Once Upon a Time, the DeLorean Promised to Lay Rubber Through the Automotive Industry

A look back at the lean roadster with the fat advertising budget

John Z. DeLorean in a DeLorean car
John Z. DeLorean left Detroit to build the car of tomorrow.
Getty

Long before a modified DeLorean took Marty McFly back to the future, it was the future. In late 1980, America was abuzz over the DMC-12, the stainless-steel roadster with the gull-wing doors slated to go into production in January 1981. While the DeLorean Motor Company worked to finalize its dealership network, Adweek—which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year—was putting together its Dec. 1, 1980, issue. And we were all revved up over which of 100 possible agencies would land the $25,000 car’s $7 million advertising account.

“We’ve gotten calls from all over the country,” a DeLorean spokesperson told us.

Advertising would be the final touch to a dazzling project begun by John Z. DeLorean, the father of the muscle car who abandoned Detroit to build the car of tomorrow. In the end, however, he’d make only 9,200 of them. In 1982, DeLorean would be arrested for trying to arrange a cocaine deal to fund his troubled company. DeLorean would be acquitted, but not in time to save his ride.

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