The Life and Legacy of John DeLorean

John Delorean and a DMC.

Post Summary

John DeLorean was a legendary automobile executive best known for his work at General Motors (GM) and his own DeLorean Motor Company (DMC).

Born in Detroit in 1925, DeLorean excelled in academics and later joined the automotive industry, working for Chrysler, Packard Motor Company, and eventually GM.

At GM, he became known as an innovative engineer, overseeing the development of successful automobiles like the Pontiac GTO, Grand Prix, Firebird, and Chevrolet Cosworth Vega.

DeLorean founded the DeLorean Motor Company in 1975, producing the iconic stainless-steel DMC DeLorean sports coupe. Unfortunately, the company struggled with financial issues and went bankrupt in 1982.

In his later years, DeLorean faced legal troubles, including charges of cocaine trafficking and tax evasion, but was acquitted in both cases.

He passed away in 2005, leaving a legacy as an influential figure in the automotive industry.

You must know John DeLorean, the legendary automobile executive if you love cars. He is best remembered for his work at General Motors (GM), where he made division chief at the company aged 40.

Unfortunately, he saw his rise in the industry suffer once he left GM.

He went on to set up the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) but never achieved the success he had hoped with the company. Even so, DeLorean remains an iconic figure in the automotive industry.

The Life Story of John DeLorean

John DeLorean used his genius and tenacity to ensure a string of successes with GM. He oversaw the development of generations of successful automobiles while at the company.

The Pontiac GTO, Grand Prix, Firebird, and Chevrolet Cosworth Vega were among them. At DMC, DeLorean created the DMC DeLorean, a sports coupe.

Early Life

John Zachary DeLorean was born in Detroit, Michigan, on January 6, 1925. He was the first of four sons born to Zachary DeLorean and Kathryn Pribak. DeLorean grew up in a tough working-class neighborhood.

Even so, he did not experience as much of the effects of the Great Depression as his peers. Because both of his parents were working, DeLorean had an easier childhood.

Zachary doubled up as a carpenter when not working as a millwright for Ford Motor Company. Kathryn worked for General Electric and took other jobs to supplement their income.

Unfortunately, Zachary and Kathryn’s union did not last. Zachary was a violent alcoholic, leading the couple to divorce in 1942.

From this point on, DeLorean would not see much of his father. What was a drinking problem evolved into drug addiction. In truth, the young man could do without such influence.

DeLorean joined Cass Technical High School after a stint in public grade schools. He registered for the electrical program and excelled in his studies.

The impressive grades secured him a scholarship at the Lawrence Institute of Technology.

World War II broke out before DeLorean could complete his engineering studies. He signed up for military service and was in the US Army for three years. The soldier received an honorable discharge in 1946.

John came home and worked as a Public Lighting Commission draftsman to help his mom and siblings.

Soon after, he returned to Lawrence, where he, in 1948, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.

DeLorean worked at Chrysler on a part-time basis during his final stretch of college.

Even so, the engineering workforce was not his first stop after graduation. John first worked as an insurance salesman before returning to Chrysler.

At Chrysler, DeLorean gained a wealth of experience. He was an employee but also a student.

The young engineer attended classes at the Chrysler Institute of Engineering. In 1952, he graduated with a master’s degree in automotive engineering.

In 1953, DeLorean left Chrysler to join Packard Motor Company. Although there were some financial concerns, John wanted to work with Forest McFarland. Soon, General Motors came calling. In 1956, DeLorean left Packard for General Motors.


“America is the center of personal and religious freedom. But America will disappear if we don’t follow the Constitution.” – John DeLorean


Rise at General Motors

The move to GM would cement DeLorean’s place in history. He became known as an acclaimed automotive engineer, innovator, and formidable executive.

Offered the chance to chart his GM destiny, John chose the company’s Pontiac division.

He started as an assistant to chief engineer Pete Estes. The two were under the stewardship of Semon Knudsen as general manager.

DeLorean’s genius came to the surface during his years at GM. In 1961, the company promoted him to chief engineer at his preferred division. While holding this position, DeLorean’s work on the Pontiac GTO began.

Hitting the market in 1964 as a LeMans/Tempest package, the GTO took the market by storm.

Its success birthed the muscle car era. The automobile’s performance and an effective marketing campaign saw the car’s popularity grow. Of course, DeLorean took credit for this success.

In 1965, the innovator’s input earned him a promotion to division chief aged 40.

He beat the previous record of 42 set by his close friend and mentor Knudsen. DeLorean also worked on the Grand Prix and Firebird before moving to the Chevrolet division in 1969.

