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John DeLorean was one of the biggest modern-era automotive executives. Not only did he practically invent the American muscle car with the 1964 Pontiac GTO, but he also produced the DeLorean DMC-12. The latter was so futuristic it starred in the blockbuster film franchise Back to the Future. John DeLorean led a wild life, full of innovation and a few big mistakes. Here are seven little-known facts about him.

1. DeLorean was the youngest VP in GM’s history

John DeLorean in a publicity photo as chief engineer of the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors, early 1960s
John DeLorean in a publicity photo as chief engineer of the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors in the early 1960s | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

John DeLorean jump-started his career with Packard but later moved to the General Motors brand Pontiac. He and his team created the Pontiac GTO, a smash hit that put Pontiac in third place in U.S. sales. With DeLorean receiving almost unanimous credit for the GTO project, he was promoted to vice president and the head of the Pontiac division at only 40 years old.

2. He had plastic surgery to enhance his jaw

John DeLorean in 1973; he allegedly had plastic surgery to enhance his jaw in the late 1960s
John DeLorean in 1973 as a VP at General Motors | Bettmann via Getty Images

DeLorean changed his image drastically after becoming a General Motors executive. Following the GTO’s success, he exchanged his three-piece suits for monogrammed shirts, hair dye, and even plastic surgery. The Los Angeles Times reported that in the late 1960s, DeLorean had a cosmetic procedure to enhance his jawline.

3. John DeLorean was 44 when he married his 20-year-old second wife

Kelly Harmon, 20, and John DeLorean, 44, then the general manager of Chevrolet
Kelly Harmon, 20, and John DeLorean, 44, then the new general manager of Chevrolet | Bettmann via Getty Images

In 1969, at age 44, John DeLorean divorced his first wife. Almost immediately, the square-jawed hotshot found a rebound relationship with Hollywood celebrity Kelly Harmon, who was only 20 years old when they married the same year. Harmon, famous for her modeling work and appearances in TV series and commercials, divorced DeLorean in 1972.

John DeLorean and wife Cristina Ferrare sit in the famous DeLorean car
John DeLorean and wife Cristina Ferrare in the famous DeLorean car | Tony Korody/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

A year later, he tied the knot with 23-year-old model/actor Cristina Ferrare. Their marriage lasted over a decade, including the DeLorean DMC-12’s debut. They divorced in 1985, the year Back to the Future premiered and a year after the entrepreneur went on trial for drug trafficking charges (more on that later).

4. The DeLorean DMC-12’s design was based on a scrapped Porsche prototype

The 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 is one of the worst cars ever made despite its iconic status
1981 DeLorean DMC-12 from the ‘Back to the Future’ films | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

When John Delorean went looking for a design for his gullwing DeLorean DMC-12, Giorgetto Giugiaro presented the businessman with a scrapped Porsche prototype. That concept would become the DeLorean DMC-12.

5. DeLorean faced 67 years in prison on drug charges

John DeLorean prepares for his drug trafficking trial in March 1984
John DeLorean confers with his defense team (Howard Weitzman, right, Mono Soo Hoo, and Donald Re) while preparing for trial on Mar. 19, 1984 | Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

DeLorean’s downfall began when his DeLorean Motor Co. (DMC) was strapped for cash. In 1982, he was arrested in an FBI sting after agreeing to invest in a $24 million cocaine-smuggling operation. DeLorean admitted in court that his actions were wrong but claimed the federal government had unfairly enticed him. During his 1984 trial, a jury acquitted him of the charges due to entrapment. 

6. His lawyer criticized DeLorean for his ‘arrogance and entitlement’

John DeLorean listens to his attorney Howard Weitzman speak to media after acquittal outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles on Aug. 16, 1984
John DeLorean listens to his attorney Howard Weitzman speak to the media after acquittal outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in LA on Aug. 16, 1984 | Bob Riha Jr./Getty Images

Although John DeLorean’s defense attorney Howard L. Weitzman got the entrepreneur out of trouble with the feds, the lawyer was blunt about DeLorean’s mentality.

“His arrogance and entitlement clouded his judgment,” Weitzman said after DeLorean died in 2005, the LA Times reported. “I’ve meant many people over the years, but John DeLorean had one of the most warped views of right and wrong.”

7. The automotive icon was buried in a black motorcycle jacket

In March 2005, John DeLorean was 80 when he died of complications from a stroke. But he clung to his maverick persona even after death.

“In his casket, he wore a black motorcycle jacket, blue jeans, and a denim shirt. A pair of shades was tucked into the zipper,” The New York Times Magazine reported.

John Zachary DeLorean made some incredible vehicles — from the muscle car era–defining Pontiac GTO to the stainless-steel DMC-12 — but also some mistakes due to poor judgment.