- This story by Suzanne Snider—which details the fantastical rise and fall of John DeLorean, a former titan of the American automotive industry—first appeared in the June/July 2006 issue of Tokion. Snider is the founder/director of Oral History Summer School, and she is currently completing a nonfiction book about rival communes on adjacent land. Our thanks to Snider for allowing us to feature it on Longreads.
By 1999 John DeLorean was bankrupt and swimming in $85 million debt, but he still hoped that his namesake De Lorean car would eventually come back into style. The thought wasn’t entirely absurd – Volkswagen was enjoying phenomenal success with its ‘new’ Beetle and the retro-styled PT Cruiser was a hit for Chrysler. Then again the De Lorean Motor Company’s signature car, the DMC-12, only had a ten to 11-month run of less than 9,000 cars. In other words, the 1982 De Lorean car was retro by 1983. By 1985 the De Lorean was a joke in Back to the Future, so dated it made for a perfect time machine.