Teaching Students About John Delorean


John Delorean, an American engineer and automotive industry executive, has left an undeniably indelible mark on the world of automobiles. Best known for his creation of the iconic DeLorean DMC-12 sports car and his involvement in the infamous drug trafficking scandal, Delorean’s story offers lessons in both groundbreaking innovation and the complex consequences of personal choices. Teaching students about John Delorean is not only an exploration of automobile history but also an opportunity to foster discussions on ethics, perseverance, and innovation.

Early Life and Career

Born on January 6, 1925, in Detroit, Michigan, John Zachary DeLorean grew up in a working-class family with strong ties to the automotive industry. After serving in World War II, he went on to study engineering at Lawrence Technological University before earning advanced degrees from the Chrysler Institute (M.S. Automotive Engineering) and the University of Michigan (M.B.A.).

DeLorean’s rise to prominence began when he joined Packard Motor Company as an engineer. Owing to his innovative work and problem-solving abilities, he secured a position at General Motors (GM) in 1956. As a member of GM’s Pontiac division, DeLorean became instrumental in developing high-performance vehicles such as the GTO muscle car.

Innovation at General Motors

At GM, DeLorean quickly climbed the ranks by demonstrating exceptional leadership qualities and innovative thinking. Notable achievements during his tenure include his spearheading of the Pontiac Grand Prix’s development and his role in creating Chevrolet’s Camaro sports car. Both vehicles enjoyed immense commercial success and solidified DeLorean’s status as a major player in the automobile industry.

Founding DeLorean Motor Company

Driven by his entrepreneurial ambitions, John DeLorean left GM in 1973 to establish his own company – DeLorean Motor Company (DMC). His dream was to create an affordable, high-performance sports car with a distinctive design. The result of this vision was the much-anticipated DeLorean DMC-12, introduced in 1981. With its distinctive gull-wing doors, stainless steel body, and futuristic aesthetic, the DMC-12 became an instant icon.

Despite its popularity in pop culture, especially after featuring in the “Back to the Future” film franchise, sluggish sales and financial difficulties plagued the young carmaker.

The Downfall: Drug Trafficking Scandal

In a desperate bid to save his company from bankruptcy, John DeLorean became embroiled in a notorious drug trafficking scandal in 1982. Following an FBI sting operation, he was charged with conspiracy to distribute $24 million worth of cocaine. Although he was acquitted on all charges due to entrapment, the damage to his reputation proved irreversible. In the aftermath of the scandal, DMC collapsed, and DeLorean’s professional life never fully recovered.


Teaching students about John Delorean can provide valuable insights into the automotive industry’s evolution and the complexities surrounding business ethics and personal choices. Students can potentially learn from Delorean’s innovation while reflecting on the impact of one’s actions on personal and professional trajectories. The story of John Delorean is a fascinating tale containing both triumphs and tragedies that can enrich any classroom discussion.

Choose your Reaction!