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Showroom Fresh: 879 Mile 1981 DeLorean DMC12

There’s no question that the classic DeLorean DMC12 has been a collector’s item since it was new. Although it’s a fairly recent phenomenon that late-model cars like the McLaren F1 seemingly never lose their value while others are at the height of their depreciation curve, the DeLorean was an early pioneer in fairly recent vehicles becoming instant collector’s items. This one has a mere 879 miles from new, and it’s listed here on eBay with bidding approaching $40K.

The first thing that catches my eye is the presence of the side-body graphics. I feel like over the years I’ve only seen DeLoreans that are completely bare, just the iconic brushed stainless steel, or have some remnants of what we see in complete, untarnished condition here. As a car that didn’t have much in the way of color, you instantly notice things like how bright the taillights remain, or the finish on the turbine-style wheels. While this car will never be anything but a piece of garage art, it at least looks worthy of the role.

Even better is that it was spec’d out with the manual transmission. Despite its sporting appearances, the DeLorean was no corner carver. I’m always surprised by the number of automatic DMC12s that pop up with more frequency than you’d expect. The gray leather was also an option, according to the seller, and the interior appears mint as you might expect for less than 1,000 original miles. On more worn examples, the interior is usually in shambles, a combination of sun exposure and cheap plastics that can make the insides one of the most challenging areas to restore.

The engine could use some detailing, in my opinion, for a car with such low mileage. I’m not a big fan of liberal use of rubber gloss products, but again – for a museum piece – I want to see it detailed to perfection. If I’m going to stare at it all day, it better be glistening from every corner! As mentioned earlier, performance was never this car’s strong suit, but at least the manual is there to bring it a step closer to the genuine Back To The Future experience. What do you think – will the final bid clear $50,000?


  1. Avatar photo mark

    It will only surpass 50K if the flux capacitor has been replaced.

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  2. Avatar photo billy

    What a shame these were not mid engine and had some real HP. Imagine this with an HO 302? Heck, even a 2.2 Chrysler turbo. A car that looked like this and cornered, and had some ooomph, now that would have been a collector. The Lotus plastic/metal frame, might have looked good on paper, but it gave them that rear engine platform, add in the loser engine to go with it, bad news. John should have known better. In the day, these sold for way over sticker, were hard to get, at least at first. People bought them as status symbols, not car purists who enjoyed a real driving experience. Such a shame, what could have been.

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    • Avatar photo KeithK

      What’s even more shameful is that this car will never be more than a garage ornament. There is way more to driving fun than just acceleration and cornering. No classic I own has more than 83 hp but are rolling time capsules and blast to drive none the less. I’d rather own a beater DMC 12 and drive it lumps and all.

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    • Avatar photo SubGothius

      I gather the DMC-12 was originally intended to be a mid-engine Wankel rotary provided by Comotor (a Citroen-NSU joint venture), but when that venture folded, the only other suitable engines and transaxles available could only fit the finalized body/chassis in a rear-engine configuration.

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    • Avatar photo Mark-A

      How about a Porsche flat 6 for an outside the box build? Pretty sure that there’s kits available for LS conversions like the attached file, http://www.carnutcase.com/Car/Delorean/DMC-12/Tuning-Engine-Conversion-Delorean-LS1-Engine-Conversion-152.aspx
      Also saw one that someone else is hoping to add a Lotus Esprit V8 Twin Turbo to 3.5ltr

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  3. Avatar photo Don

    John Delorean had a great car in his mind ,and if it would have became the car he wanted it to be it would have Ben a great sports car our even exotic but money got in the way ,,,to little money ,when l look at a Delorean the 4 lug wheels are so pathetic 👎

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  4. Avatar photo Patrol2620

    I used to love this car and always wanted one . Don with the 4 lug wheels you turned my love upside down.

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    • Avatar photo Don

      I’m so sorry Patrol2620,it will be OK ,I still like them to ,just don’t tale no one OK

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  5. Avatar photo Coventrycat

    Great if you want to hear “Hey, McFly!” everytime you go down the street. There are tons of car far more interesting for the same kind of money.

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  6. Avatar photo Tom

    Unfortunately it’s missing the OE Goodyear NCT’s

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  7. Avatar photo Tim

    ‘Garbage Art’ (whatever that is!) or not, it is certainly way more attractive to look at than the ‘EXCLUSIVE: 1982 Oldsmobile 98 Regency’ shown in the advert below this piece! That should never have been born in the first place.

