DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean DMC-12

Future Proof ‘Buy your dream car, Marty’ — here’s how. James Walshe says it’s time to buy a DeLorean.


Buyer’s Brief: DeLorean DMC-12 Choosing a gull-winged time machine.


Why you want one


The DeLorean DMC-12 is a star member of a small, but highly exclusive club. When the company founder’s dream died in 1982 at the hands of the receivers, the car joined the ranks of other heroic failures such as the Tucker Torpedo, Bricklin SV-1 and MG SV. However, while the potential for ownership of those cars is either slim to non-existent, a decent number of DMC- 12s were built, so buying one is still just about within the realms of possibility to many of us.


Buyer’s Brief: DeLorean DMC-12 Choosing a gull-winged time machine

It might have been doomed, but John DeLorean’s coupé was far from a bad car – and it certainly wasn’t the sales flop you’d imagine it was. More than 6000 are still on the road worldwide, with devoted owners able to gaze at that beautiful Giugiaro-styled, brushed stainless steel bodywork and pilot a genuine superstar. The movie fame is unshakable and myths plentiful but these are now, in our view, irrelevant. Ignore the armchair experts and their nonsense about poor build, wayward handling, unrepairable panels or being trapped inside by the gullwing doors. This is an exotic classic that’s wonderful to look at, to own and to drive. And it’s still possible to buy one at a realistic price. Just…


Which one do you want?

You might imagine the 9000 cars DeLorean produced would be much the same, but there were a few little tweaks during production. All got a development of the 2.7-litre PRV (Peugeot-Renault- Volvo) V6, equipped with a five-speed manual or three-speed auto. There are more manuals around, but demand is greater so expect to dig deeper. The DMC-12 wasn’t officially sold in the UK but, early on, a very tiny handful of prototypes were flipped to right-hand drive by Andover firm, Wooler-Hodec. There have been independent conversions of varying quality since, but they do command a premium in the UK against the standard LHD car, especially those from Essex-based PJ Grady – a company specialising in right-hand-drive cars. These are highly prized with a value to match.

Obviously, you knew at some point we’d have to mention Back to the Future. You may indeed stumble over an example modified to resemble the movie car. Whether this appeals very much depends on why you’re buying a DeLorean, but we’d suggest taking a great deal of extra care to ensure that underneath Doc Emmett Brown’s time machine modifications is a car that’s had all the specialist care every DeLorean DMC-12 requires!


What should I look for?

Parts supply is brilliant, thanks to a large stock of new-old-stock bits that were retained by specialists in the US. In addition, there have been efforts to remanufacture obsolete components but whatever you need, there’s outstanding club support.

Chris Parnham, historian and author of the book DeLorean: Celebrating the Impossible, says getting to know fellow owners is the key. ‘Everyone in the DeLorean Owners’ Club is approachable and extremely knowledgeable, but it was the warm welcome I received that really helped me to decide to get into these cars properly, so that’s when I bought my first.’

Chris recommends that the first thing to do with a prospective purchase is get underneath. The DMC-12 is built around a steel backbone chassis, which forms a central tunnel with a Y-shape at each end. It’s coated in epoxy and lasts well except where the coating has been removed by careless use of a jack, by stone chips or by brake fluid leaking from the master cylinder. It’s vital to check for rust in the front frame extension around the steering rack and radiator, because necessary repairs will mean the engine has to come out. There’s a GRP body tub on top of the chassis and bolted to that are the famous stainless steel panels, which can be a little tricky to repair.

Curiously, nearside wings can be hard to find but PG Grady is able to remake them from scratch. It is worth seeking out recommendations for specialists in this field because with age, and thanks in part to the quality of metal DeLorean used, corrosion can become an issue. Repairing accident damage is also expensive and difficult so use this as a bargaining chip when buying.

Ignoring the gauges is not recommended when it comes to the PRV engine and although tough when cared for, it’s easily written off if neglected. Airlocks can cause header tanks to blow up with age and use, with water pump failure a potential disaster.

Chris Nicholson of specialist PJ Grady has owned countless numbers of DeLoreans over the years and says potential buyers need to inspect carefully and look for any drips underneath. ‘The radiator at the front of the car is lower than the engine and, together with the long, corrosion-prone aluminium coolant pipes routed along the backbone chassis, this can lead to overheating problems.’

Manual gearboxes are durable and clutches cheap, but fitting is a challenge that requires lots of time, patience and – if you’re paying somebody else, money. Automatic gearboxes can fail – the sign being an erratic gearshift.

