Monday, April 16, 2012

John DeLorean

Being the 20th century blog assignment, and that the stipulations said an inventor/engineer who "lived between 1900 and 1950," not necessarily invented their historical items during that period, I couldn't help but choose the inventor of my favorite cult-classic car from my childhood. I mean, come on, who didn't love the DeLorean after watching Back to the Future?!

John Z. DeLorean (1925-2005), in addition to founding the eponymous DeLorean Motor Company, was also a renowned automotive engineer and executive. After earning a BS in Industrial Engineering, a MS in Automotive Engineering and an MBA, DeLorean worked as an engineer/designer for Packard Motor Company, where he helped refine the automatic transmission design, before accepting a Chief Engineering position at Pontiac. After leading the design team to multiple patents, for items such as articulated windshield wipers and the overhead cam six cylinder engine, DeLorean became the Head of the Pontiac Division of General Motors. Whilst there, he was the mastermind of the muscle car revolution with such hits as the GTO and LeMans. Shortly thereafter, John was promoted to lead GM's largest division, Chevrolet, which was struggling at the time. At this point, DeLorean had risen to near celebrity status and became a major player in sports teams and Hollywood circles. In 1972 he was named VP of car and truck production at GM. However, this wouldn't last long, as John's fame and non-conformity with GM's reserved approach, led him to leave the company a year later to form his own intrepid car company.

The DeLorean Motor Company, in the almost decade long development of it's own car, invented and propagated many innovative technologies. These include composite materials, torsion bars, cryogenic metallurgic treatments, and computerized/robotic assembly line advances, along with safety strides, such as the safety dash board. In addition to the technical advances, John DeLorean also helped redefine the public-private partnership with his ground-breaking deal with the Northern Irish government to finance and locate the factory to build the cars in that embattled country. The result was the striking, gull-wing doored, stainless steel skinned, rear-engined DMC-12 luxury sports car, which debuted in 1981. The timing however, couldn't have been worse, as the 1982 economic recession was in the making and impractical sports cars are not high on the priority list when times get tough. This, in addition to political instability in the region, eventually led to the demise of DMC in 1983 after 9000 of the historic car were produced. Sadly, DeLorean's name was forever tarnished by him agreeing to a cocaine smuggling deal in a last ditch effort to try and save his company. However, no drugs were ever actually trafficked and DeLorean was acquitted of the charges on the grounds that he was entrapped by the FBI who set up the sham. Unfortunately, the hit movie Back to the Future, which reignited interest in the car came two years too late in 1985, after the company and DeLorean's reputation had collapsed. However, John DeLorean left a lasting mark on automotive history and his real legacy is that of a successful inventor/engineer and a fearless entrepreneur.

1 comment:

  1. Very good overview of DeLorean. Great info about his education and technical content on the car and its failure as a production model.

    Maybe next time do a writeup on a automobile inventor who created something before the 1950s, when vehicle creativity started to take off.


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