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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21, 1981

I can't believe that it's already twenty-one days into the brand new year! Already I see great hope for 2014 being a year of great joy. Well, at least I can hope to be optimistic about it. No sense of looking at a year with a pessimistic outlook on things, right? I mean, nobody ever looked at a year and thought it would be bad right from the get-go. Nobody ever said, “Gee, I hope 1976 is just as bad of a year as 1975!” or “Let's make 1992 the worst year ever!”, or “If I can make 2001 the worst year I've ever had, then 2002 can only go up from here!”

I know. Crazy talk, right?

I don't know...I just feel so optimistic about this year. Time will tell whether that optimism is warranted, but here's hoping anyway.

Of course, as good as it is to look towards the future, sometimes it can be fun to flip through the pages of history to the past to see what events transpired that brought us to where we are now. That's why I love the Tuesday Timeline a lot. And judging by the page views I get each Tuesday, all of you seem to love it as well.

So, let's check and see what has been going on throughout the pages of history on this, the twenty-first day of January.

1535 – French Protestants are burned at the stake in front of Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral following the Affair of the Placards

1720 – The Treaty of Stockholm is signed by both Sweden and Prussia

1749 – Fire completely destroys the Verona Philharmonic Theatre

1789 - “The Power of Sympathy or The Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth” becomes the first American novel to be printed

1793 – Louis XVI is executed by guillotine after being found guilty of treason

1824 – American General Stonewall Jackson (d. 1863) is born in Clarksburg, Virginia

1861 – Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate

1905 – Fashion designer Christian Dior (d. 1957) is born in Granville, France

1911 – The first Monte Carlo Rally takes place

1915 – Kiwanis International is founded in Detroit, Michigan

1922 – Actor Telly Savalas (d. 1994) is born in Garden City, New York

1938 – Famous radio disc jockey Wolfman Jack (d. 1995) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1942 - “War” composer Edwin Starr (d. 2003) is born in Nashville, Tennessee

1948 – The first annual Quebec Flag Day is held as the Quebec flag is flown for the first time

1960 – Tragedy strikes Montego Bay, Jamaica as Avianca Flight 671 crashes, killing 37 people on board

1965 – Run D.M.C.'s Jam Master Jay (b. 1965 with the name Jason Mizell) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1968 – The Battle of Khe Sanh takes place during the Vietnam War

1976 – The commercial service of Concorde begins with routes opening up between London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio

1998 – Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-O dies of congestive heart failure at the age of 77

1999 – The United States Coast Guard intercepts a ship with almost 10,000 pounds of cocaine aboard in what would be one of the largest drug busts in American history

2002 - “Fever” singer Peggy Lee dies at the age of 81

2005 – Riots take place in the country of Belize due to unrest over governmental taxes

And here are the stars who are turning one year older today! Happy birthday to Ann Wedgeworth, John Savident, Jack Nicklaus, Placido Domingo, Jill Eikenberry, Billy Ocean, Paul Allen, Robby Benson, Geena Davis, Charlotte Ross, Ken Leung, Charlene “Tweet” Keys, Cat Power, Rove McManus, Emma Bunton, Jerry Trainor, Bryan Gilmour, Phil Stacey, Spider Loc, Dany Heatley, and Laura Robson.

And, what date will we be visiting this week?

Well, we will be going back in time thirty-three years to January 21, 1981!

And, to give you a clue, watch this movie clip.

Okay, okay. I know what you're thinking. “Back To The Future” was actually released in 1985, not 1981. But what if I told you that one of the things in the clip was actually first released thirty-three years ago today?

Well, it's not Michael J. Fox. He was born in 1961. And, it's not Christopher Lloyd either. He was born in 1938. So, what could it be?

Ah...yes. What about the time traveling machine that both Marty McFly and Doc Brown used to transport to Hill Valley, California during the years 1885, 1955, and 2015? I believe that the car that was used was the DeLorean DMC-12.

A car that first started being produced on January 21, 1981!

In this edition of the Tuesday Timeline, we'll take a look at the car that was like something out of the future. A car that became famous two years after production stopped on the car. We'll also take a look at the creator of the car, as well as the criminal record he accumulated along the way!

So, who was the brainchild behind the DeLorean DMC-12?

Well, it was this man up above. John DeLorean.

And, I should note that before John DeLorean came up with the design for the DeLorean DMC-12, he had his hand in designing other cars for various automobile companies.  If your first car was a Pontiac GTO, Pontiac Firebird, Pontiac Grand Prix, or Chevrolet Vega, then the person to thank was John DeLorean.  He helped design every single one of those cars!

And, John DeLorean certainly made a fortune working for Pontiac and Chevrolet.  By the time he moved to his position as head of General Motors' Chevrolet line in 1969, he was taking home an impressive $200,000 a year, with the chance to take home annual bonuses of up to twice that salary.  Certainly, DeLorean made his education from the Lawrence Institute of Technology work to his advantage, and by the time the 1970s were winding down, John DeLorean was easily considered to be one of the most successful American businessmen of the decade.

