John Delorean was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 6, 1925. His father worked in the local Ford automobile manufacturing plant and the family lived humbly during the depression.
After graduating from high school, John enrolled in the engineering program at the Lawrence Institute of Technology. After graduating with a degree, he went on to earn a master's degree in engineering and business. He was initially hired by Chrysler and Packard Motor Car Company for several years, but left to join General Motors.
It was at General Motors that John made his first big mark on the world. He decided to drop a large block engine into a small vehicle, producing what would become the famous Pontiac GTO. The vehicle was very popular and helped trigger the hot rod era. During the first three years of production, approximately 250,000 units were sold, tripling Pontiac's sales.
John's success with the GTO caught the eye of GM's upper management and he was promoted to the position of directing General Motors' North American operations. The job was a very important position and gave him a $650,000 salary.
Despite his success, John's lifestyle did not impress most of his coworkers. He had a reputation for vanity and controlling people that worked under him. After his second divorce, he started dating celebrities like Raquel Welch, earning him a reputation as a swinger.
In 1973, Delorean decided to leave GM and pursue his own interests, despite a promising career that many thought would earn him the position of CEO of General Motors. He married his girlfriend Christina Ferrare, who was half his age, and began dabbling in areas such as real estate and car dealerships. His true goal, however, was to start his own motor company and loosen the hold that the big three (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) had on the American automobile industry.
Delorean quickly designed the DMC-12, a sleek and sporty car with an all stainless steel body and 130hp Renault engine. He collected over $175 million from investors including everyone from Sammy Davis Jr. to the British government. The manufacturing plant was constructed in northern Ireland and the company was given the name DMC, short for Delorean Motor Cars.
Delorean gave himself a $500,000 salary and was soon living in the lap of luxury, with a $7.2 million fifth avenue duplex, $3.5 million mansion in New Jersey, and $4 million ranch in California. He placed DMC's headquarters in a skyscraper in New York at the same altitude as the GM building. By 1982, he was worth an estimated $28 million.
Despite his personal success, Delorean's company did not fare so well. The DMC-12 had poor sales figures due to high competition from other cheaper models, such as the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang. His company was quickly spiraling into bankruptcy and John decided that he needed to make a lot of money fast.
To help his company recover, he made contact with drug dealers with plans to sell millions of dollars worth of cocaine. He made contact with an FBI informant, who made video recordings of their meetings. The FBI launched prosecution against Delorean, but in 1984 he was acquitted of all charges on basis of entrapment. Delorean said that the entire thing was a conspiracy by the big three automakers to make his company fail, although video tapes clearly showed him with a suitcase of cocaine referring to it as being pure as gold.
The bad publicity was the final nail in the coffin and DMC went bankrupt in 1983, leaving many investors with nothing that they had put into the company. In 1985, the government prosecuted him for tax evasion and defrauding investors, forcing him to pay investors $9 million of his own money. In 1995, he was forced to pay his law firm over $10 million in past legal fees.
John Delorean died on March 19, 2005 of complications from a stroke.