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Who Really Designed the DeLorean?

In the 1970s John Z. DeLorean branched away from his successful career at General Motors where he was credited for managing the production of the GTO and Firebird. Hungry for his own success and eager to manage his own entrepreneurial interests, John opened up DMC, the DeLorean Motor Company, in Northern Ireland.

The “Back to the Future” movie car is driven down Sunset Blvd during the 88th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in Hollywood, California on December 1, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

The DMC- 12 would be the crowning car of the new DMC, and as the only car the company ever put into production, would later become known simply as the DeLorean.

While the car is usually noticed from it’s stainless steel body, gull wing doors and unique design, it’s not as unique as most people credit it for. In fact, the DeLorean has some very common characteristics that it shares with another car of that generation: the Lotus Esprit.

Here’s Where Lotus Came In

If you’ve never noticed how similar the cars are in appearence, once you see it, you will never not notice it again. In fact the cars are so similar that it is almost like they were designed by the same person…

While it may not have been one single person’s design, it was actually a team, including many Lotus engineers and designers, that helped design the DeLorean. This is why the chassis, body and mid-engine design are so similar to the Esprit.

1989 Lotus Esprit at Palace House Beaulieu. Artist Unknown. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

John DeLorean invited Lotus founder Colin Chapman and Mike Kimberly to discusses the DMC prototypes and design, and along with their designer discussed how atrocious the prototype was. After discussing the project with several major manufacturers, John selected Porsche to help in the final design of the DMC-12. Porshe, however, was asking for more money than an already underwater DMC could afford, and a development time that DeLorean could not risk. Asking for less money and less time, Lotus received the bid for the project.

Inevitable Failures

Lotus extended the majority of their time and resources to help a struggling DMC produce. Engineers at Lotus spent months developing the DMC-12, but the project was plagued with major set-backs and constant issues.

By the time it was picked up by Steven Spielberg for what would later become a cult classic, Back to the Future, the underpowered and overpriced DMC-12 would not become a newly beloved car in the United States. Compared to a $19,000 Corvette the DMC-12 had little to offer, and John DeLorean was sinking into debt, bankruptcy and legal squalor.

With no money, a company left in shambles and a ruined reputation, John was forced to close DMC, leaving the DMC-12 “DeLorean” behind as their only legacy.