DeLorean the “Ethical” Sports car, ideologically driven? On the road to nowhere?


“The much discussed DeLorean project involved Lotus cars as consultants from the early days.Quite apart from the financial and political complications; the project had its technical difficulties as well.

If Chapman had had his own way the car would have been very different since he considered that many of the design features already pre-defined were quite wrong”

“The DeLorean DMC 12 was produced with estimated £65 million of British Government money. It was a spectacular failure. Intended to be the future …… reality dated before it even reached production”

Cars: The Power&Glory:-

“The DeLorean DMC -12 designed by G.Giugiaro was supposedly the recipient of massive engineering development resources and was intended to be modern, radical, technically advanced and premium priced. What it turned out to be was a good looking sports coupe that was ill developed, underpowered, poorly built and late coming to market. Given that about the only goal set for it that held good was its high price –and indeed that doubled –it’s no wonder that “Time “ magazine voted it one of the 50 Worst cars of all Time.


This article is product of the editor’s intention of taking a large view of Chapman and Lotus. We hope to take a long view to encourage understanding on the contextual determinants impacting on is designs and commercial strategy.

In order to achieve this it’s often necessary to sweep a wider back ground and research behind the cars.

To this end editors were researching the economic events of the 1970’s and how these impacted on Lotus when it became obvious the extent to which economics and finance unfolding through the 1970’s reacted on Chapman and indeed Delorean.

This article is therefore culturally grounded with what we hope is an equal balance of the events and product i.e. the DMC-12.

Subscribers will know about Delorean and the fraud case against Chapman.

Chapman would have likely faced a prison sentence if he had lived. There can be no excuse for the embezzelement but we invite readers to appreciate what was achieved by Lotus engineers in delivering the DMC-12 and also the circumstances of the era.

We have developed these historical and economic backgrounds at length and make no apologies for the detail in order that subscribers might have a more objective interpretation of the unfolding events, the competition and the market place.


“It is best to see the Seventies as a time when the sixties chickens came home to roost; a decade when dreams died, hope was thwarted, problems long ignored finally exploded and optimism repeatedly crushed gave way to frustration .no wonder then that macro turned into micro and grandiose dreams gave way to small pleasures .surrounded by the detritus of forlorn ambition people quite understandably turned inward to family and individual fulfilment”

The editors maintain that the fullest and most holistic appreciation of Chapman cannot be achieved without reference to wider and economic and cultural forces impacting on society and consumers. Chapman was an entrepreneur and produced cars for the market place. He was subject to reward but also risk. Our educational role then is not restricted exclusively to engineering but is forced to look further afield. This provides educational opportunities in the academic disciplines that include:-

  • Economic Geography
  • Government Economic Policy and Planning
  • Regional Planning and Aid
  • Subsidy Finance
  • Technologies and markets

And indeed there are lessons for today in relation to protectionism etc.

Subscribers might like to see existing A&R articles:-

  • The Works
  • British Motorsport, Manufacturers and Locations etc.
  • The Only Way is Essex

Baby Boomers and Sociological change

The 1970’s is a more complex era than often thought .It possessed aspects and elements of continuity with profound undercurrents of contradictions Teenagers and the youth economy of the 1960’s evolved into  responsibilities , marriage families and homes.

Underpinning changes in society and employment were powerful technological forces .The heavy industries and male employment tended to decline and replaced with service industries and female employment [many women having entered university and or higher education etc.] Women were more likely to be employed in the emerging occupations associated with Banking, finance, retailing and tele-marketing. For example in the 1950’s British Leyland controlled 52% of world auto exports but by 1974 they had fallen to sixth place.

The changing gender roles possibly might be expressed in Margaret Thatcher becoming PM.

Some sources suggest between 1965 and 1980 2 million manufacturing jobs were lost in UK.These were predominantly in heavy industries like car manufacture, mining, ship building, mining, steel.[see specific reference to Northern Ireland below]

Sadly perhaps too Britain has suffered in terms of productivity and investment, but this must be seen in the context of capital mobility and cheap labour around the globe.

The era perhaps marked the end of British manufacturing and being the workshop of the world. Structural change and new realities in industry perhaps killed Keynesian economics and the post war dream of infinitely expanding affluent society.

The 1970’s also had a cynical underbelly and there was corruption in property and other attitudes to easy money.

Perhaps too the demographic change allied with economic structural change possibly provoked a shift from 1960’s liberalism to a reactionary throw back and degrees of self-protection. These changes possibly impacted on taste, fashion and products along with behavior and cultural norms and values.

The 1970’s witnessed wars , revolution, civil wars ,oil crisis ,high inflation, high taxes ,spending cuts ,businesses closing , rising unemployment , redundancies , industrial unrest , the Troubles and industrial subsidies, recession .Some suggest that the roots of conflict in various forms was based in poverty.