At the time of his appointment, the division was in financial trouble. By 1971, though, DeLorean’s interventions had revamped Chevrolet.

That year, the outlet exhibited record sales of over three million units.

Again, the man’s efforts earned him a step up the ladder. He took the mantle as vice president of car and truck production for the entire GM company.

With his track record, ascension to the presidency seemed inevitable, but it was not to be.

DeLorean was a known maverick with a disregard for the rules. Other executives in the company found him disagreeable, and the idea of him at the helm was unthinkable.

The conflict between him and his colleagues led to his resignation in April 1973. He attributed the move to focusing more on his social life.


“I think my ultimate sin – and it was really terrible – was that I had this insatiable pride.” – John DeLorean


The DeLorean Motor Company

In October 1975, DeLorean founded the DeLorean Motor Company. He sourced funding from bank loans, private investments, partnerships, and government incentives.

After receiving approximately £100 million from the British government, work on the DMC manufacturing plant began in 1978.

The factory was located in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland. The idea was to develop the DeLorean, initially known as the DMC-12. The stainless-steel automobile with gull-wing doors would be the only vehicle DMC produced.

After cost overruns and many delays, production began in 1980. The DMC-12 first hit the market in 1981. Marketed as a luxury vehicle, consumers and critics received the DeLorean poorly.

The 1980 recession did not help matters either, having caused a slump in the market. Sales failed to pick up, and by February 1982, John’s company was knee-deep in debt.

The British government placed the company in receivership. Efforts to revive DeLorean’s dream proved futile, with the company going bankrupt the same year.


“I was the youngest vice president General Motors ever had, I was the youngest group executive, the youngest head of Pontiac, the youngest chief engineer and the youngest head of Chevrolet.”- John DeLorean


DeLorean’s Later Years

Attempting to save his company, DeLorean fell for a setup instigated by the FBI’s confidential informant (CI) James Hoffman.

Aware of DeLorean’s financial woes, the CI baited John into a deal. The entrepreneur hoped to secure funding from a lucrative cocaine sale.

The US government subsequently charged the engineer with cocaine trafficking. Although DeLorean won the case in 1984, he had already lost his reputation and company by then.

In 1985, the government charged him again. This time, it was for tax evasion and defrauding investors, but the charges did not stick.

In late 1994, the entrepreneur filed a monorail patent, but his vision did not materialize. John hoped to revive his automaker dream in the years preceding his death.

The man sold high-end watches to generate capital. He, however, died of a stroke on March 19, 2005.

“I had an arrogance that was beyond that of any other human being alive.” – John DeLorean


John DeLorean was an engineer, inventor, and automotive executive with an impressive career. He, however, fell into disgrace in his later years.

DeLorean is remembered for his GTO revolution at General Motors and for establishing the DeLorean Motor Company.

John Zachary DeLorean passed on a shadow of the man he once was.

The engineer’s contribution to the industry, particularly birthing the muscle car era, will remain etched in history. Were it not for his tenacity, the Pontiac GTO may have never seen the light of day.

Timeline.John DeLorean Timeline


On January 6, John Zachary DeLorean was born in Detroit, Michigan to Zachary and Kathryn DeLorean.


In Detroit, John DeLorean graduates from Cass Technical High School.


With a degree in mechanical engineering from Lawrence Institute of Technology, DeLorean graduates.


He joined Chrysler’s engineering team after graduating from the Chrysler Institute with a master’s degree in automotive engineering.


Packard Motor Company hires DeLorean after he leaves Chrysler.


DeLorean works for General Motors as an engineer.


At Pontiac, DeLorean is promoted to chief engineer.


One of the most successful muscle cars in history is the Pontiac GTO, introduced by DeLorean.


With his appointment as Pontiac’s general manager, DeLorean becomes the youngest division head in General Motors’ history.


DeLorean becomes Chevrolet’s head.


GM appoints DeLorean vice president.


Leaving General Motors, DeLorean starts his own company, the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC).


At this time, DeLorean begins developing its sports car, the DMC-12.


The DMC-12 is released for sale to the public.


DeLorean Motor Company declares bankruptcy.
DeLorean is arrested and charged with conspiring to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine in October.


A drug trafficking charge against DeLorean is acquitted.


The autobiography of DeLorean is published “DeLorean.”


At 80, John DeLorean died in Summit, New Jersey.

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“We were trying to build a car that would last, that had the quality of eternity.” – John DeLorean


Lessons We Can Learn From John Delorean

We can learn many lessons based on the life of John Delorean. For this post, we will examine an important one about the people you associate with.

