Collectible Classic: 1981-1983 De Lorean

Eric McCandless

From the soft, reclined driver's seat, you notice nothing of the distant 90-degree V-6's uneven firing interval (it lacks split crankpins), only how superbly mellow it is. Like all Bosch K-Jetronic fuel-injected cars, the De Lorean is a delight to drive smoothly, and the five-speed manual transmission's shift action is surprisingly precise. The steering is modern-car quick and lacks power assist -- unnecessary in a 2800-pound car with little more than a third of its weight up front. Not much feedback comes through the wheel, but the Lotus backbone's meager torsional rigidity allows the steering column -- and the rest of the interior -- to rattle around over bumps.

The interior of Christopher Kiss's 14,500-mile 1981 De Lorean is finished in the optional gray, which relieves much of the claustrophobia that bothered original road testers. Compared with modern cars and their high sills, visibility from inside the De Lorean is surprisingly good. Airflow through the tiny side windows? Not so much.

We had to restrain ourselves from asking if the paint was original, because, as we know, the De Lorean isn't painted. Kiss gives his car an annual once-over with Ajax, just like he's cleaning his kitchen sink -- touch-ups are done with a scouring pad. And we were careful not to fondle his car too much during the photo shoot -- if you think your stainless-steel fridge is hard to keep free of fingerprints, imagine a whole car in sunlight.

We couldn't, of course, stop ourselves from trying to hit 88 mph. Dense traffic and the laid-back V-6 conspired against us, but in retrospect, hitting that speed -- and inducing time travel -- was unnecessary. Now that the De Lorean itself is as old as the 1950s cruisers in Back to the Future were, we already know that John De Lorean's creation lived up to one of its main goals: being truly timeless.

The car is of great design. Given more money to make it right as well as reduce weight, then put in a more potent engine, similar to a Ferrari 308 and this could have been an amazing car. The authors got it right, though: the car was a huge hit in the movie and had the company lasted, that could have been the sales boom to get it going. More models would have been needed to keep it viable, however. One thing we've learned in the years since is that no car company can be a one-trick pony. Even Mini has several models and they aren't truly independent.
I often wonder what would result from marrying the DMC-12 to the Ford V8 powered Bricklin? I would think it not too hard to install a V-8 and six-spd auto in the DMC.
I wouldn't say that the pronunciation of "giga" (as used in "Back to the Future") is incorrect.Apparantly, even though the hard-G pronunciation may be ubiquitous these days (e.g. gigabytes, gigahertz) that is a relatively recent pronunciation trend. The historically favored pronunciation is with the "soft" g (i.e. "jiggawatts") rather than the "hard" G. In fact, any old-timer engineer (pre-1980s) is much more likely to use the soft-G pronunciation than the hard-G. Also (according to Wikipedia) the National Institutes of Standards and Technologies (NIST) pronunciation guide still lists the soft-G as the correct pronunciation.
I had the first DeLorean in Denver. Cost me a $5,000 premium. I dropped the transmission the first month, but really had no further problems in the three years I drove it as a daily driver, though it did not like hot weather. I loved the car, except for the low power -- it was woefully slow for such a hot design. I sold it after 3 years for half what I paid for it, but it was a fun ride for me.

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