Possibly underestimated was the growth of credit like Barclay card and Access and negative impacts in the longer term. Perhaps too the explosion in mortgage availability in the 1970’s kicked off an economy that became increasingly over dependent on property .Also into the equation came North Sea oil which in some respects was a savior but this too possibly concealed and deceived and postponed larger economic change which was needed.

Perhaps simply, culturally the country and society was struggling with modernism, change of identity, role and wealth distribution patterns.

Suddenly into collision were powerful forces some seeking modernism, others protectionism and the status quo.

1: Socio-Economic climate of 1970’s

“The Value of a Pound” provides a tight economic summary of the decade. In their chapter of the era they call “Years of Change” they observe:-

“In 1970 unemployment was at its highest level in years inflation was raging out of control and economic growth was at its lowest level since 1964.The violence in Northern Ireland had exploded in 1969……………to deal with the chronic unemployment was the “lame duck” policy ………….it also helped to increase public expenditure ……….and subsequently exacerbated the rising level of inflation …………….rapid world commodity prices caused an even worse Balance of Payments crisis …………..was between the Arab states and Israel  caused oil prices to quadruple in 1973………….the value of the pound decreased radically which led the Government to go to the IMF for monetary aid ……….inflation continued to increase ………..unemployment ,however reached a peak of 1.6 m in 1977………………

Between 1970 -79…It suffered from chronic unemployment and high inflation and lagged behind its export competitors in technology and business practice .prices doubled and unemployment tripled …………”

.“Cynical Times “is how Miller describes the 1970’s

“The 1960’s had been a time of space exploration , Beatles tunes and flower the decade drew to a close the optimism and sense of progress that typified the post war years  was being replaced  with deep cynicism .interest rates were increasing ,inflation was rising and the number of unemployed was growing at an alarming rate .the US involvement in Vietnam war had escalated out of control ,their technology superiority failing to gain them an easy victory , for the first time scientists were warning about the damage being done to the planet, then came the energy crisis.

In 1973 the oil rich Arab nations angry at the wests support for Israel cut oil supplies in protest .an energy crisis ensued in the us ,Europe and japan with dramatic price rises ………….”

Effects from the net:-


Main article: 1973–75 recession

In the parlance of recession shapes, the Recession of 1973–75 in the United States could be considered a U-shaped recession, because of its prolonged period of weak growth and contraction.[22]
Percent Change from Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product (annualized; seasonally adjusted);   Average GDP growth 1947–2009
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The decade of the 1970s was a period of limited economic growth due in part to the energy crises of that decade. Though the mid-decade was the worst period for the United States the economy was generally weak until the 1980s. The period marked the end of the general post-World War II economic boom. It differed from many previous recessions as being a stagflation, where high unemployment coincided with high inflation.

Other causes that contributed to the recession included the Vietnam War, which turned out costly for the United States of America and the fall of the Bretton Woods system. The emergence of newly industrialized countries rose competition in the metal industry, triggering a steel crisis, where industrial core areas in North America and Europe were forced to re-structure. The 1973-1974 stock market crash made the recession evident.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession in the United States lasted from November 1973 to March 1975.[23] Although the economy was expanding from 1975 to the first recession of the early 1980s, which began in January 1980, inflation remained extremely high for the rest of the decade.

During this recession, the Gross Domestic Product of the United States fell 3.2 percent. Though the recession ended in March 1975, the unemployment rate did not peak for several months. In May 1975, the rate reached its height for the cycle of 9 percent.[24] (Only two cycles have higher peaks than this, the current cycle, where the unemployment rate is currently 9.7%[when?] in the United States and the Early 1980s recession where unemployment peaked at 10.8% in November and December 1982.)

The recession also lasted from 1973–75 in the United Kingdom. The GDP declined by 3.9% [25] [26] or 3.37% [27] depending on the source. It took 14 quarters for the UK’s GDP to recover to that at the start of recession.[25]

In 1981 there was a world recession.

1970’s Earnings [Full time male] Weekly.UK

Occupation 1970 1972 1974 1976 1978 1979
Solicitor 106 124.4 139.1
GP 88.9 139.3 163.3 178.5
Police constable 41 48.2 78.5 91 109.8
Teacher [secondary] 42.1 52.8 90.3 102.7 107.4
Train driver 30.7 43.9 74.5 86 78.2
Fitter 33.4 50.1 70.5 84.4 98.7
Turner 33.9 47.4 67.3 77.5
Brick layer 26.9 46.5 65.8 79.6 90.6
clerk 29.4 40 60.6 71.8 78.2

They add the following for top earners [weekly] 1979:-

Top Managers [trading organizations]                 £171.50

Finance, insurance tax specialists                        £162.70

University Academic staff                                       £148.90

Company Secretaries                                              £146.50

Marketing &Sales Managers                                  £144.60

Judges, Barristers, &Solicitors                              £139.10

Sutton suggests that John DeLorean’s salary was $298,750 a year.