    For all its faults, the De Lorean is a product of its time and place. Trying to start a car company in a country where the car industry was on its knees, in a war-torn province, with reluctant Government money, was never going to be easy. But give John his due. He did try, and did succeed to some degree. How many pipe-dreams never got this far?

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  8. Avatar photo Jack Quantrill

    Poor DeLorean, he got stung trying to save his company by investing in cocaine! A hidden camera showed him saying: ” this stuff is more valuable than gold”! Sad.

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    • Avatar photo Loco Mikado

      Desperate people sometimes do stupid things. Too bad he decided buying and selling drugs were the way to save his car company and got caught doing so.

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  9. Avatar photo Adam T45 Staff

    IMHO the only advantage I see to owning a DeLorean with such low mileage is that potentially you should be able to drive it a little further than your average owner before something blows up. falls off, leaks out or catches fire. These were the ultimate expression of style over substance.

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  10. Avatar photo scott brandt


    Thank you for posting our low mileage DeLorean on Barnfinds, what an awesome site. Those interested in finding out more about the car can contact us at sales@MotoeXotica.com. We have been in the classic car biz since 1987 with 250 cars in stock, St. Louis, MO.

    Team MotoeXotica

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  11. Avatar photo Kevin

    Holy Crap Mcfly! If this thing fetches $50,000+, what the heck is my freshly restored 64 Impala SS 409 worth? I am really shocked even with the mileage that this car can bring that kind of money. I can appreciate the side graphics as a nice change of pace from the plain Jane look and of course the 4 speed and the Gulwing doors. But really?

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    • Avatar photo steve

      Kevin, that is my dream car, 4 speed? vert? dual radio antennas? I would love a picture.

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  12. Avatar photo Wayne

    Yes, It is not a super car. It does not do anything particularly well. But as a whole, it is a decent driving car. I had a customer that owned a very nice one. Unfortunately he spent a ton of money on it. (after I replaced the clutch) TO have it made into a “Back to the Future” clone. Now it is a terrible car to drive.
    When the batteries (yes, multiple batteries to power up the flux capacitor, smoke generator, computerized time jumper, etc.) are charged.

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  13. Avatar photo Mark

    I notice some of these were painted from the factory. If I were ever to own one, it would be a beater that I could paint and modify with a decent drive train and not cry over loss of originality. Although at that point I’d probably be better off buying a decent Lotus with a similar profile and half the weight to lug around. Has anyone ever seen a pro street Delorean?

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    • Avatar photo Tom

      None were factory painted only dealers did it new. Two gold ones were made (24kt) for the AMEX gift catalog.

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      • Avatar photo scott brandt

        you are correct, if you see them painted they have been wrecked as they were impossible to repair the SS without seeing the repairs……

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  14. Avatar photo Brakeservo

    Whenever bidding reaches a stupid level and it’s “reserve not met” I’m confident the seller’s neighbors and friend’s are entering ‘courtesy’ bids aka shill, at a number under the reserve. I don’t think this practice fools anyone!

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    • Avatar photo Scott

      #Brakeservo you are wrong here, at least on my auctions on eBay. The bids are genuine, real money all the way. High bid is still under our investment for this extremely low mileage example. We have been a top seller on eBay since 1999 and selling classic cars since 1987! Thanks for you interest and comments….s

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  15. Avatar photo Rentalbarn

    I have always considered buying one since one of those unclaimed freight furniture stores was selling new DMC 12’s for $16,000.00 back in the mid 80’s.

    At one time hundreds of new DMC’s were parked nose to tail in a parking lot along the interstate in eastern jersey.

    I watch the current pricing but I can better spend my collector dollars on something better than a cool looking lemon.

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  16. Avatar photo Smittydog

    Sorry, cars were junk.

