A Netflix documentary series reconstructs the bizarre life of John DeLorean, a trickster who defied the auto industry with the time-traveling vehicle Marty McFly
“If you’re going to make a time machine, do it in style,” Doc answered Marty McFly in ‘Back to the Future’ when he discovered they were going to travel back in time in a DeLorean. Released in 1985, Robert Zemeckis’s film forever mythologized a car that had been discontinued three years earlier. Its production lasted from 1981 to 1982 and barely reached 9,000 units. With its stainless steel bodywork, gull-wing doors, and a 2,800-cubic-centimeter engine producing 132 horsepower, this sports car was the endeavor of John Zachary DeLorean (1925-2005), an auto industry executive who dreamed of selling a car. car outside the system.
The Netflix documentary series ‘John DeLorean, a legendary tycoon’ reconstructs the bizarre life of a businessman who made the covers in the early 1980s and who when he died in 2005 in a New Jersey apartment block sold watches on the internet. His ex-wife, the model Cristina Ferrare, describes him in the film as a “malignant narcissist”; his son Zach confesses that every time he sees a car built by his father “he wishes he had a fucking hand grenade to blow it up.” DeLorean was both a visionary and a trickster. A model of masculinity who starred in the first media trial before OJ Simpson and in whose biography the IRA, the pornographer Larry Flynt and the cocaine trade appear.
The son of a Romanian immigrant, a union steward and Ford employee, and an Austro-Hungarian mother who worked at General Electric, John DeLorean was born in the hometown of motorsport: Detroit. He escaped poverty through public education and, after graduating as an engineer and fighting in World War II, he began climbing positions at General Motors. Its greatest success was launching the Pontiac GTO in 1964, considered the first ‘muscle car’, a car with a very powerful engine but with an affordable price, which became an object of desire for young drivers.
That star executive reinvented himself to stand out from the neckties and gray bosses of the automotive industry. He grew his hair longer, worked on his jaw to appear manlier, and began appearing in magazines with girlfriends like Ursula Andress. After his marriage to the top model Cristina Ferrare, whom he could gift with eight mink coats in one day, he becomes the king of New York. In 1973 he gave up a salary of $ 650,000 and created his own company, the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC). He hires Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro to design the body of a revolutionary vehicle with a chassis and suspension for Colin Chapman, the creator of the Lotus team, which was sweeping Formula 1 at the time.
With his rock-star airs, DeLorean taunted Bank of America, host Johnny Carson, and Sammy Davis Jr. to be investors in the DMC-12. In his search for a location for a factory he traveled the world and even passed through Spain. In the end, it landed in Belfast, at the heart of the confrontation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. There he received $ 120 million from the British government in order to create jobs in a depressed area and help defuse the violence. But the money was running out and the cars weren’t as good as promised. On the day of the presentation, recalls a journalist, the doors did not open. The attacks on the factory did not help either.
1982 is the year of its downfall. The conservative government of Margaret Thatcher turns off the subsidy tap and DeLorean is seen with thousands of cars in the Dunmurry fields that nobody wants to buy. He can’t think of anything else but to start dealing cocaine for quick profits. “This is better than gold, which weighs more,” he is heard saying in the video of his arrest at the Sheraton Hotel at the Los Angeles airport. “That night my life changed forever,” laments his son Zach in the documentary. Incredibly, despite being caught with 200 pounds of drugs, DeLorean was found not guilty two years later after a trial that followed across the country.
His best help came from the pornographer Larry Flynt, who leaked secret FBI tapes to the media, which helped prove that the agency had ambushed the businessman. The three 40-minute episodes of the Netflix series offer enough clues to demonstrate the fraudster spirit of its protagonist throughout his life: theft of patents, embezzlement of public funds, companies in tax havens … DeLorean was a pioneer in equipping of glamor to the sharks of Wall Street and anticipated all the excesses and the lack of ethics that would characterize finance in the 1980s.
DeLorean Motor Company continues to exist in Humble (Texas) to repair and sell parts of the car in which Marty McFly traveled in time.