In late 1982, after DeLorean Motor Company had filed for bankruptcy, and Consolidated International
had purchased all the remaining cars and parts in the Dunmurry factory, they were faced with the daunting task of moving it all from Northern Ireland to their headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
At the time, my wife and I were owners of a company called Kapac, which was specialized in real estate, primarily in the development of commercial properties. Over the years in Columbus, we had become acquainted with Sol Shenk (owner of Consolidated) and we were contracted to move the parts not only from Northern Ireland, but also from the warranty parts center in Irvine, California.
At the time, Consolidated had purchased (for $850,000) an option for a 90-year lease on the factory and purchase the equipment of DeLorean Motor Cars Limited in Dunmurry. However, Consolidated International had never been in the long term business – always buying and selling quickly as products became available to them. In reality, Sol Shenk never had any intention of exercising this option. This 45-day window of time was what they really needed to work out deals to their advantage with the receivers and the DeLorean US bankruptcy trustee.
In any case, shortly after we agreed to pack, ship and set up a parts warehouse for Consolidated in Columbus, I was in a meeting with Mr. Shenk and Jeff Abrams, the Consolidated executive overseeing the DeLorean project. Sometime during the course of this meeting, I was asked if I knew anyone who might be interested in buying all the parts. After agreeing on a price, Kapac had a new division - The DeLorean Parts Depot at Kapac - and we were suddenly the world's largest supplier of DeLorean parts.
In Irvine, we met Leif Montin
, the national parts manager for DeLorean Motor Company (though then employed by Consolidated International) and he oversaw the packing of 182 40-foot shipping containers from Dunmurry and 68 tractor trailers from Irvine. Everything from nuts, bolts, and washers to complete frames, hundreds of engines and transmissions and everything in between was loaded. Deciding what to take and what to leave behind were some of the hardest decisions - it's hard to predict what you will need years into the future! We also were able to take many of the storage racks and the parts carousels, as well.
Leif discreetly suggested to me that we attempt to take as many of the engineering records and drawings that we could find, but were stymied in our attempts to do so. The receivers were adamant that these files were not part of the agreement, and the drawings kept at the factory were in the offices, and not near the parts which we were packing.
We did locate, however, another set of the drawings and a good portion of engineering records. In the Quality Control/Receiving offices - part of the main assembly building where the parts were received and stored prior to their use on the assembly line - another set of the drawings were kept so that the received parts could be checked against them for accuracy. Late one evening, after the receivers had left for the day, these drawings and files were quickly loaded into one of the containers and sent to the docks for the journey to the USA. It was at this same time that we inspected and chose what appeared to be the “best“ set of the molds for the fiberglass underbody and the rest of the tooling that went along with them.
Still, for all the items that were packed, there were many, many things that were left behind. We only took perhaps a half-dozen of the more than a hundred underbodies made available to us. Knowing we had a set of molds, these were not as important and the likelihood of someone needing a complete underbody for a crash repair was very remote. These leftover underbodies were chopped up and sent to the landfill. My biggest regret is that I did not try to take the many beautiful, framed photos off of the walls. Photos of the factory, prototype, and production car were all left behind - both in Dunmurry and in Irvine - and I would imagine that many are now in the homes of former DeLorean employees!
From the warranty parts center in Irvine were perhaps the most interesting DeLorean parts - the spare set of gold plated panels kept on hand in case of damage to either of the American Express gold-plated cars. These spare parts were later given to Consolidated, which used them to complete an early, partially assembled car shipped over from Dunmurry. This car was given the VIN ending in 20105 and eventually raffled off by Consolidated Stores.
It took several weeks for the parts to arrive in Ohio, and then Leif again was put to work arranging the parts across more than 300,000 square feet of warehouse near downtown Columbus. Also during this time, we contacted every one of the original suppliers to DeLorean, inquiring about the availability of any DeLorean-specific parts and made every effort to buy these, as well. In most cases, the suppliers were all too happy to sell to us. One notable purchase was a container load of later style windshields from Sekurit in Germany at a cost of $30,000. As time passed, we often dealt with many of these suppliers again for such parts as weatherstripping and other parts that had a particularly high turnover. Communicating with the French, English, German and Norwegian suppliers was always interesting!
It wasn't long before we realized that we were in very short supply of left front fenders. Many of the crates that were marked “left fender“ actually contained right fenders. My belief is that the body panels, which were made by Lapple in the Republic of Ireland, were not made in “sets“, but rather they would stamp a number of each panel in a run, and then ship them all to Dunmurry. As best I have been able to determine, they were preparing to produce more left fenders when the company went into receivership in early 1982 and all shipments of body panels to the factory stopped for lack of payment.
Knowing that these parts would be critical to DeLorean owners (and my business!) I made several inquiries to the receivers and directly to Lapple about buying more fenders or buying the tooling used to create them. Many times from many different parties I was told they were not available. I eventually sent a private investigator to Ireland for six weeks to locate the dies. By searching at scrap dealers in Ireland, he learned that the dies had been sold as scrap and many had been melted down, while still others had been sold to a fish farm for use as weights for nets. At my direction, the investigator hired divers to locate and photograph the dies.
The dies still rest there to this day, at the time due to the costs involved in raising them, and now because it would be more cost-effective to have a new Kirksite die created.
In 1985, after John DeLorean's acquittal, he contacted us about either buying the parts or becoming partners in his plan to use the remaining stocks of parts as the basis of a newer, re-styled DeLorean car to be known as the Firestar 500
. For almost a year, John had an office in our warehouse, and the use of an apartment that we had built there as part of an earlier project to convert older warehouses like this one to upscale apartments. Sue and I both have fond memories of John, and the time we spent with him. Intelligent, and at times philosophical, it's been said before by others that he had a photographic memory, and I would certainly agree with that. In the end, however, nothing came of the Firestar project other than some sketches.
Though the DeLorean part of our business was certainly more fun, and the DeLorean name opened doors to us that might not have been available to us otherwise, the sale of the parts to owners, dealers and shops around the world was never much of a money-maker. We kept the parts on our books at retail price, rather than cost, which made us appear to be a significantly larger company than we actually were, and that allowed us to grow our commercial real estate business quicker than we might have otherwise been able to do.
In the mid-90s, we decided it was time to move on, and hopefully sell the parts to someone in the DeLorean community who would ensure that they would always be available to owners. Further, we knew that as stocks of the original parts were depleted, it would require someone with dedication to the DeLorean car to ensure future parts availability, as well.
In late 1996, we were approached by Stephen Wynne
, who took time out to come and visit the facility in Ohio, get his hands dirty and see for himself what remained after selling from these stocks for then more than 13 years. In the spring of 1997, we completed the transaction to sell the parts to Stephen, and our “bit part“ in the DeLorean story ended.
We made many friendships and met scores of interesting people and particularly enjoyed the open house events that we used to have at the old warehouse. Now, more than 30 years later, Sue and I look back at our time in the DeLorean saga as one of the more interesting experiences in our lives.
Added June 19, 2023