The rebirth of DeLorean Motor Company has been given the thumbs-up by one of America’s biggest showbiz personalities.
Top US chat show host Jay Leno — who is also an influential motoring journalist across the Atlantic — has said the revamped sports cars, originally made in Belfast, are the business.
“The car looks even better in reality than it does in pictures,” said multi-millionaire Leno, who owns a fleet of exotic sports cars himself.
The NBC star added: “It certainly looks cool and it’s fun to drive... and when you’re going down the road everyone wants to look at it. It’s unique — and everyone has a reaction to it.”
The car — with its trademark gull-wing doors and stainless steel body — became iconic after its starring role in the time-travelling Back To The Future movies.
But, as Northern Ireland knows only too well, the DeLorean predates Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s crazy adventures.
Politcally one of the most controversial cars of all-time, the eponymous DeLorean DMC-12 was built in a factory in Dunmurry following huge Government investment aimed at revitalising the Troubles-torn west Belfast area.
Production officially began in 1981, but quickly came to an end after the company, founded by ex-General Motors whizzkid John DeLorean, went bankrupt in late 1982 following its creator’s arrest on drug trafficking charges. in the United States.
“A lot of people in Northern Ireland put their hearts and souls into the vehicle — and they got hurt,” said Leno, 59.
Some 9,000 DeLoreans made at the huge Belfast plant — and rather too hastily, it seems.
Build quality was generally poor, the car (made principally for the US market) was underpowered and therefore a lot slower than it looked — and while the stainless steel looked pristine in American showrooms, it soon attracted hundreds of grubby finger prints from curious onlookers.
Now, though, thanks to Liverpool businessman Stephen Wynne, the car is being built the way it probably should have been in Dunmurry three decades ago. And, with spare parts for around 500 other cars having been made here before the plant closed, repairs are no longer an issue.
Now based in Houston, Texas, car-mad Wynne and his team have been able to fix up the chassis as well as replace up to 80% of worn or damaged wings and body panels and improve the wiring.
“The original DeLorean company did not fall apart in Belfast because it was a bad car; it fell apart because of bad management,” Leno wrote in the Sunday Times.
“Now, they are literally being made as good as new.”
It’s not all good news for potential owners, however — with only two models currenty being built every month the waiting list is getting longer — and Leno’s endorsement is likely to extend it.
When that wait finally comes to an end, cutomers can expect to part with $57,500 (£36,889).