On this date in 1984, John DeLorean, the founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, is found not guilty due to entrapment after being charged with smuggling drugs in an effort to raise money for his struggling company.
John Zachary DeLorean was born January 6, 1925, in Detroit, and grew up in a working-class Detroit neighborhood. As a young engineer, he worked for the Packard Motor Company and then moved to General Motors, where he was credited with developing the Pontiac GTO, the first “muscle car.” DeLorean quickly moved up the ranks at GM, becoming the youngest general manager of the Pontiac division and then several years later, the youngest head of Chevrolet. He became known as an innovative corporate maverick who lived a flashy, jet-set lifestyle. In 1973, he resigned from GM and eventually formed his own company. With a significant investment from the British government, as well as celebrity investors such as Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr., DeLorean opened a factory in Dunmurry, Ireland, that in 1981 began making his dream sports car. Known as the DMC-12, the car had gull-wing doors that opened upward and carried a then-expensive price tag of $25,000. However, the company ran into financial trouble and on October 19, 1982, the British government announced the plant would be shut down. That same day, DeLorean was arrested on drug trafficking charges in Los Angeles. Three months earlier, DeLorean was approached by a former drug smuggler turned paid FBI informant and the two men engaged in a series of discussions about a deal involving cocaine smuggling and money laundering that would potentially save DeLorean’s company. At his highly publicized trial in Los Angeles, DeLorean maintained he had been set up by the government and a jury acquitted him on August 16, 1984. An estimated 9,000 DeLoreans were produced before the Dunmurry plant closed. The DMC-12 got a huge publicity boost starting in 1985 when it was featured as a time-travel machine in the Back to the Future films starring Michael J. Fox. Today, the car has an avid community of collectors. In 1999, John DeLorean filed for bankruptcy and died on March 19, 2005, at age 80, following a stroke.