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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Could this turbo engine have saved DeLorean?

Forty-two years ago, as rumors of strife and impropriety were only beginning to swirl around his fledgling car company, John Z. DeLorean entertained the idea of boosting his stainless steed. If ever a fast-looking slow car deserved more oomph, it was the DeLorean DMC-12 and its anemic 2.8-liter V-6.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/could-this-turbo-engine-have-saved-delorean/
28 REPLIES 28
audiobycarmine
Technician

Is some Narcan included? Sorry...

A really good article with a lot of important history, some sordid, some inspiring.
Before I clicked to open the article, I assumed it was going to be a modern "what if?" with a modern engine design. Nope.
It's all actual history. What a shame it didn't come to pass.

Much of this took place in my own "backyard"— I live on LI.
Thanks Chris, for a deeper, better insight into what was a "bold headlines only" chapter of automotive history.
joesurfer
Intermediate Driver

I felt the same way and as an undergraduate in Southampton College from 77-81, we used to go to Bridgehampton all the time to watch the races. Too bad I did not catch anything related to the Delorean at the time...
Snailish
Engineer

This is a really insightful article. The first-person perspective is a rare treat.

It would be nice for a Hagerty writer to give us a companion article about Chris Theodore and other significant people from this project (we've heard lots about DeLorean after all).
hyperv6
Racer

Nothing would have saved the Delorean. It’s problems all come back to money that they ran out of. 

it would have been more interesting with a turbo but it was doomed from the start. 

If anything a turbo of that era may have brought the end sooner. Turbo durability was poor in this era with no good synthetic oils and the lack of water cooling of the turbo bearing. 

turbobill
Intermediate Driver

I did my first turbo in 1976. By the early to mid 80's, I had fabricated a few kits from scratch. Properly maintained, I had no reliability issues, even in a truck pulling a trailer.

The typical car owner may have had experiences closer to what you describe. I guess we'll ever really know.
Michbc3
Pit Crew

My impression of the saga is that a LOT of money was poorly spent. I've read other books on the topic that spending millions on Lotus and Colin Chapman did nothing to advance the Delorean program. Probably had some interesting parties in europe for the elite is all.

I don't think a turbo DMC was doomed from the start technically. Yes, better lubricants always help. But Mobil 1 oil was commonly available back then. I started using it in 1979 in my Corvette. No need to water cool the turbo bearing. Recall that Buick used oil cooling very successfully in turboBuicks manufactured in the late 1980s. That wasn't really new of course, just the first thing that came to mind.
FloridaMarty
Instructor

The only reason anyone likes the DeLorean is because of the movie. I recently saw one at a car show, not impressed. Enough already.
Punk
Advanced Driver

Honestly. I was 21 in 1980 and even though I had a love for sports cars, I never could understand the DeLorean. The stainless aspect was cool, but the engine? The performance? It wasn't much faster than my 200SX. I just didn't get it. I still don't. I don't even think it looks that good. The proportions always looked wrong to me. Too wide, like something fell on it. It did have gullwing doors, though. When they worked. Can we move on? John was just a conman.
joesurfer
Intermediate Driver

Maybe towards the end but designer of the Pontiac GTO and otherwise acquitted of the cocaine deal. So all in all maybe no so much

BMD4800
Gearhead

Nostalgia is often viewed through rose-colored glasses.
MustangJim
Technician

Thank you for an interesting article. Some history that I was not aware of. Its good to hear about other people that we're involved with DeLorean. Shame that DeLoreans lifestyle and lack of a moral compass brought this to an end. Sorry if I am being to judgmental.
Michbc3
Pit Crew

His life as a 60s midlife swinger.did him in. But in other ways, he was quite an interesting person.
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

The power is certainly what the car needed and it would have been cool to see it make it to production. Having said that I think nothing could have saved DeLorean. It was doomed before it started.
zappafanx
Intermediate Driver

Very good read. Enjoyed it.
SenshuDoug
New Driver

I assume the turbo variant would do 88 miles per hour.
DaveP
Detailer

Great Scott!
Edwardsg
Intermediate Driver

Always interesting to read about some of the behind the scenes things that didn’t quite make production. Glad those involved successfully moved on after.
You kind of have to wonder how reliable this engine would have been.
tigercat
Detailer

The problem DeLorean had which is also my current problem is no one could see the forest for the tree's so he just was never financially stable enough and worked on a shoestring budget. When something goes wrong you just sink further under the waves. If at least someone with finances, vision and the will to invest would have come forth history would have been very different. I think of an Elon Musk of DeLorean's time. I however keep struggling along because unlike Mr. DeLorean I do not want to be the subject of a string operation in some hotel room. He was the heart and soul of Pontiac and went against his G.M. corporate bosses to really give us some great car and power train combinations which still put him high on the list in Detroit no matter what he felt he had to do to save his baby later in life.
SAG
Technician

the Volvo motor used,
was a flawed application by DeLorean's Design team.
Overheating being the main problem.
SAG
Technician

Oh' - lets throw a Turbo on it
& see how hot it gets
ed
Advanced Driver

Well, at least it would go 88MPH. It's about time.
Cessna386
New Driver

Great article, there were some mistakes made but let us not overlook the word “recession”. That economic aberration took down some promising enterprises.
awfink55
Intermediate Driver

How about a forward story on Fred Dellis after the Delorean debacle. I hope he landed on his feet !!!!
TG
Technician

DeLorean did well when he was an idea man with corporate bean-counters to keep him reined in. As soon as he went on his own, he tried to put all of his great ideas into one car all at once, with little to no insight into what the consumer was actually looking for. Although that twin turbo motor would have probably addressed one of the major issues with the car, it is unlikely that it would have saved the company
SJ
Technician

Great article!
janedon
Advanced Driver

I'm Not convinced he was a ""Con Man"-- as you put it-- A dreamer Yes--Con No--It does seem like he was a maverick rather than a team player & I think that was a large part of his problem(S)-- With GM he had access to people to Perfect his ideals & to keep him from putting the cart before the horse--Money was also there to--But at times GM had to say "Slow Down" on his own---he was try to run before learning to Walk--rushing into production Before you have the bugs worked out is Never a great plan, However- without enough financial backing you take crazy chances--(on much smaller scales) won sometimes-Lost other times- I'm not sure Why he chose that power plant but I'm thinking it was because he did'nt have the money for something Better--Perhaps he should have just started on a smaller scale so as to get through the growing pains--
61Rampy
Instructor

John DeLorean learned how to put stuff in production before the bugs were worked out from GM! If any company knows how to do that, it is GM, especially back in those years.
qualicas
Pit Crew

I'm in the plastic injection molding business. When a customer comes to us to get a part molded we charge him up front for the tooling. When a customer asks to pay for the tooling as we mold parts my response is always, "why should I have more faith in your product than you do". Either they pay up front or they go somewhere else. Legend would have done well to have the same rules.
By the way I learned the hard way...once!
Very good story. Years ago I read John Delorens book "on a clear day you can see General motors"
Also he wanted a high reving engine for the Vega but accountants over ruled him.