Encyclopedia Of Detroit

DeLorean, John

Born in Detroit, Michigan on January 6, 1925, John DeLorean was an automotive engineer responsible for several innovations, including the muscle car. After attending Detroit’s public schools for most of his childhood, DeLorean was accepted into Cass Technical High School, where he enrolled in the electrical program. He excelled and earned a scholarship to Lawrence Institute of Technology (now Lawrence Technological University). There he studied industrial engineering and was accepted to the school’s honor society due to his excellent grades. His studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the army for three years during World War II. Upon his return he completed his degree, graduating in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduation, at the recommendation of his uncle, DeLorean applied at Chrysler and began work at the Chrysler Institute of Engineering, a post-graduate educational facility that allowed him to work in the automotive engineering field while furthering his education. In 1952, he graduated from the Chrysler Institute with a master’s degree in automotive engineering and joined Chrysler’s engineering team.

DeLorean was responsible for several automotive inventions and trends over the course of his career. After only a year at Chrysler, he accepted a job at the Packard Motor Company, and within four years he became head of research and development. In 1956 DeLorean was offered a job with General Motors and was put in charge of reinventing the stagnating Pontiac division. While at Pontiac he produced dozens of patented innovations, including wide-track wheels and the recessed and articulated windshield wiper. DeLorean saw the desire in the market for a new type of vehicle with both style and horsepower. In 1964, Pontiac introduced the DeLorean-designed GTO, making him the creator of the “Muscle Car.” DeLorean followed this up with the wildly popular Firebird in 1967, and Grand Prix in 1969. Both were introduced to fill niches that DeLorean perceived in the market.

Major American automobile manufacturers followed DeLorean’s lead, releasing their own versions of muscle and pony cars. In 1973, his personal life at odds with the conservative car industry, he resigned from GM and created his own automobile company, the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC).

In the mid-1970s, the DMC designed a protype two-seater sports car with gull-wing doors. The production model, called the DMC 12, was released in 1981. Known simply as the DeLorean, it is perhaps what he is best known for today. The car was not successful in the market, though, and the DeLorean Motor Company folded. Despite this lack of success, the DeLorean became famous and immortalized when it was featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future. John DeLorean died in Summit, New Jersey on March 19, 2005 at the age of 80.



Photo of General Motors executives. including John DeLorean

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