Feeney provides the following statistics of inflation in UK:-

1960               Averaging      1%

1969               ditto                 5.4%

1970               ditto                 13%

1975               ditto                 24%

Unemployment & Northern Ireland

Unemployment returned in Britain during the 1970’s but was particularly heavy in in Northern Ireland with loss of traditional heavy industries and engineering.

During the period under consideration the editors have seen statistics suggesting unemployment of ranging between 20-35% in Northern Ireland.

The editors have seen sources that quote UK unemployment as:-

Year                Population                 No.Unemployed

1972               56.m                           1m

1982               56.5                            3.07m

On occasions this equated with 1/8th of working age people unemployed representing 12.5 % of workforce.

Chapman & Lotus: A Financial & Contextual Summary

The financial envelope supporting Chapman in the 1970’s into the 80’s is worthy of detailed study. Chapman /Lotus experienced a succession of difficulties most out of his control they include:-

  • C 1968 Chapman launched Lotus as a public company; but the wealth generated was perhaps lost in poor investments and advise
  • The oil crisis of the 1970’s rippled through the macro economy into the 1980’s and impacted on consumer goods particularly super cars [petrol consumption etc.]
  • Escalating costs and sophistication of F1
  • The American market [ a natural focus for sports cars] did not materialize for a variety of reasons
  • The “upmarket “ models Chapman committed to [anticipating changes in demand] were more susceptible to economic down turn [see above] and possibly struggled against competition for whom cross –subsidy was possible
  • His boat business suffered under the same rationale
  • It’s understood that in 1981 Lotus company losses were £109,000.

DeLorean: A Contextual Summary


“John DeLorean was an American who had been a high ranking executive with GM in the 1960&70’s .he conceived a rear engine car sports coupe for sale to customers in the USA.he was aiming to dominate what might be called the “Porsche 911 market” but lacked the engineers to make his car roadworthy. Colin Chapman and Lotus were hired to accomplish this and were remarkably successful”


“it is difficult to separate DeLorean from the financial scandal that engulfed it.Promoted as an “ethical” sports car-safe and durable –it was the brainchild of former GM high flyer John Zachary DeLorean and was bankrolled by the British government, which paid for a brand new factory in northern Ireland, dubious business practices and unbridled extravagance were matched by unrealistic market expectations for the DeLorean. When sales –undermined by poor quality –failed to match the hype, the business crashed…..

The DeLorean entered production in 1981 retaining the gullwing doors and stainless –steel cladding of the prototype unveiled in 1977.little else remained as the car was completely redesigned by Lotus preproduction.

Initial plans had been for a mid-mounted Wankel engine, but the final power plant was Renault V6 hung behind the rear axle .despite the tail heavy configuration, the car handled well. The British sports-car company ditched the DeLorean plastic body shell, which used a sandwich of glassfibre with foam filling.

It substituted this unproven technology with a traditional Lotus steel backbone chassis and a two piece, glassfibre body using its clever VARI moulding process.

That DeLorean made it to production in a new factory within a very short period is essentially due to Lotus but with the rush to launch the car meant that initial quality was atrocious”

Henshaw states:-

“it was like something out of a novel :a brilliant young engineer rises through the ranks of GM and becomes general manager of Chevrolet ,overseeing record sales of over 3 million cars and truck in an apparent rejection of corporate mores ,he grows his hair long ,ditches the suit and tie and leaves GM. He also leaves his wife.

It seems he has a dream to build the world’s first “ethical” sports car; lighter and more efficient than the products of Detroit and manages to raise $10 million from investors and a further $138 million from the British government with a factory built in high unemployment area of Northern Ireland.

Alas the car proves problematic; sales don’t meet expectations and the company slides into liquidation …….