John DeLorean was an accomplished automotive engineer known for his charismatic personality and ability to sell his vision to investors and consumers.

His role at GM is known for working on high-performance projects such as the Pontiac GTO, which is widely regarded as the world’s first muscle car.

His downfall, however, will be remembered most for his association with the wrong people, despite his many contributions.

In connection with cocaine trafficking, DeLorean was arrested by the FBI.
He was desperate for funding to keep his factory open, and desperate times can lead to the inability to see the consequences of a bad decision.

You are influenced by the people with whom you spend the most time. Consider a significant change in your life, such as moving to a new part of the country for a job with people you haven’t worked with or met before.

The work is a contract job for 18 months before you can return to your old life.

Do you believe you will maintain the same mindset as before you left?

People adapt to their environment, and the people you associate with affect your thoughts and behavior.

The fact that your social circle influences your thoughts and actions raises an important issue.

Are you spending a lot of time with certain people, and are they the right fit for you? Will they make you a better or worse person?

In some circumstances, you have control over the people you associate with, like your friends. However, you have less control during other situations, like your workplace.

For instance, working with negative individuals will rub off on you. Also included in this category are relatives and members of your immediate family.

You can improve the situation by being aware of the personality traits of the people you dislike and ensuring that their thoughts and actions do not affect you.

For instance, turn the negative things they say into positive ones. For instance, if someone bad-mouths the boss, you can refrain from contributing to the conversation and focus on positive attributes.

For example, a co-worker mentions how the boss is always on their back because they are a few minutes late to work now and then. So what’s the big deal? I’m here, aren’t I? I can’t catch a break.

You can focus on looking at it from a different perspective. Everyone else is here on time. So why is this person always late?

And isn’t it the boss’s job to ensure everyone follows the rules? The boss is doing the right thing to ensure everyone is treated equally.

This way, you haven’t participated in the negative conversation. You didn’t get involved with your coworker or the boss.

Instead, you turn negative thoughts into positive ones by changing your thought process.

Another action you can take is to distance yourself from those that aren’t good for you; the less time you spend with them, the better.

The small steps can make a huge difference in your life.
For example, choosing the right people you associate with can improve your life.

It works this way in business, also. Imagine a boss who only hired people who would agree with everything he says. Compare that to a boss that hires smart people who contribute to the workplace. Which do you think will be more successful?

The key takeaway from this lesson is to associate with those who will raise you up, not bring you down.

Frequently Asked Questions About Personality

The information in this post answers many of the questions about John DeLorean. This section provides a summary and any additional information.

How Long Was DeLorean Imprisoned?

John DeLorean was not imprisoned for his drug trafficking charges as he was acquitted. However, he did face time in jail for bankruptcy fraud in 1984, but he was released after three months due to overcrowding.

How Many Biological Children Did John DeLorean Have?

They have two children, Zachary, DeLorean’s adopted son by a previous marriage, and Kathryn.

How Much Money Did John DeLorean Lose?

DMC was insolvent and $17 million in debt when Jim Hoffman, an FBI informant, solicited DeLorean as a financier for a scheme to sell 220 lb (100 kg) of cocaine.

How Many DeLoreans Are in Canada?

There were only 88 DeLoreans made specifically for Canada out of 9,200. As a result, some differences are made later in the production run, where most of the bugs have been worked out.

What Was John DeLorean’s Most Famous Car?

While his most famous car was the DMC-12, featured in the movie “Back to the Future,” he was also well known at Pontiac for his GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato), a muscle car modeled after the Ferrari 250 GTO.

When Did John DeLorean Establish the DeLorean Motor Company?

On October 24, 1975, the DeLorean Motor Company was founded in Detroit, Michigan, by John DeLorean.

His dream car was the DMC-12, a sports car unlike anything anyone had seen.

So in 1978, he started the DeLorean Motor Company in Northern Ireland. The British government and investors like Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr. funded his start-up costs.

What was John DeLorean’s role at General Motors?

As a General Motors executive, John DeLorean served as vice president, head of Chevrolet, and chief engineer for Pontiac.

What Was the Controversy Surrounding John DeLorean’s Drug Charges?

His defense team argued that DeLorean had been entrapped. However, he was ultimately acquitted of drug trafficking charges after he was caught on video discussing a drug deal with an undercover FBI agent.

How Did John DeLorean’s Legal Troubles Impact His Legacy?

While some argue that DeLorean’s legal troubles tarnished his legacy, others maintain that his contributions to the automotive industry outweigh any negative aspects.

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