Automaker John DeLorean

S. Sweetnam of Rockport, Mass., asks, 'Whatever happened to...?'

He was the man behind the supercharged, stainless-steel, gull-wing sports car that bore his name. Long out of production, the DeLorean lives on for its role as the time machine in the "Back to the Future" films.

In the 1960s and '70s, John DeLorean was one of General Motors Corp.'s most respected executives. (Among his successes: the GTO, the Gran Prix.) But he left GM in 1973 to spend years planning an "ethical" sports car that would use radical new materials and manufacturing techniques. With generous British subsidies, he sited the DeLorean Motor Car Co., near Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Some 8,500 DeLoreans were made (at $25,000 apiece) from 1981 to '83. But the carmaker's legacy was dimmed by charges that he'd conspired to launder money and distribute drugs to support his troubled firm. The factory was closed. Later, he was cleared of all charges.

Today, DeLorean splits his time between a New Jersey farm and New York City. Reached by phone, he said he's trying to line up financing to build a new, lightweight gull-wing car priced at $17,500. "It should do zero to 60 in 3.2 to 3.5 seconds," he says. "It's all about the weight."

If you wonder 'Whatever happened to...' write us at: One Norway Street,

Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail: whatever@csmonitor.com

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