Buyer’s Guide to DeLorean
By James Espey
with foreword by William T. Collins, Jr.
Updated Second Edition
Table of Contents
First, a bit of history
Beginning your search
Towing/Transporting a DeLorean
Matching Numbers and the DeLorean
DeLorean Vehicle Specification Data
Exercising and Storing Your DeLorean
Common Problems and Cures
Notable DeLoreans in the Modern Era
Painted vs Stainless
VIN’s and Production Numbers
VIN Listing of Company Cars
Financing & Insurance
Suggested Further Reading
Matching Numbers and the DeLorean
Matching numbers is a phrase often used in the collector car hobby, but
for different people it has different meanings - the definitions of which
are beyond the scope of this book. Fortunately, in the DeLorean hobby, it
really doesn’t matter anyway.
The complete Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on a DeLorean is typically located in two places - the pop-riveted plate (11-1) in the driver’s
side door jamb about knee level, and the pop-riveted or glued plate on the
The former almost always lists the “build month/year”, though in the
case of the “1983” model DeLorean cars with VINs that end in 15XXX,
16XXX and 17XXX, this build month/year is not accurate (see page 116).
Some early cars in the 500 VIN-range don’t have this plate at all. The
build month/year may be stamped or embossed, with stamped dates more
characteristic of early build cars. There is at least one known car where
this area is blank, having never been stamped or embossed.
There are a couple other locations where you are likely to find at least the
last five digits of the VIN, and those are on the stainless under the door
headliners (11-3) typically on later, single-key cars and on the rear cross
member of the frame (11-4), behind the impact absorber.
Only black and grey interior
colors were offered to the
public during the production
of the DeLorean. DMC had
planned to introduce blue,
burgundy, and tan. Two of
the gold-plated DeLorean cars
produced (see page 109) were
fitted with this tan interior.
The interior color of a car is
determined by the color of the
dashboard, binnacle and seats.
Carpets: Three different
carpet colors and two different
types of carpet were used during production. Black interior
cars up to approximately VIN
10578 have a coarse dark
grey/charcoal color carpet
(35-1 and 35-4). Grey interior
cars up to approximately VIN
10578 have a coarse light grey
color carpet (35-2 and 35-5).
Both grey and black interior
cars from approximately VIN
10579 have a smooth textured
light grey carpet (35-3 and
The driver’s side floor carpet
has a molded rubber footpad
under the pedals as well as one
to the right of the accelerator
pedal on the center tunnel.
Original carpets are all molded
to fit the contours of their position. Some aftermarket carpets are sewn or
stitched to fit and are not a good match for color or texture and typically fit
poorly. Original pieces of most (but not all) the interior carpets are available, and a complete molded reproduction carpet set was introduced in 2009,
to have been installed only on
DeLoreans originally sold in
Canada and the Middle East.
Canadian cars are typically
identified by having VIN numbers in the 17XXX series, and
there were 50 Middle Eastern
cars with the VIN range of approximately 11740 to 11790.
There are known to be a very
small number of cars fitted
with 140 mph (47-3) speed160
ometers that were intended
for non-US markets. These
clusters can be identified by
their dominant (white print) mph markings and the subordinate metric (blue
Several variations of aftermarket speedometer faces have been produced and
sold over the years including 140 mph (47-4), 170 mph (47-5), and 160 mph
(47-6). These can usually be identified by the noticeable difference in the typestyles between the speedometer and the tachometer. The exception to this is
the illustrated reproduction 140 mph speedometer, which is a very close match
for the original, with deliberately fewer metric (blue) markings to distinguish it
from the rare, original unit.
has a recessed 5/16” opening,
and requires the same sized
tool to remove. This tool is
readily available from any
full-service DeLorean vendor.
Over the years, some owners have replaced this with a
more conventional drain plug.
A new seal washer - included
with filters obtained from most
of the full-service DeLorean
vendors - should be replaced at
every oil change.
engine oil drain plug
Starter: The factory ParisRhone starter (69-4, right)
has proven to be very reliable,
but in recent years the correct internal parts required for
rebuilds have been discontinued. Original starters are no
longer available, but solenoids
can typically be had at a price
when needed. In most cases,
an upgrade to the smaller, quieter and more modern starter
(69-4, left) offered by the
full-service vendors is a better
old and ew starters
Transmission Pan Drain
Plug (Automatic): Similar
to the oil pan drain plug,
the same tool can be used to
remove this plug (69-3). The
same seal washer should be
used here, as well.
Located on the right-hand side
of the engine, just forward of
the oil filter (70-1), the smaller
ones can be easier to install,
Fiberglass Underbody: It
doesn’t necessarily take a severe accident to have damage
to the fiberglass underbody.
