De Lorean, gorillas, Grant and Lee, and more; Grand Delusions, by Hillel Levin. New York: The Viking Press. 336pp. $15.95.

By , Ann Hill Punnett is a free-lance writer living in the Chicago area.

Ex-General Motors wonder boy, charming jet-setter, independent automaker, accused of drug dealing - this is the story of John Z. De Lorean as told by author Hillel Levin.

His book, an evenhanded account of the life and high-living of the auto executive, is based on interviews with De Lorean himself, his associates, and employees.

De Lorean turned the American dream of success into a nightmare, Levin writes. While preaching ethics to the automobile industry, De Lorean's personal business ventures - whether buying and selling land or acquiring an auto dealership - were shoddy.

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Some executives describe him as more rainbow-chaser than realist, a dreamer beyond his depth in the intricacies of high finance.

They indict the De Lorean sports car as so imperfectly designed that one exasperated owner declared, ''When it doesn't start I am embarrassed, and when the roof leaks, I get wet.''

Levin criticizes the news media for not seeing through De Lorean's Horatio Alger image: ''Even as his company unraveled around him, the American press was still reluctant to look closely at the legend he had spun'' and to warn the public that something was wrong.

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