DELOREAN: Beauty and The Beast
Angel or Devil? Memories and musings on an automotif personae
The British countryside in brilliant, lustrous sunshine. Narrow, rural roads weave and twist through the weft of the fields, warping with mercury puddles in the heady heat. The frayed ribbon of tarmac seems to go on forever until a turnoff reveals at last a gate, beyond which is an imposing old country estate: a picture of quintessential England. The lord of the manor has already emerged and is ambling towards an unassuming stone tunnel that I, as imaginative over 10 years ago as I am now, envisage to be a portal to a different time.
In the gloom of the narrow passage, two red points glint dimly, wide enough apart suggest the apparition of a giant cave-dwelling beast of threatening proportions. This is indeed the depths of rural Worcestershire, but were our Saints not meant to have done away with the dragons long ago? The squire however is in the den and the dim red reflections have taken on a piercing, burning luminosity, joined by the white glow of the hottest of fires. In an instant the beast roars, and I run as the demon bursts forth, pushing a cloud of dust and smoke out before it.
I slowly turn back around to face it, and my brows lower in intrigue.
In the bright light the creature is slivery and pale, and with a heavenly burst it unfurls two great shining wings that stretch aloft towards the sun. The eyes that fix me now reflect the blue of the sky, and blossom falls gently onto its softly grained skin. I walk around it slowly, my heart fluttering with all kinds of purgatorial turbulence. There is still some smouldering menace about this otherworldly apparition. It has a pointed black chin and somehow I can still see echoed in my vision a red mist rising from its rear, onto which is branded its unique appellation for all to see.
DeLorean is its name. I can sense that this is destiny, but I don’t know which side I’ve sold my soul to. Nor can I work out the true nature of the creature – hellraiser or hellrazer? It is captivating nonetheless. The thick, raked back louvres are as ebony as the cold void of space, yet they are warm from the fires raging within. But this heat is not so terrible that I cannot touch it, and rather than being burnt for my sins I feel the soothing calm of a heart, humming its fast beat, hunting gently with the promise of hidden celestial power.
The man who brought the creature to life from its slumber invites my father to be taken on a ride with it. The mechanical quadruped flies, swooping and glinting around the roads that we had crawled along when trying to find the old estate, to return having won the approval of its prospective keeper.
I realise, in that moment, that the DeLorean is simply doing what it does best: showing off. Putting on a dramatic, awe-inspiring performance in true filmatic style: good vs. evil; beauty and the beast – but this is a one-entity show, and the DeLorean is the star.
This car is an actor. It didn’t set out to be one – it was just that nothing else worked for it. Never an automotive athlete, but a striking visual on the casting pile, the DeLorean is an attractive lead and supporting player for all manner of performances before the camera. On set, as in real life, it remains an abstraction. The creature sits with a serene aura, but calm around a DeLorean is always laced with an unknown substance. So much controversy – some true, some unfounded – encircles this being. You walk up to the DeLorean, and though it proudly displays its nakedness, you don’t ever feel that you could really get under its skin.
But let us try. From what roots then does this enigmatic creature originate? DeLorean Motor Company was created by the American John Z DeLorean. However, there is little that could be defined as solely American about this car. In looks it could play any part. You can see two things in its presence: on the one hand, its bold, steely features and broad set could be unpretty, but on the other hand it is proportionally balanced, refined, and with a genetic pedigree in the name of designer Giogietto Giugiaro it has breeding tracing back to ancient automotive times. If you think about it, this is a car, like both the USA and Britain, that comprises of truly international heritage. English engineering, a French engine, Italian design, an American father, an Irish motherland…and you could add more to that list.
Ironically enough for a stainless steel car, it was born of the ‘Iron Lady’ who funded the factory with tax payers’ money, and thus every inhabitant of Britain contributed to its conception and the building of the exclusive public school in Northern Ireland erected to shape the creation of this one unruly pupil. It didn’t work – at least, not as intended. No doubt the British-accented sportscar exported to the USA found unique publicity, but this automotive dropout took time to find its true vocation (pardon the pun).
As is apparent in its performative roles, the DeLorean has an inherent talent to seem as if it could originate from any era. In evocative optimism, the most obvious it the future. But the most elemental, ancient form of earthiness is reflected in its unpainted stainless steel skin; an honest, unforgiving armour that hides no scars or history.
Indeed what could be said about this ‘automotive personae’ is that it had potential. Sadly, with ambitions of a glorious twin turbo on the horizon, DMC suddenly took the unfortunate route into liquidation. Life was against it in its underperforming adolescence. But far from finding oblivion, the company’s abandoned offspring retained a very real talent in maintaining the illusion of the dream it was intended to be, making up for its many initial shortcomings. Somehow, when it sets foot on stage, whether or not it knocks the traffic lights out of its contemporaries, everyone has enormous fun. The DeLorean gives a true fingers-up to modern metro-sexual motors, with the old-fashioned beast at its heart growling in utter dissention. Although its bark is admittedly worse than its bite, give it a few drinks (for it is a moderately thirsty devil), a tweak and a tune, and at will be the talk of the town the next day for all the right reasons.
If not a true blue performer, it is at least a dedicated anglophile, albeit with a penchant for commandeering ships around the world. Contrary to its rarity, this car seems to have a presence everywhere. I have heard of them even living in the deserts of the Middle East, but I’d be interested to know the coldest climate in which a DeLorean can be found. A sort of Johnny Depp of the automotive world?
The DeLorean was apparently designed as the ultimate ‘bachelormobile’. I like to think of it having a degree of bold, devil-may-care personality that many cars of the current era struggle to encapsulate; that kind of roguish nature with a rough-around-the-edges beauty that attracts both men and woman alike, while charming children with its imagination. Cars are too perfect these days. We all know what happens when people try to create ‘perfection’ – or should I say eliminate ‘flaws’ in pursuit of this fantasy state – everything that makes the world interesting, colourful and varied starts to disappear into totalitarian monotony. The DeLorean is the opposite of that. Love it or hate it, it is the optimism of this car that is attractive, and there is no formula for that most unique kind of design success – and success it is, irrespective of the fortunes of DMC itself. True, it has a close circle who appreciate it for its whole self, but as an exhibitionist and advocate for an optimistic future, it has many, many fans, whose numbers (like its monetary and cultural values) are consistently on the increase – and always will be.
And at the end of the day, if that is the place it has in the world, it is not such a bad existence.