Meanwhile, the four-wheel disc brakes are a mixture of Ford and Jaguar parts, with all items available, and the unassisted steering isn’t known to be a problem area. However, the front suspension components (an upper wishbone and a lower arm) were made of thin, corrosion-prone steel. Check the bills and get under the car to ensure they’ve been done.

Electrics are the main bugbear of a DeLorean as it gets older. Some of it wasn’t up to the job, with some circuits over-burdened and relays inadequate in both number and quality. Everything can be replaced with better quality modern items, although it is suggested restorers are careful if they choose to replace the loom, because new-old-stock items could have been lying around for decades.

Inside the comfy cabin, sunlight can ruin the interior and leave plastics brittle. All of it is available new, however; and although not cheap, it’s worth the investment because it’s better quality. Chances are, if you’re buying a car with any kind of specialist history, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue with those doors, but solving a poorly fitting one is as awkward as you might imagine.

Is a DeLorean purchase worth it? Absolutely. With prices on the rise, it’s about time…


USEFUL CONTACTS

  • DeLorean Owners’ Club UK, deloreans.co.uk
  • DeLorean Club, deloreanclub.uk
  • PJ Grady, pjgrady.co.uk
  • DMC Europe, delorean.eu.

Lancaster Quote

BASED ON 45-YEAR-OLD, with a second vehicle. It’s garaged, covers 3000 miles per year and lives in an SP2 postcode. Owner has no claims or convictions, is a club member and is employed as a marketing manager: £79.08 or £97.08 with Agreed Value.

*Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may vary between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria.

An additional charge may be payable.

**Quotes based on a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 valued at £35,000.


CHAT WITH A DELOREAN OWNER

David Mayled from Milford Haven tells us how he made his DeLorean dream a reality.

1 Is this your first DeLorean?

‘It certainly is! I’ve always wanted one, so I found this 1981 example a couple of years ago in Dublin. The seller couldn’t be bothered to take pictures of it, because it was in an underground car park. Everyone told me it was a scam, but a friend in Dublin went to view it for me and confirmed it was original. I ended up going myself and then drove it home. I had kept it quiet from the family!’

2 So it was a nice surprise, then?

‘Not necessarily, no. My wife Carol was a bit cross; we were supposed to spending some money on doing work on the house. Everything is fine now, though! My son Dylan especially loves it – in particular the doors, which are always great to use. But my daughter won’t go near it because she says it’s too embarrassing!’

3 What’s it like to live with a DeLorean?

‘We drive to Tenby for days out and the cameras come out! It puts huge smiles on people’s faces – sparking conversations and it becomes a social thing. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the film, but people get it very wrong. One guy thought it was a Star Wars car, while another likened me to David Hasselhoff from Knight Rider!’

4 How does it compare to other classics?

‘I’ve had a few classic cars, from a Triumph Stag to an Austin A35 that I bought for Carol when she passed her test. But the DeLorean is so unique. I love the story of the car, particularly how it brought a protestant and catholic workforce together in Belfast. Few cars have a history quite like this. And not many look as good.’


MARKET ANALYSIS with James Walshe

Prices have been rising sharply – find an example for £20k or so, and you’ll be looking at a non-runner. That’s quite a hike, but having spoken to the club and studied auctions, that’s what projects are going for. A working example in need of revival can be bagged for around £25,000, but a well-cared-for car will easily cost upwards of £35k. Most prefer a manual, which means a premium. While Hollywood has played a role in keeping prices healthy over the years, the DeLorean is now recognised for being a slice of motoring exotica with a unique history.


  • Parts With one of the best parts networks and great availability, this is one supercar that’s easy to own.
  • Interior Plastic can go brittle and crack with age but all parts are available new. Doors can be a fiddle to fit properly, but internals are Jag, Metro and Allegro, apparently!
  • Engine Tried and tested PRV V6 is durable as long as the cooling system is looked after. Watch for drips and failing water pump.
  • Body Panels need specialist work so get friendly with the club if dents are present.

WHAT TO PAY

  • PROJECT £15,000
  • RUNNER £30,000
  • GOOD £40,000

TECH SPEC

  • Engine 2849cc/V6/OHC
  • Max Power 130bhp @ 5500rpm
  • Max Torque 160lb ft @ 2750rpm
  • Gearbox 5-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 9.5sec
  • Top speed 109mph
  • Fuel economy 22mpg
  • Length 4.27m
  • Width 1.85m

LIVING WITH A DELOREAN

  • How easy to work on 3/5
  • Parts availability 5/5
  • Running cost 2/5
  • Performance 2/5
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