Birthday: January 6, 1925
Died At Age: 80
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: John Zachary DeLorean
Born Country: United States
Born in: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Famous as: Inventor, Engineer
Spouse/Ex-: Sally Baldwin, Cristina Ferrare (1973–1985), Elizabeth Higgins (1954–1969), Kelly Harmon (1969–1972)
father: Zachary DeLorean
mother: Kathryn (née Pribak) DeLorean
children: Kathryn DeLorean, Zachary DeLorean
Died on: March 19, 2005
City: Detroit, Michigan
U.S. State: Michigan
education: Lawrence Institute of Technology; B.S. 1948, Detroit College of Law, Ross School of Business; MBA 1957
Who was John DeLorean?
John DeLorean was a famous American engineer and inventor who enjoyed an impressive career before falling into disgrace. He is best known for his work at ‘General Motors’ and for creating the ‘DeLorean Motor Company.’ He created famous cars such as the ‘Pontiac GTO’ and lived the life of a movie star. However, when his company accumulated huge debts, he tried to save it by illicit ways and ended up being charged with cocaine trafficking. He was found “not guilty,” but his fortune and good name were already lost. Nevertheless, people still remember him as an important but controversial public figure and the creator of the car that was later modified and used in the famous movie ‘Back to the Future.’
Childhood & Early Life
John Zachary DeLorean was born on January 6, 1925, in Detroit, Michigan, to Zachary DeLorean (originally named Delureanu), a Romanian immigrant who worked at ‘Ford Motor,’ and Kathryn Pribak, a Hungarian immigrant who worked at ‘General Electric.’ The couple had three other children.
He grew up during the Great Depression, but both his parents had jobs, so he had an easier childhood than most of the children his age in his country. They lived in a working-class neighborhood and managed to get by despite the hardships. John’s father did not speak English well and also had a bad temper. Thus, it was difficult for him to get a well-paid job. His mother was always looking for extra things she could do to earn more money while dealing with her husband’s alcohol problems and violence.
Zachary DeLorean’s temper got so bad at some point that his wife took the children and left him. She went to her sister’s house in Los Angeles. They eventually divorced in 1942. Following this, John did not see his father much, which was not necessarily a bad thing, since his father had become a solitary drug addict.
After attending public grade schools, John was accepted at the ‘Cass Technical High School,’ where he excelled. He then managed to get a scholarship to the ‘Lawrence Institute of Technology.’ This was where many great automobile designers had studied. His studies were interrupted by World War II, but he came back 3 years later, after having received an honorable discharge. His family was struggling financially, so he took up a job as a draftsman for the ‘Public Lighting Commission.’ He later finished school and earned his BS degree in industrial engineering.
While in college, John worked part-time for ‘Chrysler’ and at a local body shop. Following his graduation, he worked as a life insurance salesman before returning to ‘Chrysler.’ He later declared that his work of selling life insurance had helped him develop his communication skills. He did well at the job, creating an analytical system focused on engineers, and managed to sell policies amounting to $850,000 in just 10 months.
However, he did not wish to sell insurance forever. Thus, he went to a post-graduate educational facility, the ‘Chrysler Institute of Engineering,’ and advanced both in theory and in practice. After receiving his master’s degree in automotive engineering, he was employed by ‘Chrysler.’
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After spending less than a year at ‘Chrysler,’ John DeLorean got a well-paid job at ‘Packard Motor Company.’ Right from the beginning, he became a star in the company, as he improved one of their automatic transmissions. The problem with ‘Packard’ was that it was an elitist company and the management did not realize they had to adjust to a post-war society where people needed affordable cars. Thus, it struggled financially, while other companies changed their vision and continued to develop. After having learned a lot from his famous supervisor Forest McFarland, John left ‘Packard’ and joined ‘General Motors.’
At ‘General Motors,’ John DeLorean’s career peaked. He first got a job in their ‘Pontiac’ division as the assistant of chief engineer Pete Estes and general manager Semon Knudsen. He made an important contribution to the company and created many innovations until he was promoted to the post of division chief engineer.
His greatest achievement at ‘Pontiac’ was perhaps the ‘Pontiac GTO,’ the world’s first muscle car. The car was launched in 1964 and got increasingly popular over the years. DeLorean was in charge of the most important aspects connected to the ‘GTO’: concept, engineering, and marketing. He did so well that in 1965 he became the head of the entire ‘Pontiac’ division. He was only 40 at the time, so it was a record in itself.
He also developed the famous ‘Pontiac Firebird’ and the ‘Pontiac Grand Prix.’ All that professional success brought great popularity. He traveled a lot, always attended parties, and lived like a rebellious superstar. He then got his next promotion, to the ‘Chevrolet’ division.
DeLorean was making a lot of money. He did not dress like the other business executives and completely disregarded the rules of the organization. He even made Lee Iacocca, the president of ‘Ford,’ his best man at his second marriage. His career soared, as he became the vice president of car and truck production for the entire ‘General Motors’ line. The next post would have been that of the president, but that was unacceptable to the other executives of the company. Thus, in 1973, DeLorean left ‘General Motors.’ His official reason was that he needed more time for his social life. However, many said he had actually been fired.
After leaving ‘General Motors,’ John started his own company, the ‘DeLorean Motor Company,’ and created a car called ‘the DeLorean.’ However, the project suffered production delays and great costs. Thus, the car did not reach the public until 10 years later. The company was in a huge debt, amounting to over $175,000.
The debt made DeLorean choose to turn to drug trafficking. This spelled the end of his career. In 1982, he walked right into an ‘FBI’ drug sting at an airport hotel where he tried to sell 50 pounds of cocaine, which he claimed was “good as gold.’ He was immediately arrested. However, the trial took more than 2 years to complete. Even though he was not convicted, his career was definitely over.
Family & Personal Life
John DeLorean had married four times. His wives were Elizabeth Higgins, Kelly Harmon, Cristina Ferrare, and Sally Baldwin. He had a son named Zachary Tavio, whom he had adopted when Zachary was only 14 months old.
He died after a stroke on March 19, 2005. His tombstone has a ‘DeLorean’ sports car carved on it, as a tribute.