It seems like a brave venture , in tune with the times but in reality the DeLorean was heavy ,handled badly and its quality  debatable, its weight also blunted the performance of its 183 –ci [2,999-cc ] Renault V6 engine ,and sales were similarly sluggish .after two years ,only a little over 4,000 cars emerged from Co. Antrim  many of them sitting unsold on both sides of the Atlantic. The end finally came when the British government called in the receivers once financial irregularities had come to light “

Henshaw adopts a caption to photograph like ours:-

“The car that launched a thousand dreams or those of John DeLorean at least, plus the hope of jobs for 2,500 people in Northern Ireland”

John DeLorean

John Zachary DeLorean (January 6, 1925 – March 19, 2005) was an American engineer and executive in the U.S. automobile industry, widely known for his work at General Motors and as founder of the DeLorean Motor Company.[1]

DeLorean designed a number of vehicles throughout his career, including the Pontiac GTO muscle car, the Pontiac Firebird, Pontiac Grand Prix, Chevrolet Vega, and the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car, which was later featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future. While still the youngest division head in General Motors history, DeLorean broke away to start his own company, DeLorean Motor Company (DMC), in 1973. However, production delays meant DMC’s first car and DeLorean’s independent creative opus—the DMC-12—did not reach the consumer market until 1981 (8 years later), where a depressed buying market was compounded by unexpectedly lukewarm reviews from critics and the public. After a year, the DMC-12 had failed to recoup its $175 million in investment costs, unsold cars were accumulating and the company faced dire financial straits.[2]

Born John Zachary DeLorean
(1925-01-06)January 6, 1925
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died March 19, 2005(2005-03-19) (aged 80)
Summit, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma mater Lawrence Institute of Technology, B.S. 1948
Detroit College of Law
Ross School of Business, MBA 1957
Occupation U.S. automobile engineer and executive
Spouse(s) Sally Baldwin (?–2005) (his death)
Cristina Ferrare (1973–1985) (divorced) (2 children)
Kelly Harmon (1969–1972) (divorced) (1 child)
Elizabeth Higgins (1954–1969) (divorced

“John DeLorean was the legendary American automobile executive whose non-conformity and taste for the limelight derailed him likely ascension to the presidency of General Motors, which seemed predestined after his meteoric rise up through the ranks for the world’s biggest car manufacturer. DeLorean, in sync with his times, had a distaste for the “Establishment” as embodied in the G.M. bureaucracy, which he found stifling. By leaving GM to establish his own car company, DeLorean set in motion a turn of the wheel of fate that would revolve him from the top of the industry to the bottom in less than a decade.

John Zachary DeLorean was born on January 6, 1925 in Detroit, Michigan, the oldest of the four sons of Zachary DeLorean, a Romanian immigrant who worked as a millwright at Ford Motor Co., and his wife Kathryn Pribak, a Hungarian immigrant who worked at General Electric. DeLorean grew up in a tough, working class neighborhood, though because both parents were employed during the Great Depression, his life wasn’t as harsh as that experienced by many of his peers. His parents divorced in 1942 due to his father’s alcoholism and propensity for violence.

Young John won a scholarship to Lawrence Institute of Technology, which had produced many automobile designers for the auto industry. However, World War II intervened: Drafted in 1943, DeLorean spent three years in the Army. He went back to school after the war and earned a B.S in mechanical engineering while working part-time for Chrysler. After a short stint as a life insurance salesman after graduation, he returned to Chrysler. (To many of his critics, DeLorean would remain a salesman whose main product he pitched was himself.) From Chrysler, he moved on to Packard, but the imminent failure of the once-prestigious car maker lead him to accept a job offer at G.M., where he made his fortune.

Credited with creating the first “muscle car”, the Pontiac G.T.O., DeLorean at 40 became the youngest divisional head in G.M. history when he was appointed president of the division in 1965. Eventually, he was moved to head the troubled Chevrolet Div., the biggest and most important component of G.M. He successfully reorganized Chevrolet, which was in a slump, and was rewarded by being named vice president of car and truck production, a stepping stone to the presidency of the entire company. However, DeLorean’s non-conformist lifestyle, his taste for the limelight, and his relentless self-promotion didn’t sit well with all of G.M.’s top brass. He could have remained at the company and likely would have achieved the presidency, but he found the company stifling. In 1973, DeLorean quit G.M. with the idea of forming his own car company. However, at first, he accepted the presidency of the National Alliance of Businessmen, a trade group organized by the federal government and the auto industry, including G.M., thus maintaining his links to the industry. (In 1979, when he was on the verge of launching De Lorean Motor Co., he published an expose of his time at the company, “On a Clear Day, You Can See General Motors”. The book would eventually sell over a million-and-a-half copies.)……………..
DeLorean’s dream of creating his own company finally became a reality when the British Labour Government of James Callaghan came up with nearly 100 million pounds in financing to build a factory in Northern Ireland to produce a DeLorean-designed futuristic sports-car, which would be known as “The De Lorean”. (The car, with its 304 grade stainless steel body and gull-wing doors hearkening back to the 1960 Mercedes coupe, later would be immortalized in the Back to the Future (1985) movie trilogy). As his wife Cristina’s career as a TV personality rose, DeLorean’s business fortunes crashed. The car company that bore his name went bankrupt. In 1982, a desperate John DeLorean was trapped in a sting operated by the F.B.I. and charged with trafficking in cocaine, to raise money to refinance his car company.”

