Monday, March 21, 2005
John Z. DeLorean
So, farewell then, John Z. DeLorean, former General Manager of General Motors and architect of the DeLorean Motor Company who motored off to The Big Garage in the Sky over the weekend. At GM he was champion of the GTO and Pontiac TransAm, both hugely entertaining cars but whose charisma exceeded actual performance by a good margin. Also both were slightly fraudulent in their names. The GTO moniker was stolen from Ferrari’s “Gran Turismo Omologato” (meaning a Grand Touring class of vehicle, homologated for racing) and the Trans Am never competed in the Trans Am race series. Never mind, the cars were fun, even if their performance was a little lacking. I had two Firebirds myself over the span of a decade and enjoyed them more for their Mad Max gestalt than their road burning qualities. I still fancy a 400cu in Firebird convertible, in red, with a tachometer mounted on the hood (an absurd idea if ever there was one)…
So it was a nifty move that the DeLorean Motor Company was opened in Northern Ireland with the help of a big chunk of UK taxpayer’s money. I always felt the DMC12 (don't be fooled, it was a 6 cylinder), with its stainless steel finish, had the appearance of a kitchen sink on wheels, but not altogether a bad looking car. Now they have a cult following and can still be found in nice condition for very reasonable prices. Despite their elevation to cinematic stardom in the Back to the Future series of movies, these cars were not superstars in the performance department -a bit like their GM predecessors.
The DeLorean Motor Company foundered on the rocks of poor marketing strategy and dodgy dealings after a couple of years. JZD was infamously caught cocaine trafficking; the profits from which he allegedly was going to use to shore up his business. A lot of jokes about white lines (geddit?) ensued. Although JZD was acquitted, mainly due to legal technicalities rather than actual innocence, this was really the end of the road for his career in the automotive industry. Nevertheless I suspect he has long been forgiven for any perceived or actual sins and will be remembered for his entertaining, if not perfect, cars.