Memories from Nick Sutton
Purchasing Manager, DeLorean Motor Cars, 1978 to 1982

I was employed by DMC Belfast for just over four years and only one of a handful of employees to have achieved the four year milestone. Starting December 1978 and finishing January 1983. My job as Purchasing Manager was to procure the parts designed by Lotus and to undertake the daily relationship with Lotus and the DMC supply base. Initially, I also procured the basics for the Belfast DeLorean facility and the early commitments for specialist equipment to be used in the factory. My employment after Receivership (February 1982) was to assist in any possible rescue plan and the supply base.

After a short wait, following my redundancy from DMC in 1983 – twenty five years to be exact – The DeLorean theme came alive for me again when Ken Koncelik invited me to Gettysburg for the June 2008 DeLorean Car Show.  Apart from being overwhelmed with the show, its format and the professional way in which the event was organised, I was also impressed by the enthusiasm of the attendees. And the cars were amazing! Not given to being easily impressed, I can not remember an event in my adult life where all my dreams came together in four short days. It was a terrific experience. The highlight for me, apart from seeing so many DeLoreans, was Matt Sommer’s Museum: a collection of information about DeLorean I didn’t think would exist in one place – superb!

Since that trip, I have trawled many of the DMC web sites, reviewing research, opinions and theories, but most of all, I have been impressed with the detail knowledge by many members of various organisations, regarding their knowledge of DeLorean Motor Cars, the Car and the Development of the product at Lotus Cars.

However, there is one posting on this and other DMC web sites that repeats and doesn’t  seem to be answered  unequivocally, “ Why did DeLorean fail?”  There are many theories and opinions.

But there are no postings that I can see that ask why did “DeLorean succeed”. Building a factory on a seventy two acre site, training a workforce of two thousand five hundred people and procuring over two thousand individually designed parts, doing all of this in the epicentre of an area of conflict in a region of the United Kingdom generally regarded as being at war - all this in twenty four months - from the start to the shipment of the first cars - and making eight thousand vehicles in it’s short life. The opposition would take double this time and probably double the budget.  Modena and Stuttgart must have been envious!

 The book Stainless Steel Illusion is probably the best I have read describing the plant and facilities in Belfast, but it mentions very little as to how the car and factory were built - John DeLorean’s book rarely mentions the plant – I have read it twice and can find few references to the achievements of 1978 – 1982 in Belfast.

Even the film by Pennebaker is flawed - there is one scene shown of the Belfast plant in mirror image, the editor had not checked the detail - and other parts of the film, where certain meetings were cut and pasted – (see the scene where a Director of DMC storms out of a meeting – the question put to him was not the one that annoyed him) Having attended this meeting, I can attest that this and other parts of the filming were condensed for the sake of brevity.

The documentary “Car Crash” released in 2004 and Robert Lamrock’s earlier documentary were both good, but due to time and the other sensational aspects of the story that needed to be covered, they couldn’t really fit, in detail, the incredible achievement of the two thousand five hundred people who made John DeLorean’s  “Dream” happen.

Bill Haddad’s book “Hard Driving” was, I am sure, typed here, at least in part, as I can still see him in my minds eye at his Remington Rand typewriter in the Training Building in Belfast, at a window on the ground floor facing the main Assembly Building, with his coat on the back of his chair and the ubiquitous suspenders (English bracers) over his shoulders.  What story was he writing as I saw him typing, oblivious to anyone around him? 

In part his book was good, but the gold faucet saga at The Warren House went too far, so did some of the more outrageous scenarios he describes he was involved in during his stay in Belfast.  For the latter stage of my employment, the Receiver would not allow hotel expenses, so I was stayed at the Warren House for three months from October 1982 to January 1983, and I can vouch that the only faucets in the Warren House were “gold coloured” similar to those in my own house.

Ivan Thallon’s book “Dream Maker” fails to emphasise the “good” in what turned out to be a very sorry story. His Belfast sources for the book, located within the plant, appear to have a negative view of the company. In reality, most of these sources must have seen very little after five o’clock in the evening, just before most of the fun started outside and at the security gates, just near to the Training Building. This entertainment, supplied by the protestors and rioters, occupied considerable energy and patience of the DMC Security, police, army and local DMC management that gathered inside the plant to protect the occupants and buildings. The nocturnal events from March 1981 to late summer, inside and outside the plant, were extraordinary to say the least and go unrecorded, and the management also unrewarded for their considerable efforts.

My ex-DeLorean colleagues who were Senior Managers at  DMC have similar views as my own, regarding the lack of history or to put it correctly, accurate history associated with the building of the plant and the making of the car in this period.  All of them have remarkable stories of endurance and fortitude in the face of enormous difficulties. Some amusing, others sad, some quite remarkable, some heart rendering.

The legend and integrity of John DeLorean remains intact in Northern Ireland and it’s difficult to find a person here in Belfast, other than, quite naturally, Government officials, that would say a bad word against him. The reasons for failure of DeLorean Motor Cars deserve many more pages, but the main theories posted on web sites and some of my own are: 

·         The original deal with the British Government being flawed, as it gave credence to excessive employment via grant aid and promoted excessive employment

 ·         The dollar / pound exchange rate adversely affected profitability

·         A world-wide recession

 ·         Bad weather in North America in 1981

·         Unrestrained optimism regarding production volumes

·         A plot by the “Big Three” 

However, given all these issues, it’s the man in charge that takes the wrap. Quote Harry S Truman “The buck stops here”. So the blame for the initial failure of DMC and it’s entry into Receivership has to be with John DeLorean, for that and no other reason.

But failure is one thing – to correct a wrong is another.

A further posting on your web site could be “Why wasn’t the DeLorean factory resurrected from the ashes of failure?” That’s the real story and should answer most of the questions and queries the reader has about John DeLorean, the British Government, and the Receivers and Directors of the DeLorean Motor Company. The heroes and villains come to the front when this question is answered.

To try and then fail is human, and in most part, admirable - but why didn’t the factory start up again with new finances, new management (if necessary) – it was all there, in many guises and many attempts - the failure to take advantage of these late opportunities is the real sin and is unforgivable to me and the people of Dunmurry and Twinbrook in Belfast, who for us, DeLorean Motor Cars was not just a dream, but the reality of hard currency, a livelihood, and a hope for a better future.

Every rescue plan that appeared (and this included the one where I was a member) failed because the sales rights of the car in the USA belonged to John DeLorean - each occasion that a deal came close, John DeLorean refused to discuss the transfer of sales rights in the US to any rescue party.

The British Government tried hard to keep the plant alive, there was no plot by the Big Three, and the recession didn’t help. Greed or pride was the overwhelming factor in both the failure of DeLorean Motor Cars initially and the attempts to re-start, and it also led to it’s ultimate collapse. The man responsible for this was John DeLorean.  Perhaps, it is best summarised by a quote from the bible - Job 1:21 “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away”.

I remain immensely proud of my part in the building of the plant and car.   

Nick Sutton

DeLorean Motor Cars 1978 to 1983