John Delorean and the Hippy Dream

It’s easy to stereotype John Delorean as self-publicist .But he might be seen as product of the idealist hippies and the early green and sustainable movement. His car was perhaps intended to be revolutionary for the American market, the time and place. Many sustainable ideals were intended to be incorporated.

Despite the interval between most mass production cars are heavier than necessary and consequentially less fuel efficient.

John Delorean possessed academic qualifications in engineering and certainly had volume production experience.

It’s possibly that the ideal became victim of events and was overtaken by global economics.

We should despite easy criticism attempt to see some of the positive intentions. Its possible Delorean was attempting to move the US motorist towards a greater sustainability.

The product was possibly too radical for conventional investment and or did not stack up to realistic evaluation.

British Government Investment

Cars: Power&Glory quote:

The British government had advanced loans of around £85,000,000 to get production started near Belfast, where unemployment was high, but fearing there had been some financial mismanagement, it put the plant into administration in October 1982.

The investment came in waves and it’s possible the EEC made some contributions.

Wedge Cars Competitors

Understanding the market place is important to all entrepreneurs and manufacturers. The automobile industry was fickle and there was plenty of competition. This information ought to have been feed into product planning .The editor’s note the following examples:

Marque Model
TVR Tasmin
Alfa Romeo Carabo
Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato
Alfa Romeo Navajo
Aston Martin Lagonda
Aston Martin Zagato
Austin Princess
Bizzarrani Manta
Buick Reatta
Fiat Croma
Ford Mustang Mach1
Holden Hurricane
Isuzu Piazza
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Bravo
Lamborghini Marzal
Lancia MonteCarlo
Lancia Stratos Zero
Lotus Esprit
Maserati Boomerang
Maserati Khamsin
Mazda RX500
Mercedes Benz C111-11
Nissan 300ZX
Pontiac Firebird
Porsche Tapiro
Studebaker Avanti
Toyota MR2
Triumph TR 7
Vauxhall SRV
Volvo 780

We ought to acknowledge that the Delorean concept was not exclusively about aesthetics but a genuine attempt at a new product concept.

DMC-12 –Patent

The editors have read in some sources that John Delorean held a patent for a chassis type which proved unsuitable for mass production. This reference from the net suggests a patent for the body design /construction?

The DMC-12 Concept


“john DeLorean’s dream car was conceived in 1974 , as a rear –engined [not mid-engine as sometimes stated] two seater sports coupe ,which would have lift up “gull wing “doors  and stainless steel skin panels .G.Giugiaro ,who was then working on the Lotus Esprit style produced the shape ,which at the time was intended to have a plastic composite structure ,DeLorean’s problem was that he had nowhere to build the car ,and no suitable engine and transmission to power it. Four years later DeLorean had chosen the Renault 30’s 2.85 litre V6 engine and transmission but had been refused financial aid to build a factory in Puerto Rico or in the Republic of Ireland. Finally he persuaded the British government to back him in Northern Ireland .Lotus was then hired to turn the dream into reality.

Tech Spec for DMC-112 from wiki

Manufacturer DeLorean Motor Company
Production 8,583[1]
Model years 1981–1983
  • Northern Ireland: DeLorean Motor Cars Limited (DMCL) Dunmurry
  • United States: DeLorean Motor Company (DMCH) Houston, Texas
Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door gullwing coupé
Layout RR layout
Engine 2,849 cc PRV ZMJ-159 V6
Transmission 5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,413 mm (95.0 in)[2]
Length 4,216 mm (166.0 in)
Width 1,857 mm (73.1 in)
Height 1,140 mm (44.9 in) doors closed
1,961 mm (77.2 in) doors open
Curb weight 1,230 kg (2,712 lb)
Specification Summary DeLorean DMC-12 ,1981-82
Assembly Dunmurry, Northern Ireland
Production 9,000 approx.
Construction Steel backbone chassis
Engine 2,849cc ohc V6
Power output 130 bhp @5,500rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Suspension All-independent coil
Brakes All-round discs
Maximum speed 121 mph [195km/h

The first DeLorean cars were built at a factory erected at Dunmurry near Belfast, 1981 and the first shipments to the USA followed in June.

Lotus Contribution

Sutton suggests the following development times and budgets were offered to Delorean for the DMC-12:-

Porsche         7years            40,000,000

BMW              4 years           50,000,000


“at first sight this was a simple contract job which Lotus completed efficiently .but rarely can a project which started out so proudly have ended in such ignomy.Lotus was justly proud of the work it did in turning John DeLorean’s impractical dream into a practical motor car, but no one could be proud of the huge losses, the fraud and financial embezzlement which followed …… Lotus ,however deserve credit for making something of it ,for the design ,which had been ridiculously underdeveloped in 1978,and was ready for sale in was not Lotus’s fault that the American public did not share John DeLorean’s vision: faced with the demand to make a rear –engined  two seat coupe practical ,Lotus achieved precisely that.

