Monday, March 21, 2005

Legendary automaker dies

John Z. DeLorean,80, died Saturday, March 19th in Summit, New Jersey after a stroke.

DeLorean is best-known for the failed automobile venture that bore his name and which only achieved any lasting notoriety through the film "Back to the Future". But prior to going out on his own, DeLorean had been a remarkable success in Detroit. He rescued the failing Pontiac Division of General Motors by designing the GTO in the late sixties and was also credited with creating the overhead cam engine, concealed windshield wipers, racing stripes and many other automotive innovations.

He was promoted to the Chevrolet division and was expected to take the reins of the auto giant when he resigned his $650,000 a year job in 1973. GM gave him a Cadillac dealership as a retirement gift but DeLorean wanted to build his own car company.

Only 9,000 DeLorean DMC-12s were built in the plant in Northern Ireland. The company was fraught with cost overruns and design problems. The car, which was intended to be everyman's sportscar, wound up selling for $25,000, far beyond the budget of most buyers in 1981. The plant was closed late in 1982 about the same time DeLorean was arrested in Los Angeles with 55 pounds of cocaine. He was acquitted of the drug charges but would face nearly 40 lawsuits stemming from the demise of his car company.

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