You Built a Time Machine... Out of a DeLorean?
June 18, 2019 10:03 AM   Subscribe

The actual story of famed and disgraced auto designer John DeLorean would probably make a pretty good movie. Probably wouldn't have any time machines in it though. It would be more like The Wolf of Wall Street, but with cars.
posted by COD (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Would probably?" I believe it did.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:18 AM on June 18 [9 favorites]


I came very close to buying a used DeLorean back in my salad years. The only thing stopping me was the honesty of the seller who said that, because the engine was a Renault, it would require essentially constant mechanical attention. It's a showpiece, not a daily driver.

It would have been awesome, though.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:21 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Also a pretty great concept album in 2008.
posted by ejs at 10:21 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


Or a Dollop podcast
posted by Apoch at 10:49 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


The DeLorean episode of TV show "For the Love of Cars" (on the Motortrend cable channel and their app) does quite a good job of telling the story, as well as overseeing the restoration of a rare right-hand drive model.
posted by w0mbat at 10:50 AM on June 18


They just made two of these movies in the past year or so. Sadly the better one didn't get any distribution after TIFF.
posted by trackofalljades at 10:53 AM on June 18


You beat me to it, ejs.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:59 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I recall that Doonesbury's "Uncle Duke" was pitching a John DeLorean movie way back in 1982.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:00 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


because the engine was a Renault

People have done engine swaps. These people are generally both wealthy and, like, mechanical engineers or similar, so, yeah, there's that.
posted by box at 11:00 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


And I'm now seeing the Dollop was mentioned up above. What a brilliant episode. Quite the wild ride.
posted by Fizz at 11:02 AM on June 18


I was shopping for a car in the fall of 1983. One place was a DeLorean dealership, among other cars, and the owner said he'd make me a great deal. I asked where would I possibly get it serviced? He said, "Here! ...until I get rid of these six."

I ended up buying a Plymouth.
posted by Miss Cellania at 11:13 AM on June 18 [17 favorites]


An honest car salesman?!? Will wonders never cease.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:16 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


I came very close to buying a used DeLorean back in my salad years. The only thing stopping me was the honesty of the seller who said that, because the engine was a Renault, it would require essentially constant mechanical attention. It's a showpiece, not a daily driver.

Sounds like the seller was displaying some casual racism there. Renault is one of the most successful car makers in the world and makes perfectly good engines.

The DeLorean engine was from a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo joint venture, and various variations of that PRV engine were successfully used in a lot of cars from different companies.
posted by w0mbat at 11:25 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


A friend and I would joyride in this GM execs DeLorean. Left his keys in it, all the time and I suspected he knew. I think he was pissed because, there it was in the morning.
posted by clavdivs at 11:34 AM on June 18 [12 favorites]


These are reporters whose beat has yet to produce a Jobs, Branson, Cuban, Zuckerberg, or Musk, but when they write about John DeLorean, they’re workshopping now-familiar strains of magical thinking. The story of the rest of DeLorean’s life will be a cautionary tale about mistaking swaggering entrepreneurs for rock stars, prophets, or kings.

This learning curve has a really, really long X axis, huh?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:50 AM on June 18 [9 favorites]


Would've made a good mefi post, too.
posted by Kiwi at 12:32 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Wombat, the seller was speaking from experience. I mean, you know? Like, the person who owned the car saying it needed a lot of service? Maybe not entirely a racist opinion? And the research I did at the time, with extensive combing through my local library's microfiche, echoed similar reports from other owners. That engine was a turkey.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:01 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


That was an interesting article, thanks.

Is there any writing out there about whether DeLorean was an inspiration for the portrayal of Tony Stark in the comics and/or films?
posted by medusa at 1:22 PM on June 18


Movie Tony Stark seemed to have a vague (and yet promoted by Oracle) similarity to Larry Ellison. Ellison even showed up in one of the movies.

I don't recall the comics version of Stark ever being compared with DeLorean, and I can't imagine that would be a comparison anybody (including John DeLorean) would ever want made, given Tony Stark's long comic book history of being an alcoholic ass.
posted by sardonyx at 1:33 PM on June 18


Driven is the movie that played at TIFF last year. I thought this whole post was part of the marketting for it, but... I guess not.
posted by dodecapus at 1:38 PM on June 18


This story reminds me more of McAfee than Musk.
posted by clawsoon at 1:49 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The Belfast factory opens in 1980. It’s clean and modern — “as neat as an IBM computer installation,” William Haddad later writes — and full of hope. It has separate entrances for Protestants and Catholics. One thousand workers file into the building.

Can somebody please explain this? Was it like a Jim Crow sort of thing?

I mean, I know some of the history of Northern Ireland, but I didn't know separate entrances were a thing.
posted by panama joe at 1:56 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


And I'm now seeing the Dollop was mentioned up above. What a brilliant episode. Quite the wild ride.

I would guess this article was a major source for that episode, because it hits many of the same beats.

(Yup, they cite it.)
posted by atoxyl at 2:21 PM on June 18


medusa: According to Stan Lee, the original 1964 Tony Stark was based on the personality of Howard Hughes, though Lee intended Iron Man as an experiment to 'make the most dislikable superhero possible'- a stand-in for big business and the establishment, a character that explicitly supported the Vietnam war. Ditko came up with the iconic Iron Man costume look.

