After waiting two years and paying more than $27,000, a handful of car buyers who wanted something different are getting a chance to drive it: the DMC-12 sports car built by John Z. De Lorean, the former General Motors Corp. vice president who quit in 1973 to start his own car company.
Each of six Washington-area dealers selling the De Lorean has received only two of the cars since deliveries began in August, one each of the automatic transmission and five-speed manual models, the only options available on the car. All are painted silver-grey with black interiors.
"We've had people who say they're willing to pay more if they can get it now," said one local dealer. "We aren't going to do that."
Melvyn J. Estrin, a Bethesda financial investor, reserved his model two years ago, paying a $500 deposit to get on the list at Cherner Lincoln-Mercury. There are now 50 other would-be DMC-12 buyers signed up there, and waiting lists of 24 or 25 are typical at other dealerships in the area. To sell De Lorean's car, dealers had to buy $25,000 of stock in his company.
Estrin says the car's performance is similar to that of a Mercedes. "It's a little harder, but it's more of a machine," he said. "It's not a car to run errands in -- to jump in and out of -- but it's a terrific-handling car. I feel very secure in it."
Washington-area dealers are not finding it easy to obtain DMC-12s to sell. Several conceded that they don't know when their next cars will arrive. "That's what I'm curious about," said one local dealer. A sales manager for another dealer had trouble locating the telephone number of the nearest De Lorean representative, finally producing a California number. "I'll know when the next one is in when I see it in the driveway," said a local dealer.
But dealers say drivers need not fear they will be neglected once the cars arrive. They carry standard, three-year guarantees, and most dealers provide rental cars to owners when the cars are in the shop. Despite the international composition of the car, parts shouldn't be a problem, said a salesman at Rosenthal Dodge-Mazda. The car is assembled in Ulster, from a British-built chassis, stainless-steel panels from Ireland and West Germany, and electronic devices from the United States.
Interest in the car has picked up significantly since the first models arrived, said one local dealer.