Many times, it goes unnoticed or is sloppily repaired as
it’s “out of sight”. Look for
cracks in the visible portions,
particularly in the area at the
corners of the radiator and also
the front and rear wheel wells. 74-1
Unusual looking patches
were sometimes performed at
the factory to correct imperfections in otherwise good
underbodies. If in doubt, get
a qualified bodywork professional to examine and offer an
Frame and Roof Rust: While 74-2
the stainless body, urethane
bumpers and fiberglass underbody won’t rust, an increasingly common problem with
DeLorean cars is rust on the
frame and in the roof box.
Quite possibly the most expensive issue to be aware of when
inspecting a DeLorean for
purchase, the impact of rust on
the frame, suspension components and/or roof box cannot be overstated.
The mild steel frames were coated with a two-part epoxy with the idea that
this would provide corrosion protection. In many cases, this is true, but particularly in areas where salt is used on roads, or salt air is prevalent, close attention should be noted to the condition of the frame and suspension components. The epoxy will crack with age rather than flex, and allow moisture to
become trapped between the steel frame and epoxy, accelerating corrosion.
The need for careful examination cannot be overstressed (74-1 and 74-2) as
the epoxy may look good, but in reality can be nothing more than a shell over
Fuel System: The DeLorean came from the factory with Bosch KJetronic mechanical fuel injection, with an electric pump mounted
inside the tank. This pump delivers fuel at a constant pressure to the
mixture control unit, which consists of an airflow sensor and a fuel distributor. The airflow sensor measures the air entering the engine, and
the fuel distributor delivers the proper amount of fuel to the injectors.
A stock DeLorean requires 87 RON octane gasoline, though the Stage
II/III upgrades and any turbocharged engine will typically run better
with 91 RON octane or higher.
DeLorean Fuel System Components
1. Fuel Tank - The fuel tank is blow-molded plastic, and located in the front
“wishbone” of the frame. Accessing the in-tank components (see page 88)
is most easily accomplished via the inspection cover inside the trunk, rather
than by removing the tank from underneath the car.
Electrical Relays/Fuses: An
examination of the fusebox
and relay compartment is
advised. It is not uncommon
that at least one of the fuses
and/or fuse receptacles will be
melted (96-1). This is usually
the result of corrosion on the
fuses and heat buildup. The
installation of inline fuses is
one option, though an imFront end recall present
proved reproduction fuse box
is also available. The electrical
relays and circuit breakers also
merit attention. The original
fan fail relay and cabin fan
circuit breakers are prone to
failure and some of the others 96-2
are underrated or of poor quality. Relay update kits, which
replace these components, are
recommended for all cars that
have not had these previously
Typically, if a car still has the 96-3
blue fan fail relay installed, or
an unfused wire jumper in that location, the odds are very good that it still
has the original relays and should be updated.
Front Suspension Recall: Of all the factory recalls, perhaps the most serious is the front fuspension (96-2) recall. The easiest way to check if the car
you are considering has had this important update is to simply look under
the front end of the car, and check for the added metal brackets (96-3) on the
frame extension. Kits with installation instructions to perform this recall are
available and highly recommended.
Oil Pressure Gauge: You may notice the oil pressure gauge in many cars
will be “pegged” when driving. This is due to an incompatibility between the
oil pressure sender (on the right side of the engine block) and the gauge. This
is easily fixed by replacing the sender with a new, correctly calibrated unit
which is readily available and easily installed.
tion cars were sent to Legend
and used for development and
testing of both single and twin
turbo (109-1) packages, the
most famous being VIN #502.
This twin turbo prototype
(109-2) is now in a private
collection in New Zealand.
See page 118 for all VINs confirmed to be used by Legend.
Gold Cars: The 1980 American Express Christmas catalog
offered a limited edition of 100
24K gold-plated DeLorean
cars at $85,000 each. Only
two were sold by American
Express (VIN 4300 and 4301).
VIN 4300 has a tan interior
and a manual transmission,
while VIN 4301 has a black
interior and a manual transmission. The only other example of a tan interior DeLorean
is VIN 20105.
Regarding VIN 20105, a spare
set of gold panels was kept on
hand in case one of the other
cars (VIN 4300 or 4301) was
damaged. These parts were
later used to “skin” the DeLorean that was assigned the last DeLorean VIN - 20105. However, detailed
inspection and historical accounts confirm that this car was actually a much
earlier production car, and former DMC employees confirm that the goldplated panels were attached to the car in the United States, by a Consolidated
The two American Express cars are located in the Petersen Museum in Los
Angeles and the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada (109-3).
VIN 20105 is in a private collection in Maryland.
Thanks for taking a look at this preview of
“The Illustrated Buyer’s Guide
to DeLorean Automobiles”.
A printed copy of the complete book, with
1 pages and over 200 photos and
illustrations can be purchased from any of
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