At first DeLorean wanted the job completed in 18 months which was out of the question and in the end settled for 25 months .in that time Lotus reengineered the car to use an Esprit type backbone frame and a glass –reinforced plastic body skeleton under the stainless steel panels .Giugiaro was asked to restyle the shape ……….Lotus became so involved in this project that many domestic projects [like the turbo charged Esprit] had to be delayed until engineers were available once again”

Lawrence comments:-

The engineers at Lotus deserve massive credit because they turned John Delorean’s half-baked dream into a viable proposition Chief among them was Colin Spooner”

Significantly Lotus contributed the Double “Y” backbone chassis .See diagram below.

Simultaneous Engineering

Gun in “Celebrating the Impossible “states one of the lessons of Delorean was simultaneous engineering.

The IoMS give this definition and application:-

Simultaneous Engineering/Concurrent Engineering

Product and service development consists of the movement of a product or service idea from concept through to market availability. This process involves a number of distinct phases and has traditionally been viewed as a linear process involving individual, predetermined steps, each of which required completion before subsequent stages could begin.

The sequential approach is held to have several advantages.

  1. The distinct stages make the process easy to manage and control since each stage is predetermined and can be reviewed.
  2. Uncertainty is reduced before the next phase begins, since the information received ‘downstream’ is complete and ‘signed off’.
  3. The approach makes best use of the expertise available in each function, since each ‘department’ focuses on a limited number of tasks and engineers or designers can participate on a number of projects simultaneously.

However, this approach has its drawbacks. The separation of expertise can result in problems. Products may be difficult to make, since manufacturing expertise only enters the process once the design has been finalised. They may be inappropriate for customers because of the separation of design from marketing and they may be slow to reach the market since each preceding stage must be complete before the next can begin.

An alternative approach is to consider these various stages as overlapping, co-operative and iterative.

Simultaneous engineering, concurrent engineering, forward engineering, integrated problem solving, parallel engineering, team approach, and lifecycle engineering are some of the terms that have been applied to this over-lapping and integration of design, development, prototyping and manufacturing. This overlapping and integration reduces total development time.


  • downstream activities receive resources prior to completion, but after the start, of the upstream task;
  • Formerly successive tasks are instead undertaken in parallel, as information and sometimes technology is transferred at each interface.

The concept is very simple. Execution is more difficult. To be successful, simultaneous engineering must be underpinned by:

  • the early release of information
  • effective computer system and organizational integration
  • appropriate shared analytical methods and tools
  • multifunctional/multidisciplinary team-based working

For a list of references, see

Form and Function

We have noted that the Delorean was intended to be an ethical sports car. It was an attempt to resolve contradictions that exist and tend to be inherent in the sports car.

It had been hoped to produce a stunning looking car that was safe, economical and sustainable.

Major design concepts of the period were and possibly providing inspiration/ design clues:-

“The Porsche Tapiro from the net:-

Was designed in 1970 by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design. It was Giugiaro’s 4th prototype at Ital and one of his favourite at the time. It was based on the Porsche 914/6 platform and featured a mid-mounted 2.4 litre flat 6 cylinder Porsche engine, giving 220 bhp and 7200 rpm. Their car had gullwing doors and the profile of the windscreen was almost the same angle as the bonnet. Its dimensions were 4060 mm long, 1760 mm wide and 1110 mm high.”

Lamborghini Espada from the net:-

“The car was designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone. Gandini drew inspiration and cues from two of his Bertone show cars from 1967, the Lamborghini Marzal and the Jaguar Piraña.[1]

The Espada was a four-seater GT, selling alongside the 2+2 400GT and the mid-engined Miura. 1217 Espadas were made, making it the most successful Lamborghini model until the expansion of Countach production in the mid-1980s.

The name “Espada” means “sword” in Spanish, referring to the sword that the Torero uses to kill the bull in the Corrida.

During its ten years in production the car underwent some changes, and three different series were produced. These were the S1 (1968–1970), the S2 (1970–1972) and the S3 (1972–1978). Each model featured interior redesigns, while only minor details were changed on the exterior. ……………….The Espada used a monocoque steel body. Suspension was fully independent, with double wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll bars.four wheel disc brakes Twin fuel tanks held 95 l (25 US gal) of gasoline; the fuel cap was hidden behind a black cosmetic grille in the C-pillar, one of Gandini’s signature touches.

