Delorean DMC-12 Review: Incredible Sportscar

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A movie star that didn’t fare so well in the real world the DeLorean DMC-12 is now more desirable than ever.

DELOREAN DMC-12 REVIEW

Given that so few people have actually seen a DeLorean in the metal, it’s incredible how many strong opinions still abound concerning the ill-fated Irish sportscar.

Maybe it’s the whiff of scandal that surrounded the creation and ultimate demise of the gull-winged wonder. That doesn’t stop them from being hugely collectible today though – the DMC-12 is still every bit as dramatic as when it was launched, and while prices remain high, there’s little chance of losing money on these infamous stainless steel sportsters.

Fewer than 50 of the DeLoreans built were officially sold in the UK, but there are now over 200 of them here – some testament to their continuing popularity with fans of the marque.
If you fancy something completely different. There’s very little on the roads today quite like a DMC-12, but they’re a lot more mechanically straightforward than they look, meaning they’re eminently useable. Plus you can indulge your Back To The Future fantasies, 88mph and all that…

VITAL STATISTICS

Engine 2850cc/6-cyl/SOHC
Power [email protected]
Torque 160lb [email protected]
Top Speed 110mph
0-60mph 10sec
Economy 26mpg
Gearbox 5-spd man/3-spd auto

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK

The DMC-12 is such a unique looking car largely thanks to its stainless steel bodywork. The use of brushed 304-grade metal is a mixed blessing however – corrosion isn’t a problem, but repairs to damaged panels are, as most bodyshops will shy away from taking on such work. Condition of the stainless steel is a key factor in any DeLorean’s value then. The lack of paint means there’s no chance of covering up repairs. Dents or scratches have to be repaired invisibly using traditional methods – or by wholesale replacement of panels. Most are available, but costs quickly mount if a lot of work is required.
Some Delorean’s have been painted through owner preference, but others have had the work done to mask problems with the metalwork. If you suspect this may be the case, then ask to see a photographic record of any previous work undertaken before paint was applied.

ENGINE

Given that they won’t have been used daily, the most likely problem with DeLorean engines is a build up of crud in the Bosch fuel injection system. This results in a car that won’t run properly, as the injectors and metering unit become blocked. Another potential issue is the fuel pump – it’s located by a rubber boot that can disintegrate and contaminate the fuel. New ones are inexpensive though and replacement is easy enough, as you can access them by removing the spare wheel.
Make sure the engine cooling fans work, as the wiring can be unreliable. As long as the cooling system is properly serviced, the engine should be good for 300,000 miles. The front and rear main seals can weep oil though, while the water pump can start weeping.
The oil-pressure switch also tends to leak with age, but replacements are a cheap and easy swap. If a catalytic converter is still fitted, it’s worth removing it to release a few extra ponies, as well as allowing the engine to run at a lower temperature.

RUNNING GEAR

Buyers had a choice of five-speed manual or three-speed automatic in period, the five-speed being essentially the same as that used in the Renault GTA and Venturi, as well as later Lotus Esprits. Most cars have the manual gearbox – the unit is strong, and rebuilds are rarely required. Brakes are simple and reliable, though will suffer through lack of use. Make sure the car doesn’t pull to one side when braking – if it does, or there’s any juddering, one or more of the calipers has seized. DeLorean suspension suffers from oversoft springs, especially after nearly 30 years. The cars sat rather high on the original springs because of US regulations. As a result, a popular mod these days is to fit shorter, stiffer items, reducing the ride height and improving handling.

INTERIOR

Many of the DeLoreans now in the UK started off life in the USA, often in states with hot climates. This means that most interior problems stem from sun damage – split dashboards are common, so check all the plastic and leather carefully for cracks and sub-standard repairs.
Reproduction dash surrounds are available from the US, but aren’t as good as the originals. You’re best bet is to keep an eye out for a decent original, hoping you get lucky.

VERDICT

If you fancy something completely different. There’s very little on the roads today quite like a DMC-12, but they’re a lot more mechanically straightforward than they look, meaning they’re eminently useable. Plus you can indulge your Back To The Future fantasies, 88mph and all that…

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