brand New Old Stock & and Brand New, New) from Califonia (I think) as someone in the US of A bought the factory in Ireland and shipped all the contents to america, they can literally build a new DMC12 but they are costly.

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    • CBL

      Owned a red delorean…and sure enough it HID collusion Damage on the front fenders(both)as the drivers side fender is VERY VERY expensive to buy…the rest of the car was just fine.

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  21. Ken Nelson

    Having sat in an early Delorean prototype when it was being developed in Detroit, I was dismayed by the high center console, lousy visibility and ergonomics. I never sat in a production one, so some of that may have been fixed later. If I remember right, an engineer by the name of Bill Collins showed me the car as I had done an article for Machine Design on a mostly plastic car concept, including a partial history of many different approaches to using composites (plastics of different kinds), and at the time Delorean was trying to use Lotus’ method of using fiberglass and foam construction to make an entire molded monocoque structure to simplify construction. This prototype used a Citroen CX engine which was probably replaced with the V6 engine for a lot more power. I was enthusiastic about the molded structure, as it went further into composites than Lotus had ever done, but the approach was dropped, probably due to the low production rate limitations of many plastics vs stamped metal parts.
    The stainless body always struck me as a gimmick, as the surface was awfully easy to mess up with only one’s skin oils, and was a bugger to clean up. Overall, it still strikes me as just another one of Delorean’s bad ideas, which begs the question, just when did he get into the drugs? Before or during this project?
    BTW, I seem to remember that after the Delorean, Collins was instrumental in developing the Vixen RV, a clever garageable one due to its compact design, and was a far better result than the Delorean, albeit about as short lived.

    Like 0
    • Cameron Bater UK

      I hate to rain on your parade but the early prototypes were developed by the Irish and British (Deloran Moror Company and Lotus)

      Like 0
      • CBL

        The VERY FIRST hand built prototype Delorean was built in the USA in Michigan…and had a 4 banger..and had almost nothing that could bolt or work on a production Delorean…the other Prototype Delorean… Lotus had and in the end some of the workers played “demolition derby” with it and destroyed it…after delorean DMC folded and ownership was questionable as to who owned it…problem solved…

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  22. Ken Nelson

    Nix the rain Cameron – developing a car is always multi-locational – prototypes came to Detroit because that’s the market they wanted for the car – and it was DeLorean’s baby for awhile at least. Of course I knew Lotus was the manufacturer, as it was and probably still is the expert in RTM – resin transfer molding, and that the co. was based in the UK, but there were plenty Detroiters involved in the evolution – after all, it had to meet all US DOT and EPA reqts. Check out the article on plastics in automotive construction – it details most of the history of composites in “plastic” cars up to the DeLorean, and was the cover of the Feb. 1980 issue of Machine Design mag. ‘Nuff said?

    Like 0
  23. Mike O'Handley


    They were build in Ireland near Belfast.

    There was some pre-development done on this side of the pond. He got seed development investments from a dealership network here and Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Junior. The car was designed by an Italian, Giorgetto Giugiaro, based on a design study that the italian had done in 1973. Giugiaro also designed dozens of other cars, including the Hyundai Pony.

    I remember the first time I’d seen a Hyundai Pony when the military sent me to Korea in 1977. I saw this cool looking 3-door coupe down in Camp Coiner in Yongsan and I asked a soldier nearby, “Hey, what the hell is that. He answered, I dunno but it kind of looks like a mini Delorean; which it did. If you get a look at a 1974 Hyundai Genesis that was shown at the 1974 Car Show in Turin, Italy, you’ll definitely see the genesis (pun intended) of the DMC12 styling. (Sorry I tried to upload photos of those cars to show the resemblance but couldn’t make it work.)

    I remember reading back in the 80’s that there had been one or two early styling concept cars built stateside in the mid-70’s so that Delorean had something to show potential dealers and investors when he was trying to raise money to start his company. I suspect it was one of those styling exercises that the gentleman above got a preview of. If memory of the article I read serves, Delorean wasn’t even ready to begin searching for a plant location until the late 70’s at the point where Delorean’s stateside dream team took the car as far as they could. Delorean was initially spurned by the Irish government and was about to sign a deal to build the plant in Puerto Rico when the irish Government had a change of heart. The Brits then came to Delorean and sweetened the pot hoping to curb violence in northern Ireland by creating jobs.

    Lotus designers did work with Delorean for a while but they were experienced at building racecars – not road cars. There were some problems with the finished product; so many that Delorean had to build plants in the US to receive the cars shipped to the states and fix them before they could be put out on the road. By the time production finally began in the early 80’s they’d essentially been bankrupt for a while and just didn’t realize it. Delorean was hoping to get more money from the brits but the brits told him he had to put up matching funds. He couldn’t raise the money. It was after that when he was arrested for allegedly dealing drugs. The story was that he’d been trying to raise the money needed by dealing in drugs but he was subsequently found innocent – not by the public though. That ended his run.

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  24. Mike O'Handley


    I just re-read my post and realized that I’d completely forgotten to make my point which was that folks knew about the Delorean before it was ever officially “built”. Though I had no idea what the Delorean the other troop was talking about was, he’d apparently read about them and seen a photo or sketch someplace. Probably in a car magazine. I didn’t even make the connection until a few years later when I saw one in a car mag in the 80’s and noted it’s similarity; when viewed straight on, to the Pony (The one above was built in 1974 for the Turin show). I think we've all seen car show articles that showed design studies of various cars that didn't make it to the market for years or in many cases never made it beyond the styling exercise stage.

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  25. Mike O'Handley

    Trying again to post pony sketches

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    • Mike J.

      Wow, that side view looks like a 1981 Toyota Corolla Sport coupe SR5 that I drove for nine years. Mine was yellow. The Corolla wagon had a longer roof and a shorter hatchback, but I perferred the Sport coupe.

      Like 0
      • Mike O'Handley

        Yeah, my wife’s first car was a little Toyota Corolla fastback that, in profile, looked very much like the top car in the sketch.

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  26. Mark

    I was in Lake Tahoe Nevada last May 2014 and went to the Harrahs car collection in Reno Nevada and there was a Delorean there painted gold. Also saw a Tucker car there too. Would recomend checking out this car museum in Reno Nevada.

    Like 0
  27. DMCJOE

    No Mark..that was NOT painted Gold…that IS Gold..all the panels were 24K gold plated…plated as in the fashion of a cheap gold plated watch..as if that delorean will have virtually no gold plating left on it if is ever driven on a regular basis

    Like 0

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