Its 3,929 cc (240 cu in) V12 engine breathed through six Weber side-draft carburetors and 24 valves commanded by two chain-driven overhead camshafts per bank. The gearbox was mounted in block with the engine. Most transmissions were manual, and the Espada also introduced one of the first automatic transmissions able to transfer the torque of a large sporting V12. It had unusual gearing, with 3 ratios: drive, 1 and reverse. When leaving the factory it originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tyres (CN72).”

The designer cannot be blamed for a car/design that is not successful. They do not control he production period. Although it might be hoped that design trend might have a life cycle, it cannot be guaranteed.

“The sharp –edged” styles typical of designer G.Giugiaro’s 170’s output, during what has been termed his “folded paper” era. The rear engine facilitates the pencil thin front end treatment ……………

Occupants in the cockpit are snuggly sandwiched between the broad centre tunnel-necessitated by the backbone chassis underneath and the high cills demanded by the gullwing doors.

Thick front and rear pillars restrict vision and early cars with all black interiors can seem a little claustrophobic; hence the use of grey trim on later cars

The two door coupe did not have token rear seats“

The editors are rather interested in the esthetics of the DMC-12 in that its considered it does not well articulate a rear engine design rather it harks back slightly towards the Pirana and the overall disposition of volumes seems to echo a more traditional layout.

Editors sketch working drawing

The Panther Equus

Lawrence informs us about Bob Jankel and his Panther Equus which used Vauxhall components. It is an interesting comparison with the DMC-12 and could have possibly been produced more cheaply and been effective.

The editors believe this concept worthy of study in relation to the DMC-12 from aspects ranging from economy. Aesthetics to practicality, marketing and potential profit /return on investment. I.e. that both be subject to critical Cost Benefit Analysis.

Style over Function

Ital Design [Guigiaro] was responsible for the design concept.

“the gullwing doors serve no good purpose –although DeLorean cited the safety benefits of the high cills .however they look dramatic as does the brushed stainless –steel body cladding .both the body and cladding were seen as selling points and even though the added weight and complication .the rust resistant steel cladding was chosen because the original “plastic sandwich” body could not be painted satisfactorily –and it eliminated the need for paint………………

Backbone chassis from official DeLorean website

Edtors sketch drawings of side elevation/profile

Under Performing


“Road –test reports had been disappointing, the car was nothing like as fast as had been hoped, there were major quality problems, and the price was seen as much too high”

A very expensive rectification centres were established but some of the problems like the seizing throttle cables ought have been corrected and discovered had proper development occurred.

“the all alloy V6 comes from France and was shared with the Renault 30, and Peugeot 604 as well as the Volvo detuned US emissions compliant form power is only 130 bhp resulting in a 0-60 mph time of 10.5 secs.this put DeLorean at a considerable performance disadvantage against its competitors –the Porsche 911SC was barely more expensive, was lighter and had a power output of 172 bhp, to improve matters, DeLorean planned a twin turbo version, but this was never made.”

Cars: Power&Glory:-

Quote a top speed of 110mph [177 km/h]

“The lack of performance was all the more disappointing because the car had a sophisticated suspension system derived from the Lotus Esprit with double wishbone at the front and multi-link arrangement at the rear.”

Pricing From the net

“The car was named the DMC-12 because of its intended original price of US$12,000. In 1981, a DMC-12 had a suggested retail price of $25,000 ($650 more when equipped with an automatic transmission); this is equivalent to approximately $65,071 in 2015.[27] There were extensive waiting lists of people willing to pay up to $10,000 above the list price; however, after the collapse of the DeLorean Motor Company, unsold cars could be purchased for less than the retail price.[28]

The DMC-12 was only available with two factory options; a no-cost manual transmission or automatic transmission ($650 extra) and the choice of a grey or black interior. Several dealer options were available, including a car cover; floor mats; black textured accent stripes; grey scotch-cal accent stripes; a luggage rack and a ski-rack adapter. The standard feature list included stainless steel body panels; gull-wing doors with cryogenically treated torsion bars; leather seats; air conditioning; an AM/FM cassette stereo system; power windows, locks and mirrors; a tilt and telescopic steering wheel; tinted glass; body side moldings; intermittent/constant windshield wipers; and an electric rear window defogger.

Several authors note the cost of the DMC-12 was in Porsche 911 territory.

Production Volume


“at first DeLorean publicists boasted that DeLorean’s were in short supply and that customers were fighting to take deliveries .by November 1981 eight DMC-12 were being built every day but by that time the cars reputation had collapsed . Car: Power&Glory:-

“Only 8,583 cars had been built by the time the plant closed………..”

