Nick Allen's 1981 DeLorean DMC-12
by James Preston
Cocaine, FBI agents, Margaret Thatcher, Marty McFly and a stainless steel gull-winged sports car built in our very own home town of Belfast. Sounds like a movie, right?
Well it’s not. It’s the story of the one and only DeLorean DMC. To say this car has a colourful past is an understatement. John DeLorean was undoubtedly a brilliant engineer. He was set on building the greatest sports car the world had ever seen. In 1956 he took on a position at General Motors as an engineer at the Pontiac division. In a time that GM executives were focusing on building safe, big, family cars - DeLorean had very different ideas. He was much more interested in going faster, than comfort and safety.
When he was appointed the chief engineer in 1961, he jumped on the opportunity to slap a big old V8 from the full-size Pontiac Bonneville into the midsized Pontiac Tempest. DeLorean named it the Pontiac Tempest GTO, and in doing so, the muscle car was born. The success of the GTO shot DeLorean to be the youngest general manager of Pontiac at 40 years old, and by 1972 he was head of GM’s North American car and truck operations. Now that the muscle car had been born, DeLorean went all rockstar. He divorced his wife, dated super models and made bank. By 1973, even $650,000 a year couldn’t keep him at GM. He was out.
So five weeks later, he had a new 23-year-old wife, set up the DeLorean Motor Company and he had a vision. Within 2 years the company had created a mid-engine prototype to get in the investors. It was built by a former Pontiac employee and then re-engineered by Lotus founder Colin Chapman. The grandmaster Giorgetto Giugiaro responsible for designing cars like the Lotus Esprit and the Ferrari 250 GT SWB, based the DeLorean on a 1970 concept car he had drawn up for Porsche.
With all that in the works, DeLorean needed a factory. There was nowhere better for a factory than a field full of cows in Dunmurry, just outside Belfast. To add to the appeal of the field, Belfast was also at the heart of a bloody conflict between Ireland’s Catholic and Protestant communities. The British Government provided £100 million in funding in the hope it might help the ongoing troubles and unemployment rate in Belfast. However, after just 7 months Margaret Thatcher came to power. She 'frowned upon any government investment in what she considered to be a private industry', so the money stopped. And well from here it all goes to shit. Only 9,000 DMC-12’s were built, 6,000 of which were sold to customers.
With the ever-mounting money issues, DeLorean was getting desperate. It was announced that they had located investors willing to supply a $10 million financial package to rescue the firm. But then DeLorean was arrested during a videotaped sting by the FBI, during which he allegedly agreed to sell 100 kilos of cocaine worth $24 million in a bid to keep his company afloat. That was the end of that. The DeLorean Motor Company was no more. Although he was acquitted of all charges, it was only the start of a long long legal battle.
So now you’ve had the history lesson, let’s talk about Nick Allen’s 1981 DeLorean DMC-12.
Back in September 2018, Nick bought the car from its first owner with only 5,600 miles on the clock. The car was in immaculate condition underneath but it was a little rough around the edges. It was also covered in dents, over 200 of them in fact. The plans were to lower it, create his own wheels and make sure it was able to be returned to stock if needed.
Sorting out over 200 dents is no easy task, especially when the car's stainless steel - you can’t prime and fill. It's got to be perfect. Nick took the car to PJ Grady in Essex where Chirs was able to work his magic. There’s a strong chance the dents came from a hail storm at some point in the DeLoreans life. The big issue when it comes to the bodywork is that when you come to re-brush it, any dent shows up as the sander won’t be able to get to the bottom of any of the dents. Its the whole hog or nothing!
“This car was born to be dropped. It just looks so much better. I’m actually amazed that this isn’t a thing more often with DeLorean owners. There was one guy in Canada who did it in about 2010, but other than that I haven’t seen another.”
The air ride Nick went with was the KNTRL system. Mainly because he is a manufacturing partner with them, making the cases for the controls and ECU. The second reason was because of the retro look it has and just fits in perfectly with the DeLorean. Nick got in touch with Jonathan at Intermotiv for the installation. The kit was obviously not an off-the-shelf job. Jonathan had his work cut out for him to get the right parts to make the kit. The front shocks are extremely short, the only ones they could find that would fit were from a Morgan 3 wheeler with a custom bell housing on top. This allowed the shock to fit into the shock mounts and also maintain a good level of adjustment. With the DeLorean being renowned for having weak lower control arms, it was important to fortify them before installing the front shocks.
After contemplating many, many wheel options, Nick just couldn’t ignore the originals. The problem was that no one makes anything like them. The only solution he could see was to make his own. I mean, you can’t argue with that logic. He started by looking into converting the originals into splits, but he couldn’t justify mangling an original set, as well as the fact that they are expensive enough as it is. So he began mocking up a design and sent it to a load of wheel manufacturers to see what they thought.
After a few responses, Nick decided to go with Mario from RAD48. Not only do they make some amazing wheels, but Mario is a top lad and we can vouch for that. Mario took the design and made it work. After a few different iterations ranging from flat to concave, sandwich mounted to front-mounted, and a bunch of other tweaks along the way, they finally settled on something they both liked.
Once this was all complete, Nick had to of course build his very own boom box hoover board. That's got to be one of the coolest additions to a car build.
When Nick started this build, his main aim was to make sure that the car was 100% returnable to the original. He's managed to achieve that in all aspects. He's built a car that not only combines his own desires but still plays tribute to the legend that is the DeLorean DMC-12.
If only it had a flux capacitor... eh Nick?
Words by: James Preston
Photos by: Connor Flanigan