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'Let's build Titanic-style tourist centre to celebrate DeLorean'

By Ivan Little

Published 02/05/2015

A gull-winged DeLorean car stands in the shadow of one of Belfast’s giant cranes
A gull-winged DeLorean car stands in the shadow of one of Belfast’s giant cranes
John DeLorean, the car maker who developed the gull-winged sports cars used in the Back to the Future films
A scene from Back to the Future

A former senior executive in the ill-fated DeLorean Motor Company has called for the opening of a Titanic-style tourist centre in Belfast to celebrate the iconic car.

And Barrie Wills, who was director of purchasing for the Dunmurry-based automotive plant, has blamed former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as well as John DeLorean for the failure of the stainless steel gull-winged sports car in 1982.

He also claimed the distinctive rustproof car would still be in production employing thousands of people here if Mrs Thatcher and his former boss had behaved properly.

The Tory PM turned down all of DeLorean's pleas for more money to rescue his firm which had been bankrolled to the tune of £80m by the previous Labour direct rule administration.

He said: "If they had been able to get on, there would still be a company in Northern Ireland producing up to 100,000 vehicles a year as a subsidiary of a major global corporation. All it needed was for two people to behave properly."

Mr Wills is currently in Belfast for the first, and possibly last, reunion of some of the 2,500 workers who turned DeLorean's dream car into a reality before his company collapsed.

More than 200 people including suppliers are travelling from all over the world for a series of events including a visit to the old factory and its test track. A number of DeLorean owners will also have their cars on show.

Mr Willis, who is one of the organisers of the reunion, said the continuing popularity of the DeLorean should be exploited by Belfast with the building of an interpretative centre telling the story of the car and its owner, who was later accused and cleared of fraud charges.

He was also acquitted after the FBI arrested him in a multi-million pound drugs bust in Los Angeles. Mr Wills, who is bringing out a book about the DeLorean Motor Company in October, said Belfast should cash in on its links with the car, especially in the wake of its movie fame through the Back to the Future trilogy where the vehicle was transformed by a mad scientist into a time machine.

The films are still popular with successive generations of teenagers and Mr Wills said: "What there needs to be in Northern Ireland is a DeLorean equivalent of the Titanic Belfast centre, maybe not on the same scale but I think it would be a major draw

"The ship and the car were both failures but they were both glorious failures.

"I describe DeLorean as the greatest near-miss in the history of the global automotive industry."

Mr Wills said the three Back to the Future movies could do what the Oscar-winning movie Titanic did for the Titanic Belfast centre which has been a huge success since it was opened to mark the 2012 centenary of the sinking of the doomed liner

John DeLorean has been widely condemned as a conman who used government money to fund his glittering lifestyle.

But DeLorean enthusiasts say that DeLorean, who died in 2005.at the age of 80, delivered on his promises and created much-needed employment.

Mr Wills said: "John said he would build a car which would last 25 years.

"It's now 35 years on and there are still 6,500 of the 9,080 DeLoreans which were produced the Eighties that are still on the roads of the world today. I doubt if any other car brand could claim the same."

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