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Time-capsule DeLorean with only 309 miles emerges

Wed, 26 Mar 2014

We see time-capsule cars on a pretty regular basis, but they seldom happen to be proper time-travel cars as well. Of course we're talking about the DeLorean DMC-12, an automobile whose several thousand examples were believed to be largely accounted for. So imagine our surprise when we heard about a DeLorean recently found in a storage bay with delivery mileage on the clock and a mild layer of dust on its stainless-steel body.

This DeLorean turned up recently in California when a client visited "Corvette Mike" Vietro's shop to look at a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Coupe. The client was known to have a few eccentric cars in his collection, and he asked the owner of the shop if he were willing to take anything in trade. Vietro was willing to hear what he had to offer, and the prospective buyer quickly mentioned a 308-mile DeLorean. Vietro asked him to repeat himself, and he was surprised to hear that the client indeed had a delivery-mileage DeLorean DMC-12 sitting in a storage locker.

"Of course I told him I had an interest without being too overzealous," Vietro says. "It took some time, but the day finally came when the car showed up on a tow truck with all its years of dust and cobwebs, as one would expect. I was so thrilled that he didn't wash it. He is quite meticulous, so time must have been of the essence why he didn't as least dust it off."

Mike Vietro
The interior still has plastic on the seats and paper floormats, as originally delivered.

"I knew the moment I saw it I had to own that car," Vietro told us. "It sat for so long you couldn't open the gullwing doors since, years ago, the gas had leaked through the tiny seals of the gas struts that assisted them to open. The plan was to leave it alone and not touch it for as long as I could stand it. Well, my curiously got the best of me, so I had my 31-year veteran service manager, Carl, delve into it."

Built from 1981 to 1983, some 8,538 cars were assembled at the DeLorean plant in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, before financial problems consumed the company. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the DMC-12 is known for its stainless-steel body and gullwing doors, though it is perhaps less known for its powerplant, which is the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo 2.8-liter V6. The car was not a quick performer in its day, but it now enjoys a tremendous fan following, helped in no small part by its appearance in the "Back to the Future" trilogy.

Mike Vietro
The engine bay is a bit dusty, as can be expected.

Even though the DeLorean had seemingly been stored in a well-controlled environment, a number of things needed to be addressed right away. Vietro got his service manager to attend to the brakes, the coolant, oil, fuel contamination, the suspension struts and the tires. The car needed everything checked over and topped off, as one would expect. But other than these expendable items, it was in good shape. After all, it was still new.

"But the turning point was when it came time to actually wash it and remove the camouflage that had concealed its bright stainless-steel armor. Once it was rinsed, it took on another dimension of personality."

Mike Vietro
The car had quite a bit of dust when it was brought into Vietro's shop.

But when the car owner stopped by the shop and saw his DeLorean all cleaned up, he decided he didn't want to trade it in for the Corvette after all, and he decided to buy the Corvette another way.

"So is the car business, especially when you deal in such artwork as I do," Vietro says.

The client bought the 1966 Corvette 427 Coupe but ended up keeping the DeLorean in his possession. But he's stowing it in Vietro's shop, resolved to see it returned to its original condition. Its odometer now shows 309.9 miles, and a few things have yet to be attended to before... well, a few exercise miles might be in order, just to keep things moving.

"For now, it is resting peacefully while we gather more parts and fix more bugs," Vietro tells us. The DeLorean is being kept inside the service department of his Corvette dealership as its recommissioning continues. But who knows what the owner will decide to do with it in the long term?

By Jay Ramey