In 1973, John DeLorean decided to leave General Motors and try his hand at running his own motor company.  It took him a couple of years to make that dream happen, but on October 24, 1975, the DeLorean Motor Company (or DMC) opened for business.  And John DeLorean knew that in order to make his company globally known, he would have to come up with a car design that was unlike any other in the world.  A car that blended classic automobile design with a sleeker, futuristic look.

Enter the blueprint for the DeLorean DMC-12 - simply referred to as the DeLorean.

And what a car it was too!  It was the only car in the market to feature gull-winged doors, which opened upward instead of outward.  The underbody was completely made of fiberglass, and had non-structural brushed stainless steel panels affixed to it.  And the first models started rolling off the production line in January 1981.

But the idea for the design of the car was born five years earlier, in 1976.

In October of that year, the first prototype for the DeLorean was completed by DMC chief engineer William T. Collins.  And, by the time the final product was designed, the only major change in the design was the engine.  Originally meant to operate on a Citroen Wankel rotary engine, it was later re-designed to operate on V6 technology.  Also, the engine shifted position from the middle of the car to the rear.

It was also planned for the car to implement a new technology known as Elastic Reservoir Moulding which would lighten the car and lower production costs.  DeLorean himself had purchased the patent rights to this new process.  Ultimately, it was not used as tests proved that it was unsuitable for the car.

And, it was also rumoured that the car was not initially going to be called the DMC-12.  According to James Espey, some of the car's first blueprints had the name "Z Tavio" written on them - which would have made sense, as Z stood for "Zachary" (DeLorean's middle name and the name of his first born son), and Tavio was his father's name.  But ultimately, the name DeLorean DMC-12 stuck.

Now, DeLorean needed cash to make the DeLorean project get off the ground, and he enlisted some celebrities to assist him with the fundraising efforts, including talk show host Johnny Carson and singer/actor Sammy Davis Jr.  With his celebrity friends investing in the company, DeLorean soon had enough to build the factory that would make the cars, which was located in the city of Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, located just outside of Belfast.

And then as you know, by 1981, the DeLorean began being produced, and had an original price $12,000 when it first hit the market.  Actually, that's part of the reason why the name DMC-12 was chosen...the twelve stood for the number of thousands of dollars it  was supposed to be sold at.  However, by the time the car hit American dealers, new DeLoreans were retailing for twenty five thousand dollars!

Now, to some of you, $25,000 for a new car seems reasonable.  But this was in 1981 dollars.  If you took that price and converted it into 2014 dollars, it would cost just over $64,000!  That's the kind of car you'd find at the end of the Golden Road game on "The Price Is Right"!

But here's the thing about the DeLorean.  Only about 9,600 DeLorean DMC-12's were ever made.  Production for the car stopped for good in 1983 - two years before the movie "Back to the Future" was released in theatres.

Which begs the question...if the DeLorean was made even more cool after "Back to the Future" was made in 1985, why didn't the DeLorean Motor Company make more?

Well, I suppose it would be difficult to do if your car company was shut down because its CEO was being charged with a serious crime, now wouldn't it?

Alas, that's what happened to John DeLorean.  In the summer of 1982, DeLorean met with a man by the name of James Hoffman to discuss an investment opportunity.  At that time, despite the fact that DeLorean had much public interest in the DeLorean DMC-12, his company was still struggling to stay afloat, and DeLorean was hoping that this meeting would take his company through the rest of the 1980s.

The problem was that this investment opportunity involved cocaine smuggling.

All DeLorean really had to do was put up front a cash sum, and he would be guaranteed that money would start flowing in once more.  But then the whole disaster became like a soap opera with DeLorean having second thoughts, and him trying to back out of his commitment to the deal, and with his family being threatened with death, and it just spiralled out of control.  By October 1982, DeLorean had had enough, and he was charged with drug trafficking by the United States government after he had written a letter to his attorney explaining everything.

Now, amazingly enough, DeLorean avoided having to serve any jail time for the whole escapade.  With DeLorean using a procedural defense, he argued that the FBI had enticed a convicted narcotics smuggler (Hoffman) to get him to supply the money to buy the cocaine needed to complete the cycle.  But since DeLorean never admitted to giving Hoffman a penny of his money, there was absolutely no proof that a crime had been committed at all.  In August of 1984, DeLorean was found not guilty, but the damage had already been done.  His company had all but collapsed, the DeLorean DMC-12's value was dropping faster than the stock market in October 1929, and by 1999, he had declared personal bankruptcy.

He died of a stroke on March 19, 2005 at the age of 80.

Interestingly enough though, if one were to look at the White Chapel Church in Troy, Michigan where DeLorean's remains are buried, they might be surprised to see a DeLorean tombstone with the gull-wings open.  I suppose that it makes sense.  After all, it was because of that car that his name was associated with (and to some extent still is).

A car that first began mass production on January 21, 1981.

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