Car maker DeLorean dies at 80

Monday, March 21, 2005

Automobile industry pioneer, John DeLorean, died Saturday in a New Jersey hospital by complications from a stroke.

DeLorean was born in 1925 in Detroit, Michigan to European immigrant parents. He received an education in automotive engineering and quickly rose through the ranks of Packard and later General Motors (GM). DeLorean was credited with the development of the Pontiac GTO, which helped introduce the era of “muscle cars”. By 1965, DeLorean led the entire Pontiac division, and four years later was promoted to the prestigious position of leading GM’s Chevrolet.

In 1973, DeLorean quit General Motors and started his own company, the De Lorean Motor Company. The company’s product was the DMC-12, an unusual car featuring an unpainted, stainless-steel exterior and gull-wing doors. The company started production in 1981 but failed less than two years later, having produced under 9,000 vehicles. Despite the company’s failure and the car’s dismal sales, the car itself gained a cult following after the release of the 1985 movie Back to the Future which featured the car as a time-travel machine.

DeLorean himself was in nearly as much trouble as his company. In 1982 he was arrested for attempting to sell $24 million worth of cocaine to undercover police, and after his company’s failure, he became involved in a multitude of lawsuits alleging investor fraud. Though DeLorean successfully resolved the cocaine case after claiming entrapment, his other legal cases would drag on until 1999, when he declared bankruptcy.

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