27 June 2016

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

DMC 12 front

Why We Like It

The owner says it has no flux capacitor, but this DeLorean doesn’t need one – it will take you right back to the past like it’s 1981. It’s covered just 3231 miles from new, has its original radio, jack, tools and even (perhaps unwisely, given their age) wears its original tyres. If you want a near factory-fresh DeLorean, this must be close to as good as it gets.

What is it?

If the DeLorean DMC 12 had generated as many buyers as it did column inches it would have been one of the biggest automotive hits of the ‘80s.

Conceived by the increasingly delusional and charismatic ex-General Motors executive John Z DeLorean, the project got the backing of the UK government, who saw it as a means of bringing prosperity and peace to a pocket of troubled Belfast.

Gullwing doors, stainless steel body panels, Lotus engineering and Giugiaro styling gave this rear-engined coupe cred, but all that was overwhelmed by the extraordinary stories of embezzlement and drug busts – all true - that flamed around it.


Doors still fly high

Gullwing doors are far from new, but they’re hard to beat for drama as this shot illustrates, the DeLorean’s doors riding high on their gas struts. The DMC 12 was conceived for the American market, many being automatics as a consequence, but this one is a rare five-speed manual. That’s doubly good news, because the Renault sourced 2.8 V6 engine wasn’t hugely powerful – a rapid twin-turbo was under development when the company went under – and a do-it-yourself gearbox gives you a better chance of extracting the best from it.

Fabulous chassis

Never mind the almost flawless stainless steel bodywork – consider this car’s chassis, which looks almost as clean as it did on the day it left the Dunmurry plant in Belfast. The DeLorean was built on the same principles as Lotuses of the era, a steel backbone chassis providing a foundation for the suspension, engine and composite body. The chassis’ grey protective coating appears to be intact, the composite floorpans flanking it just as clean. A lower wishbone can just be seen to be losing its battle with rust – but given how thin its paint would have been, that’s no surprise given the 35 intervening years.

Under the arches

This shot reveals equally impressive preservation, the grey chassis apparently unblemished. The rust-free disc surface confirms a car that runs, as does an MoT with 10 months left.

Clean V6

The engine bay almost looks new too, only a few fastenings lightly browned with rust. The engine bay stickers are present, as is the untidy wiring characteristic of most cars of the era. The seller reports that although the air conditioning compressor cuts in and out as it should, the system needs regassing to blow cold. He believes it has been converted to run modern R134 refrigerant.

A medley of ‘80s black vinyl

Car manufacturers were getting the hang of big, plastic, soft-feel mouldings for car interiors during the late ‘70s, and the DeLorean is proof, its interior furnished with sizeable chunks of the stuff. The choice was black or mid-grey – the owner of this car reports a small crack in the dashpad, but overall the cabin looks in excellent shape. Better still, new dashboards, and much else besides, can be sourced easily from the DeLorean Motor Company in Houston, Texas. But as he points out, the car is original in this slightly distressed form. He adds that the instrument binnacle carries a couple of small cracks, and that the electric passenger window does not work – all minor stuff.

Although the seats look vinyl too, they’re actually leather. Buyers could relieve the World of Leather atmosphere with optional sheepskin seat covers from the factory, not fitted here and likely to be hugely rare.

Stain-free history

This DeLorean’s stainless steel shine suggests very careful long-term storage, although the seller does not explain how the car came to have survived in such a fine state. The exterior is not quite perfect, the ad mentioning that the matt black facia panels at either end of the car are beginning to peel, but again, that’s easy to rectify.

An automotive louvre

If you want a slice of quintessential early ‘80s Italian supercar design, take a look at this rear end, designer Giorgetto Giugiaro decorating the car with cooling louvres over the engine, and a black grid pattern over the taillights. A Giugiaro solution that never took off was the window within a window arrangement for the door glass, which nevertheless works well here. From this angle, as all others, this DeLorean appears virtually as new.

Why You'll Like It

Very low mileage DeLoreans aren’t unknown, but you’d probably struggle to find one this crisply original. It needs a small amount of work to make it perfect, but makes a highly atmospheric time machine just as it is.

Vehicle Vitals

Years made:


Make and model:

DeLorean DMC-12 manual






V6, 2849cc




153 lbs ft





0 - 60mph:


Top speed:


How many left:

The DeLorean isn't listed on the excellent How Many Left website, but UK numbers will be relatively low. Of the 8583 produced, most went to the US.

On sale at:



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