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Which road cars have been spectacular commercial failures? Suggest reasons? [What are the earliest and most recent?]
  • What is the realistic time frame to produce a new car? How does this connect with technology and manufacturing process?
  • What are most time critical aspects of new car design and development?
  • What safeguards might be built in to reduce risk of commercial failure?
  • Are manufacturing volumes or designated market location or sector contributory to success?
  • How does cross subsidy and shared platforms minimize risk?
  • Apply same questioning to specialist car market –what are greater risks /potential?
  • What if any were the beneficial effects of Delorean on British motor industry?
  • The DMC-12 is listed as one of world’s worst cars –benchmark
  • In light of DMC-12 reevaluate Chapman’s Lotus marque and specialist car production
  • What safeguards can governments adopt to encourage innovative start-ups /emerging technologies?
  • What are current Industrial policies in US and US how do they connect with history?
  • What will be the impact of further robotics in motor industry?

Exhibitions, Education and Economics

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Back to the Future: History of British Specialist Car Manufacture
  • Back to the Futurists: Anglo-Italian Car Design and Manufacture
  • Ital Design: Design continuum: Esprit and DMC-12?
  • Cars as Stars: How Film made icons of Esprit and DMC-12
  • Logistics: The manufacture ,marketing and distribution of world’s automobiles


  1. Colin Chapman

Colin Chapman could have gone to prison over fraud in DeLorean. Fred Bushell did. The editors have tried to explain some of the circumstances and give credit to Lotus engineers. People generally just accept the headlines .The editors believe some contribution was made to help which is not well known.

  1. Government Policy & Subsidy


“the British government –funded project was unsuccessful and ultimately cost the British taxpayer a great deal of money ,for in the end the DeLorean car was not easy to sell……..

The end was swift but messy. The British government refused to supply any more fund to tide over the business in Northern Ireland, the receivers were called in during February 1982 and the last DMC-12 of all was built later in the year”

“Celebrating the Impossible” suggests there were some gains and gives the following as examples:-

  • Brought wealth to West Belfast
  • It assisted the community [see unemployment details above]
  • Provided investment in wider British automobile industry
  • Introduced new ideas and learning curve to automobile design and engineering
  • Project completed at record speed
  • Introduced concept of simultaneous engineering

Government subsidy of industry is risky , dangerous and possibly invites failure and diverts money from possibly more productive activities .We have to accept on the other hand there are social costs and loss where starting from scratch might be even more expensive. There are security aspects and decisions not easy cf British steel industry.

As technology becomes increasingly expensive [particularly R&D] it’s possible Government might try and assist establishment of innovative ideas or alternatively encourage more intermediate technology. Perhaps too there ought to be more sophisticated evaluation but always mitigating are unanticipated world events

  1. How not to produce a car

The Delorean project was so riddled with risk it’s almost a lesson how not to proceed, however there was desperation and extreme social hardship. The question to be answered was the project fully scrutiny and ought to there have been more safeguards and direct accountability on decision makers? [See appendix below relating to auditing etc.]

However there were some positive gains not least in Simultaneous Engineering [see text]

  1. History repeating itself: Lessons for To-day?

Our study of Chapman is very much about the commercial strategy and products of an entrepreneur. Business exists to produce products and services people want. It’s also subject to globalized competition .With free markets, free movement of capital etc. there will be winners and losers. People and families are not as mobile as capital.

Governments attempt to make policies to mitigate against structural change but in many instances these are of little long term benefit.

There is a tendency for history to repeat itself .We also comment that we learn from mistakes. If there was ever a time to apply that principle its now!!

  1. The role of education, inspiration and productivity

The evidence in the 1970’s was the very sudden and violent contraction and structural change in industry. This was possibly more profound because of the transition of gender based new employment /occupations.

The editors continue to campaign for the proposed CCM&EC in the belief that progressive evolution and development based upon intelligence, creativity  , productivity and humanistic social welfare are desirable .that these objectives are a function of the resources , establishments  , access and encouragement to experiment that museums etc. provide.

  1. Sustainability

The DMC-12 was an attempt at sustainability more so than perhaps credited. Chapman’s cars were all essentially green because of their light, efficient and in most cases small capacity engines.

This has been ignored but recent official reports underline how increasing technology and safety are making cars heavier which cannot be green either in resource, manufacture, conversion [energy], cost in use [fuel] and recycling.

Once again it’s necessary to consider legislation and Government policy as to what agenda they really serve.

  1. Judgmental

Examined in isolation the Delorean affair is dismal. However as in many other cases when a more forensic and holistic approach is adopted, issues become far more complex and the balance less easy to conclude.

We hope in this article to have provided some new perspectives and been thought provoking. By this method we hope that we can provide lessons for to-day.