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  17. Avatar photo T Mel

    Okay, it’s a long read but if you’re interested at all in true facts (and some of my opinions) about the DMC please read on. So many incorrect facts about the DeLorean Motor Company and car are out there and this thread shows a good example of many of them. There are also many negative opinions out there for which I have no reply. Personally I have a good amount of respect for Mr. DeLorean’s vision and the efforts of he and everyone associated with his company. It was a great effort, not perfect by any means but what company or organization has been? As someone who has spent hundreds of hours researching the man, the company, and the car, as well as many other vehicles, and as a car collector, my opinions vary greatly from those with all of the negative comments. For those who think DMCs are never selling for over $50,000, there are examples selling between $80,000-$95,000 and have been for several years now. If you haven’t seen one sell for that much, or haven’t taken a close look at them in person, don’t bother pretending you have more insight on these vehicles than the buyers of those examples. My personal definition of a “car purist” is broad and covers many more perspectives than only those enthusiasts who enjoy acceleration and cornering abilities. It’s easy to argue the historical significance of a DMC automobile. Is a Ford Model T “only garage art” that is never enjoyed on the road because it doesn’t drive like a Ferrari? Any car can be enjoyed through its driving experience for what it is, and for what it isn’t. Those ONLY interested in a vehicle’s sports car attributes have a respectable perspective, but also a very narrow one. The DMC didn’t HAVE to be a rear-engine. As with any corporate decision making process, the engine was chosen for many reasons given the available time, cost, availability, market conditions, current opportunities, business relationships, etc. etc… The DeLorean team didn’t set out to choose an engine that was inferior to many others. Had the company survived a little longer, who knows what kinds of improvements could have come to life? So, if a machine is engineered with the minimum strength components to meet longevity standards (see all Japanese automakers), like four lug nuts for example, then it’s automatically “pathetic”? I guess adding weight for heavier components than necessary (see all U.S. automakers), while gaining little in durability, makes a better engineering strategy? Okay. Every vehicles ever made has been found “interesting” by some. I don’t think any one person can define what is interesting and what is not. John DeLorean DID NOT invest in cocaine. He was enticed by law enforcement ruse and allowed himself to briefly entertain the business consideration of such criminal activity. Legally, this is entrapment and a person cannot be prosecuted when the entire act was conceived, planned, and executed by government agents who conned the “mark” into showing up in that hotel room. Mr. DeLorean never purchased or sold one spec of any illegal substance in connection with the charges he was well known for. The DMC car is, like any other vehicle, a very reliable machine when taken care of properly. They are not known for having parts “fall off”, “leak out”, or “catch fire”. Just my humble opinion, but no car is more boring to me than a Chevrolet sedan. If that sedan has a 409, then okay the engine is somewhat interesting, but the car itself? Not at all. DMCs where never painted at the factory (with the exception of their front and rear bumper fascia). Not all painted DMCs have been wrecked. Some were painted by dealers when they were new in an effort to attract a wider buyer population. Others have been painted by owners out of personal preference. Stainless steel is NOT impossible to repair. It takes a little longer to work the metal but is very repairable. Not all eBayers are schillers. DMCs have never had a lemon reputation other than some early production errors that were corrected within the first few hundred vehicles (much faster correction than GM’s ignition switch problem for example). Finally, you may have noticed that I never referred to the car’s model as “DMC-12”. That’s because the DMC-DMC (make-model) was never officially released as the “DMC-12”. I know this sounds weird but it’s true. I have one of the original common stock offering prospectuses which details that the model was originally “press-released” pre-production as the DMC-12, which was a nod to its originally INTENDED sticker price of $12,000. HOWEVER, with production delays, increased parts costs, and other faulty financial predictions, the company realized months before the car went on sale that the actual MSRP would be closer to $25,000. Since the press had already been reporting the car would be called the DMC-12 and cost around $12,000 at release, and had been reporting this for almost two years before they hit showroom floors, the DMC Company couldn’t continue with the model name and risk facing the obvious questions about how the DMC-12 turned into the DMC-12 for $25,000! In an effort to avoid this publicity, the company quietly removed all notations of “DMC-12”, and replaced them with just “DMC”. This is why the car doesn’t say “DMC-12” anywhere on the vehicle, the MSO documents, the sales brochures, the company’s financial statements, marketing and advertising materials, or anywhere else. What’s interesting to me, is that 36 years later, everyone still hangs on to the model name as “DMC-12” as reported by those early press releases and magazine articles. Everyone calls it the DMC-12; insurance companies, contemporary magazines, books, trade publications, and about anywhere else you look including many owners who have “written in” DMC-12 as the model when filling out title transfers. About the only one not using the model name “DMC-12” was the company itself when they actually released the car for sale. There wasn’t time to come up with a new model name, so they simply dropped the “-12”. The car was officially called just “DMC”. Society has basically created the car’s “DMC-12” model name from an initial spark from the company itself (pre-production only) and because we are just not use to the idea of a car NOT having a model name, or the model name being the same as the make. Funny humans.

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  18. Avatar photo T Mel

    My “barn” find; out of a warehouse of a Tennessee coal mine summer 2010.

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  19. Avatar photo Ken

    T Mel, thanks for your corrections. It’s about time for someone knowledgeable to refute the old wives’ tales that this website seems to attract.

    Like 0

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