A JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY IRISH & IRISH AMERICAN AFFAIRS
Spring 2019 / VOL. 19 ISSUE 1
With its distinctive stainless-steel body and gull-wing doors, they were built as a left-hand drive at the most unlikely place – Dunmurry, a suburb of Belfast in Northern Ireland.
They were a sensation. Celebrities lined up to own one, and American Express commission gold-plated ones for a competition.
It was all going perfectly for former GM executive John Z. DeLorean, the mastermind behind the car. The British Government had supplied the financing – they were desperate to bring jobs to a city hit hard by “The Troubles” – and DeLorean was the perfect salesman.
Alas, it was more a dream than a reality.
Despite more loans, production delays, an oil crisis and a recession hit hard. Performance reviews for the car were patchy, too.
Things got worse, and when DeLorean was arrested in an FBI drugs sting (a Hail Mary effort to save his company and for which he was later exonerated), it was all over.
By the time Back to the Future made the car an icon, the Dunmurry factory had been closed for several years, their output totaling around 9,000 vehicles.
Regardless, when owners in Los Angeles needed work, they came to mechanics like Wynne. He bought up any remaining stock from the dwindling numbers of dealers and garages, and then he looked to go bigger.
At DMC in Humble, he still likes to get his hands dirty.
Straight Outta Texas - The DeLorean is Back
By: James Bartlett
An automotive company with a backstory that includes Northern Ireland, lots of money, bankruptcy, scandal and worldwide fame, it’s hard to believe the DeLorean story hasn’t made it to the silver screen.
Until now, that is.
In June, Framing John DeLorean, a mix of documentary and re-enactments starring Alec Baldwin, hits the screen. George Clooney, who has Irish roots, is also set to direct – and maybe star – in a movie about him too.
Recently, I visited the world headquarters of DMC in Humble, a small town close to Houston airport in Texas.
Yes, DeLorean is still alive and kicking – and has been for decades.
They’re also ready to go back into production.
Liverpool-born Stephen Wynne is the CEO of DeLorean, and has been since he bought the remaining stock of parts and tooling in 1996.
Back in the 1980s, he and his wife came over to America. An auto mechanic, he was soon in demand to repair and service British and French cars – and after moving to Los Angeles from Boston, he started to get work on DeLoreans.
almost everything else – plus all the bells and whistles you want. But the legendary design? Few people ever want that changed.
They plan to build around 60-100 a year, though for now there’s a long waiting list for restoration and repair to keep them busy.
Inside the 40,000 square feet factory, there are DeLoreans everywhere – the majority of them looking amazing – and lots of aisles full of the spare parts.
Unusually, Wynne and his then-business partner essentially bought and shipped the entire Dunmurry factory – 1,800 remaining cars, engines, parts, storage cages and even unopened boxes – to America.
They have souvenirs, too. The small museum here features a model of the Dunmurry factory (and a brick from it), photos, and the last right door manufactured there, complete with a message written in sharpie by the workers.
He shows me a rusty, dust-covered “barn find” from Louisiana and admits that he regularly buys an “ugly duckling” and restores it.
Wynne is hoping that after years of delays, the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act will finally become law, and then anyone can buy a new DeLorean.
They won’t be Marty McFly’s DMC-12 though.
They will have a new engine, suspension, electronics and
Wynne is happy to admit that he got a great deal.
The sale was advertised by liquidators in the Wall Street Journal in 1995. Wynne was the mechanic and the only one who made a site inspection – which was when he found there were far more parts than listed in the inventory.
A walk along the aisles confirms this.
There are hundreds of the distinctive doors and panels, plus everything from original underbody molds to badges, headlights and seat cushions. The left fender is the most elusive – Wynne doesn’t really know why.
Parts are shipped out across the world to owners and to their other facilities in Florida, Illinois and California, though most owners drive here themselves. “Texas is the second most popular state for ownership behind California,” Wynne notes.
In his office and around the facility there are countless DeLorean memorabilia and licensed products including a pinball machine, vodka, watches, clothes, Nike shoes and, of course, toys.
The office is also home to shelves stuffed with old folders – engineering drawings of every part of the car. Despite being decades old, they’re still referenced constantly by the team.
It’s been a long and expensive wait for the Act to finally pass says Wynne, admitting it still could be many months away.
I ask whether he’s ever been here at night, wandering the aisles with a drink in his hand, and wondering what on earth he’s done?
“All the time!” he laughs. “I still do!”
As I leave I ask about the long line of DeLoreans parked outside. They’re cars waiting to be tested or to be collected.
“My crew and I drive every restored car for 100 miles or more, to see what they sound like. We check every knock or rattle before we open the hood.”
I mention that I’ve occasionally seen DeLoreans on the streets of Los Angeles. Wynne nods, explaining that the Back to the Future movies made L.A. and California the epicenter for the car and its continued popularity.
Even so, the barely 16,000 locals of Humble see a DeLorean more than the millions of L.A. do?
“Oh yes,” he laughs. “And they always stop to look or wave. It never gets old for them – or for us!”