It’s weird how movies seem to come out in pairs — like Armageddon and Deep Impact, Volcano and Dante’s Peak, or the two Fyre Festival documentaries. These “twin films” often cover the same subject matter with different takes, and as it turns out, it’s happened again with, of all things, the story of John Z. DeLorean.
The pair movies, Driven starring Lee Pace and Jason Sudeikis and Framing John DeLorean featuring Alec Baldwin (the former film is not to be confused with the Sylvester Stallone film of the same name), are out now; Driven was just released this month. But the truth is, DeLorean’s life was far more surreal than either film can explain.
To that end, here are our five favorite offbeat facts about John Z.. Our friends at Carfection also put together an amazing documentary about the man, too, which you can check out below.
Tie-in with Colin Chapman
During DeLorean’s dealings with the British government, he became involved with famed car designer and Lotus founder Colin Chapman through a Panamanian company called GPD with the idea that Lotus would do all the engineering work on the DMC-12. Together, Chapman and DeLorean conspired to pocket $17.6 million, which was eventually noticed by the authorities. DeLorean’s take was returned but Chapman’s was never found due to his untimely death by heart attack in 1982.
The Chapman estate agreed to repay £4.67 million (because England) to the government. A third party, the financial director for Lotus, Fred Bushell, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of £4.5 million. He was the only member of the group to do jail time.
There’s a (ugh) synth-pop album about him
John DeLorean, his lifestyle and image, and the excess of the 1980s had a significant impact on the world. So much so that in 2007, the group Neon Neon released their debut album called Stainless Style. It ended up being a concept album based loosely on the life of John DeLorean. It featured guest appearances by Cate Le Bon, Fatlip, Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes and more. It was nominated for a 2008 Mercury Music Prize.
DeLorean’s Belfast factory was supposed to help reduce violence in Northern Ireland
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United Kingdom was undergoing a rash of violence in Northern Ireland which came to be known as “The Troubles.” Part of DeLorean’s aforementioned deal for financing his company with the British government was that, in exchange for the startup capital, he would have to build his factory near Belfast in Northern Ireland and staff it with locals.
It was thought at the time that this influx of new, higher-paying jobs would ease tensions between the Brits and the native Irish population. It could have worked, too, but rather than restructure the company and limit DeLorean’s involvement after it went into receivership, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rejected the plan outright, despite its fiscal sense and potentially positive effect on the community in Belfast, dooming the company and possibly exacerbating the struggle with the Irish Republican Army, which wouldn’t see a peace agreement until 1991.
After it shut down, the DeLorean Motor Company was bought by Big Lots
It’s well known that John DeLorean had tons of celebrity investors in his car company. But one sizable investor that’s slightly less well-known was the Consolidated Stores Corporation — an Ohio-based company better known for its chain of Big Lots stores.
After the DeLorean Motor Company went bust, Big Lots acquired most of what was left of DMC, including around 100 partially constructed DMC-12 coupes from the assembly line in Ireland. CSC had these cars shipped to Ohio where they were completed and sold.
In fact, this wasn’t the first car company to get bought up like this by Consolidated Stores’ owner Sol Shenk. He did the same thing with Bricklin in the mid-1970s.
Some DMC-12 tooling ended up anchoring fishing nets in the Atlantic Ocean
Most of the tooling and parts from the DeLorean Motor Company were bought up and shipped to the US, where they’ve been used to keep DeLoreans on the road and even build new ones.
One of the most important parts of the car’s tooling never made it across the pond, though. For a long time, the massive steel stamping dies for the DMC-12’s famous gullwing doors were thought to be lost.
It had long been suspected that the dies were sunk in the north Atlantic, due to their sheer size, but nobody had proof. That changed in June of 2000 when a man on the DeLorean Mailing List site received a note from a man in the UK who had been restoring a vintage car ferry.
This man reached out and confirmed that, not only was it true that the stamping dies had been sunk into the sea, but that they had been found and were in use as anchors for boundary nets for a fish farm in Ard Bay, County Galwain, in western Ireland. The photographic proof was sent to this ferry restorer by a former captain of the Severn Princess who transported the dies and sent them overboard.