By 1999 John DeLorean was bankrupt and swimming in $85 million debt, but he still hoped that his namesake De Lorean car would eventually come back into style. The thought wasn’t entirely absurd – Volkswagen was enjoying phenomenal success with its ‘new’ Beetle and the retro-styled PT Cruiser was a hit for Chrysler. Then again the De Lorean Motor Company’s signature car, the DMC-12, only had a ten to 11-month run of less than 9,000 cars. In other words, the 1982 De Lorean car was retro by 1983. By 1985 the De Lorean was a joke in Back to the Future, so dated it made for a perfect time machine.
The timeline of DeLorean’s personal history is so tied to the history of automobiles that, even after his death in 2005 (at age 80, after suffering complications from a stroke), his various supporters and detractors are still debating his accomplishments and foibles. Both lists are long. Some argue for the flashy and obvious, such as the DMC-12’s gull-wing doors and rust proof stainless steel body. Others point to a design accomplishment that is far more ubiquitous but rarely attributed to DeLorean: the lane-change turn signal.