From 1986 through 2004 I operated Specialty Automotive in Olympia, WA, selling new and used DeLorean auto parts worldwide, while also working full time as an engineer. During that time I restored/refurbished 7 DeLoreans and parted out 6 more. Over those 18 years of traveling the country buying up dealer parts inventories and restorable cars I naturally had a few interesting adventures. The following is the first of several true stories from that period.
This is one of those stories you hear and say “yeah, right.” But it’s true and I have the photos to prove it.
In 1995 I was talking on the phone to a customer in Switzerland who had owned several DeLoreans there. He asked for my help in finding him a brand new one. Even though they would have been 12-14 years old by then it was not totally unreasonable to find a “new” one since some had undoubtedly been purchased and put into storage. I just chuckled and said “Sure, I’ll try, but don’t expect one anytime soon.” When I got off the phone I picked up my latest copy of Hemmings Motor News and turned to the “D” section. Several low mileage cars were listed, but one in particular caught my eye for two reasons - it was in Oregon, which meant it was within driving distance of my home in Washington; and it said the car had only 81 miles on it.
I figured they must have confused the mileage with the year, but it was worth a phone call to find out. I called the owner and verified that it did indeed have only 81 miles despite being 14 years old, and was located in a small town on the southern part of the Oregon coast. Deciding this was too intriguing to pass up, I took a day off work and asked my elderly mother if she wanted to go for a long ride.
We drove about 200 miles south down I-5, and then cut over to the coast. After many long hours in the car we got to the owner’s 200 acre ranch, home to ostriches, emus, buffalo, yaks, and one DeLorean. The elderly gentleman explained how he had bought the car new in Reno and had it shipped to storage when he lived in California. When they moved to this ranch, he and his wife had a 7 bedroom house but no garage. The car sat in a carport for a short time, but he was concerned about having it outside. I asked where it was now. “In the bedroom” he said, just off the living room where we were sitting.
“One day when Mama was in town, me and the hired man took a chainsaw to the back wall of one of those unused bedrooms,” he explained. With carpeting, wallpaper, makeshift ramps and plywood doors still in place, there it was. The fit was so tight that from the inside door of the bedroom you could only get to one side of the car, having to either crawl through or open the outside “doors” to reach the driver’s side.
He stated that once a month he opened the plywood doors and started the car, and every six months he siphoned the fuel out and replaced it. We fired it up and it idled down perfectly. The car, a 5 speed with grey interior, looked and smelled new. The heatshields by the muffler and catalytic converter were not even discolored, and the muffler itself barely showed signs of having been used. In a word, it was perfect.
He went on to tell me that he had bought it as an investment, but that now his health was failing. In fact, he would soon be selling everything he owned. We had a long and very nice visit, but had to head for home. Now I was faced with a dilemma: I had promised my customer in Europe to find him a new car, and would probably not have located this one had it not been for that request. On the other hand, I would probably never again find a collector car as pristine as this one at such a fair price. When we got home I called Switzerland and described the car, and told him to let me know very soon if he wanted it.
I could have just bought it for myself and he would have never known, but I had given my word so that was not an option. Plus I was not really in a position to keep it as a non-driven show car since I already had 3 DeLoreans - my daily driver; my supercharged Chevy-powered project car; and a turbocharged project.
In the next week there were frantic calls to Oregon and to Switzerland as we tied up the deal and awaited the transfer of funds. But the process was taking too long, and the seller was getting nervous as other prospective buyers were telling him he had sold it too cheap. Finally I called my mother and said “ready for another long ride?” We hitched up my car trailer, hit the bank for a quick loan (thanks to my open-ended home equity account), and headed south. I bought the car, drove it out of the bedroom onto my trailer, and headed for I-5, only to find the route inland closed. So up the coast we headed again, this time with a precious cargo.
For one week I actually owned 4 DeLoreans, including possibly the best, lowest mileage one remaining. Then the buyer’s funds arrived, and I made arrangements to have it shipped overseas. At his request my final act was to soak the entire exterior with 4 cans of WD-40 to lessen the possibility of salt air damage. It was sad to see it leave as I will probably never have an opportunity to own another one as nice. It took 30 days for the car to get to Europe, and it arrived with no problems. The new owner said he intended to drive it. While not what I would have done, it is after all what they were made for.
LeMay - AMERICA'S CAR MUSEUM®