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The Gold-Plated DeLorean Was a Unique and Expensive Failure

Although the DeLorean DMC-12 has a cult-like following and was arguably one of the most popular cars in automotive history, it was a failure. But what you might not know is that a gold-plated DeLorean existed as well, and it was an even bigger failure. Only 8,583 DMC-12 models were built from 1981 to 1983, yet only five of them were plated in 24k gold. But what’s the story behind those special-edition DeLorean DMC-12s?

A gold-plated DeLorean for Amex Gold Card members

While the American Express Gold Card is a commonplace nowadays, it was big news when it came out. Back in 1979, American Express and DeLorean partnered up to build 100 gold cars that would be exclusively sold to the affluent Amex gold card owners. The project officially went underway in 1981 after they found a company that would gold plate the cars, and they began by building two DMC-12’s out of spare parts.

American Express offered the two golden DMC-12s for $85,000 – which was almost twice the price of a Ferrari at the time – and they could only be purchased using the actual gold card. As you can tell, that was a lot of money back then, and in case you’re wondering, that translates into about $250,000 in today’s cash.

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One of the gold-plated DeLoreans | Wikimedia Commons

What happened to the gold DeLorean DMC-12s?

Those two golden DMC-12s were, unfortunately, the only two that were ever sold. One ended up in the National Transportation Museum in Reno while the other one was purchased by the Snyder Bank in Texas. One fun fact about that second car, according to Drivetribe, is that the gold DeLorean was parked in a glass safe and when the owner passed away, he wrote in his testament that the car could not be sold until his grandson turned 30. Ultimately, the car wasn’t sold to anyone, instead, it was loaned to the Peterson Automobile Museum in LA where it currently sits today.

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There were actually five gold DeLoreans made

The two aforementioned gold DMC-12 cars weren’t the only ones ever made. In fact, there were five in total. The third was made from spare from the first two and owned by “the manager of the company that bought the bankruptcy assets of the DeLorean Motor Company.” While the other two were built by enthusiasts that were able to reproduce the gold-infused car.

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Scott Tice, of Hagerty, published a story last year detailing him buying what turned out to the fifth gold DeLorean. In his story, he says that his wife came across it on Facebook and he made the trip over to Flint, Michigan to purchase the car with a bit of skepticism as to whether or not it was genuine. Upon stopping for gas in Pennsylvania, the heavy downpour actually washed all the dirt off the car and revealed that it truly was a genuine gold-plated DeLorean.

From what could find, that car was originally posted for sale for $150,000, which is a far cry from the $85,000 price tag that was initially tacked onto these cars. However, at least he didn’t have to use his American Express Gold Card to buy it.