An extraordinary man – and his car

Posted on May 12th, 2009 in automotive history,Opinion by Julian Edgar

I am not usually one to read business or financial thrillers; there’s too much I simply don’t understand. But Delorean, written by Ivan Fallon and James Strodes and published in 1983, is simply a helluva book.

The history of the Delorean DMC12 car is widely known – we’ve done a fairly typical story ourselves (see here) – but it’s the background financial and personal shenanigans that make for fascinating reading. 

The authors are ungenerous of John Z Delorean, but any feeling that they’re being mean just for sensationalism quickly goes out the window when we start learning about the financial approaches taken within the company.

The company – funded effectively by the British taxpayer – threw money around with an indefensible largesse, while Delorean himself appeared to have delusions of grandeur (the latter perhaps required of someone propping up a house of cards). 

Also rather interesting is the skeleton company set up to apparently channel tax-free money to Colin Chapman of Lotus (Lotus did most of the development work on the car) and to Delorean himself.

Used to dealing with ethical and sober companies, the British government – and its agencies – simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing happening to their money. But, caught in a political bind, they kept handing Delorean more and more!

The authors are financial experts – not automotive writers – and there a few automotive technology errors and shortcomings.  Tech detail on the development of the car itself is also only briefly covered (although even that coverage is often interesting).

But if you want to read a book that shows how one man can manipulate situations to his advantage – or, perhaps more generously, a book about the burning ambition of a man who would do anything to succeed – this is an amazing read.

6 Responses to 'An extraordinary man – and his car'

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  1. Jamie said,

    on May 12th, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Another good book to read is the autobiography of Lee Iaccoca, very interesting story on how the big 3 in the US were run.

  2. John Kirkham said,

    on May 13th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    This one is a much better book on DeLorean :

    Although, I’ve got to say that for a car company that went bankrupt, you can still buy them brand new today, spare parts everything. like nothing has changed.

  3. toddly said,

    on May 13th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    lol Smokey Yunick has a fair bit to say about JD in his books. Especially his love for marching powders…. He was a wizz at slight of hand with the money and nearly pulled it off! Would have been interesting to see the hot vapour engine of Smokeys’ in the car!

  4. Bobb said,

    on May 29th, 2009 at 5:28 am

    It will be interesting to see how America’s newest car magnate, Barack Obama, measures up. Talk about financial sleight of hand, he is the master.

  5. Bob Wilson said,

    on June 12th, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Wagner and Lutz gave GM to the US government and George Bush. Barack inherited what Wagner, Lutz and Bush gave him. As for Delorian, I don’t care.

    I have a 2010 Prius and the real heros are the Japanese designers and managers. This car is a pure wonder of technology.

    Bob Wilson

  6. rdbjr said,

    on June 16th, 2009 at 7:14 am

    What does Mr Wilson’s post have to do with this book review? If you want to play the blame Bush game, go to the Puffington Host.