Robert Downey Jr. has said that he lunched with and interviewed Elon Musk in 2007 when he was developing his interpretation of the Tony Stark character.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 3:16 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Can somebody please explain this? Was it like a Jim Crow sort of thing?

I suspect not a Jim Crow thing so much as Protestants and Catholics living apart from one another (that is, not commingling) thus coming from different directions. The article says:
The site is the no-man’s-land separating two housing estates — Twinbrook, populated mostly by Catholics driven out of central Belfast by sectarian violence, and Seymour Hill, which is largely Protestant.
posted by axiom at 3:49 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


The Dollop episode referenced above is great - I'd also like to recommend to people this piece on DeLorean's earlier work at Pontiac developing the Firebird at the incredible Ate Up With Motor. It helps illustrate the man's conviction that he could wrangle the public's imagination and impose his will upon their tastes by being written from the perspective of John DeLorean in the second-person.
posted by MarchHare at 6:00 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I was in Ann Arbor this weekend and two theaters within a block of each other were showing Framing John DeLorean. I was confused why it was so popular there until I realized, hey, uh, think about what state you're in ...

(It's a movie I want to watch.)
posted by darksong at 6:33 PM on June 18


I dunno, I don't really get the fascination with criminal dudes who think they are awesome and steal tonnes of money from people. Like he sounds like a total prick convinced he was a genius.

If you work on the corporate world you see this latter type constantly...
posted by smoke at 8:27 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Panama Joe, segregation in Northern Ireland was and still is a thing. See here for a primer.
posted by kev23f at 10:16 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


And the research I did at the time, with extensive combing through my local library's microfiche, echoed similar reports from other owners. That engine was a turkey.

Maybe, but it isn't really because it's a Renault. It's not even remotely true that all Renault engines require constant service, as your original statement suggests.
posted by Dysk at 12:45 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I don't really get the fascination with criminal dudes who think they are awesome...

It's the car. It wasn't a great car, not even a particularly good car, but it looked like a great car, had a stainless-steel skin, and wasn't built by a dinosaur corporation. That made it an exciting accomplishment. Dinosaur corporations periodically attempt to make cars like that, but it's usually not exciting.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:17 AM on June 19


Renault has a history of failure in the US. A major reason for that is the unreliability of the products they offered here. "Constant service" is no doubt an exaggeration, but the company's image doesn't contradict it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:21 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


So, essentially Don Draper as Elon Musk?
posted by acb at 6:54 AM on June 19


Does anti-French sentiment have something to do with why Renault-Nissan doesn't have any plans to re-launch the Renault brand in the US? Probably--it might be worth noting that Citroen and Peugeot are also long gone from the US market (though an eventual return is planned for the latter).

While partnering with AMC in the '70s was not a great long-term play, and while a lot of the Renaults offered for sale in the US were... not great (Le Car, Fuego), they did also build some bonkers Group B rally cars (and check out this concept electric hot hatch).
posted by box at 7:05 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Does anti-French sentiment have something to do with why Renault-Nissan doesn't have any plans to re-launch the Renault brand in the US?

Probably, along with a reputation earned in the 70s that people still think is relevant. A modern Renault is more reliable than the average modern car, and certainly more reliable than a modern American car. But people will still insist that "because it's a Renault, it'll require constant mechanical attention".
posted by Dysk at 7:20 AM on June 19


A modern Renault is more reliable than the average modern car, and certainly more reliable than a modern American car.

I really need a cite for all of that.

My father bought a Peugeot 504 diesel new. It was a very luxurious ride, but glacially slow. It would not break the 55 mph highway speed limit unless it was going downhill. It was also prone to breaking down a lot. When he wanted to get rid of it after a couple of years, the dealer he'd bought it from wouldn't take it as a trade-in, and stopped selling Peugeots soon after.

I do not have "anti-French bias." I would, however, take a lot of convincing before I'd ever buy a French car.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:41 AM on June 19


Cite.
posted by Dysk at 9:51 AM on June 19


Also the bit about modern, and you cited a 504?

"The Peugeot 504 was a mid-size, front-engine, rear wheel drive automobile manufactured and marketed by Peugeot from 1968 to 1983" Wikipedia

(And Peugeot aren't Renault, and it's kinda bizarre to suggest that one French company's performance reflects on another's...)
posted by Dysk at 9:53 AM on June 19


I didn't. Another comment brought up Peugeot.

The second sentence of your cite:
"In the Telegraph reliability survey of 2017 they placed Renault 14th out of 20 for dependability."

That's what you're saying is "more reliable than the average modern car"? Not convincing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:02 AM on June 19


I didn't. Another comment brought up Peugeot.

...and then you brought it up in response to my comment about Renault.

That's what you're saying is "more reliable than the average modern car"? Not convincing.

Look at the rest, the stuff that's from media and consumer groups actually concerned with cars, rather than a survey from a xenophobic conservative paper:

"ReliabilityIndex place Renault in tenth on their reliability table. They also give them a reliability index of just 89, which is pretty good compared to the industry average of 118 (the lower the score the better)."

"AutoExpress placed Renault 11th in their reliability table, with a reliability score of 93.72 out of 100."
posted by Dysk at 10:07 AM on June 19


[Folks maybe take the Renault sidebar to MeMail?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:08 AM on June 19


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