Former DeLorean workers go Back to the Future

The team which refurbished the Dunmurry DeLorean test track. The project was led by Ian Hamilton and overseen by local Belfast DeLorean owner, Brian Hamilton

The team which refurbished the Dunmurry DeLorean test track. The project was led by Ian Hamilton and overseen by local Belfast DeLorean owner, Brian Hamilton

Around 200 former employees and supporters of DeLorean Motor Cars, including many from the Midlands, travelled to Northern Ireland over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend for the car-maker’s first ever reunion.

The original DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) was formed by automobile industry executive John DeLorean in 1975.

It is remembered for the one model it produced – the distinctive stainless steel DeLorean DMC-12 sports car which featured in the film Back to the Future.

Mr DeLorean received UK Government funding to produce the vehicle in Dunmurry, near Belfast, in Northern Ireland in a bid to create jobs in a region which suffered high unemployment.

Production had been due to start in 1979 but did not commence until 1981 and the automotive dream soon faded.

DeLorean’s brief and turbulent history came to an abrupt end in 1982, ending in receivership and bankruptcy.

One of those behind the reunion was Midlander Barrie Wills, a former director who headed-up DeLorean’s purchasing headquarters in Coventry, before later becoming the managing director of the company.

Former employees and supporters travelled from as far as Oregon, Texas, Rhode Island, New Jersey, South Africa and across England to join their former Belfast colleagues at the event.

This year marks 35 years since the first production DeLorean DMC-12 was shown publicly at the North American Dealers’ Association convention in New Orleans, USA.

The former employees got together on Sunday May 3 at the Cultra Transport Museum.

There they saw 21 DeLoreans on display in the museum grounds, and visited the DeLorean Gallery in the museum.

The DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12

Motoring enthusiasts were also able to see the cars, which included a Back to the Future replica, and mingle with the cars’ owners and former employees.

Other events over the weekend included a private party at the Culloden Resort and Spa at Cultra, Co Down.

The hotel grounds were the starting point of the road testing of pre-production cars by US automotive journalists in the spring of 1981.

The party also saw a charity auction of DeLorean memorabilia and a DeLorean Chat Show featuring former employees with tales to tell.

On May 4 there was an opportunity for members of the public to see DeLorean cars when a convoy travelled one of the routes of the DeLorean durability tests, meeting up with a coach party of former employees for lunch.

On May 5, former employees toured the former DeLorean site at Dunmurry, on which nearly 2,000 people are currently employed.

The automotive aluminium foundry, Montupet UK, hosted a display of photographs of the plant as it was in 1980 through to 1982.

After lunch in the former DeLorean canteen, a ride and drive experience took place on the recently restored test track on the Montupet site.

Mr Wills, who lives in Millison’s Wood near Meriden, said: “More than a dozen DeLorean owners offered rides to former employees, many of whom had never sat in the stainless steel gull-winged car, which featured in the film Back to the Future.

“During the Sunday evening party, attendees also paid their respects to over 80 of their deceased colleagues, including founder John DeLorean, company president Gene Cafiero and managing directors Chuck Bennington and Donald H Lander.”

He added: “About 2,500 people in Belfast, Turin, Coventry, Norfolk and Worthing worked their socks off to perform a modern miracle that turned out to be the impossible.”