Today marks an unfortunate milestone in the legacy of October 19, 1982, automaker John Z. DeLorean. For back in 1982, he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine. DeLorean was acquitted of the drug charges in August 1984, but his legal woes were only beginning. He soon went on trial for fraud and over the next two decades was forced to pay millions of dollars to creditors and lawyers. Nevertheless, DeLorean occupies an important place in automotive history: Thanks to its starring role in the 1985 film “Back to the Future,” his gull-wing sports car is one of the most famous cars in the world.
But not many people actually bought a DeLorean car. They were much too expensive, costing up to $25,000, compared with $10,000 for the average car and $18,000 for a souped-up Corvette. The company’s financial trouble was the reason the FBI had been able to entrap him in the $24 million drug deal – as the authorities knew he would do anything to save his business.
By the time director Steven Spielberg chose a DMC–12 to serve as Marty McFly’s time machine in “Back to the Future.” Spielberg had originally planned to use an old refrigerator instead of a car, but had changed his mind at the last minute. While the DeLorean’s instant celebrity status did not do much to revive its creator’s fortunes, it granted him a permanent footnote in pop-culture history.
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