The actual production figures for the DeLorean cars have been a matter of curiosity for many people. After the DeLorean factory went under, many records
pertaining to production information were lost or scattered making it difficult to calculate the exact number of DeLoreans made. As a result, attempts have
been made in the last few years to compile a database to create a better understanding of the production runs over the months of the factory’s existence.
This article gives the most current understanding of the number of cars made, the history of the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plates and also gives
details on the current efforts to collect the information.
John DeLorean was under financial pressure to get the cars under production and sold in order to raise revenue. Normal procedures to test the initial vehicles
and to train the factory workers were shortened or eliminated to speed up the car production. Various prototypes, pilot cars and mules were made in 1979 and
1980 to provide the testing and training needed to produce the final product. Per Robert Lamrock, 90 preproduction cars were built during December 1980 to
January 1981 and full production started in February 1981.
In addition to the VIN plate located on the dash, the company decided to add an additional VIN plate on the driver’s side doorsill. This VIN plate provides the
VIN number and the production date. Early production cars do not have this plate with the exception of VIN 502 (added sometime after it was produced). It’s not
known when the company started using these plates but the earliest picture of one is VIN 570. The dash plate also underwent changes during production. The
earlier dash plates have rivets connecting them to the dash while later VIN plates were glued on. It’s not known when the switch was made.
In some cases the dates on the door VIN plates were not always exact as months could change within sequential VIN numbers. For example, VINs 502, 752
and 855 have April 1981 production dates. VINs 897 and 928 have March 1981 production dates. Photos of VIN plates beginning after VIN 1000 start in April.
It is believed that some cars were pulled out of the production line because of a quality problem and when the problem was resolved, whatever month in
which it was completed would be stamped on the plate. As a result one may see a month on a VIN plate that is different from the month of the VIN numbers
immediately surrounding it. This occurred most frequently in the early VIN ranges.
Also, cars completed in one month might have a previous month’s production date on them. Cars were being produced through May 1982 but the last month
seen on ‘82 car VIN plates is January 1982. The reason may be due to plates being pre-made in quantity based on planned production with the VIN numbers
and dates already stamped on them, then used up as the cars were completed regardless of the actual month in which they were completed. This would fit
the scenario in early 1982 when many workers were laid off and production slowed considerably.
Here is a general list of which VINs were produced in each month per the months on the plates. Note that the exact cutoff for each range is an estimate
due to lack of enough substantiating information:
One perennial question has been the number of DeLoreans made. It can now be answered with a degree of accuracy. It appears that the factory made a full
production run from VIN 10001 to about VIN 12170 before the factory was shut down. At that time there were unfinished cars in the assembly line that would have
been in the 12,XXX series. These unfinished cars were finished later creating the 20,XXX series. 12,XXX VIN numbers have been found under the headliners of the
20,XXX series cars substantiating this.
As the factory produced the ’82 models from December ’81 though May ’82 and sent them to the dock, there started to be a backlog of cars at the dock which
continued until everything stopped when the factory was shut down in May. On February 19, 1982 the company was placed into receivership and the Receivership
kept the factory operating until May 31, 1982. During this time only one shift was working - producing 35 to 40 cars per week, much lower than the 80 cars per day
being produced the previous November. When Consolidated International acquired the unsold and partially assembled cars in November 1982, they brought back
workers to complete the cars remaining on the assembly line. It was decided to make the remaining completed ’82 model cars into ’83 models. The remaining cars
VINs were re-VINed into ’83 cars by taking the original VIN number and adding 5000 to it and changing the “CD” in the middle of the VIN to “DD” thus making
an ’83 model. For example the 15,XXX series cars were originally 10,XXX series cars. Logically most of the early 10,XXX series cars made it to the United
States before the backlog started. There are many ’82 cars in the 10,XXX series and much fewer in the 15,XXX series VIN and most of the 15,XXX VIN cars are
in the upper VIN range. This makes sense because the early ‘82’s were being shipped before the backlog started. As time went on and shipments of ‘82s to the
United States stopped, the ’82s began piling up at the dock and factory. None of the later ‘82s made it to the United States (the latest ’82 VIN is around
11,7XX). All the rest were later converted to ’83 models. From evidence gathered, it appears that there was a full production run in the 10,XXX series through
the 11,XXX series and into the early 12,XXX series. In the 12,XXX series it appears that they made those cars up to VIN 12160. These 12,XXX series cars were
re-VINed to 17,XXX series cars. It appears that the last ’82 made in regular production was VIN 12170. The cars left on the assembly line were completed and
given 20,XXX series VIN number.
The company had a few right hand drive (RHD) development cars built for planned sales in the UK and other countries. The company contracted with
Wooler-Hodec to help engineer the changes for European specifications. They took several early production cars and produced about 30 right hand drive cars.
Some of those cars had ’81 VINs. Many were scrapped during the engineering process due to build quality issues – these cars were, for the most part, considered
prototypes or engineering mules that happened to start life as an early production Delorean car. The receiver assigned VIN numbers to the remainder so that
these cars could be sold. They started with a VIN number after the last 12,XXX series car made. The last regular production car for which there is a record is
VIN 12169 (later changes to 17169). Since the first RHD car had a VIN of 12171 this leads one to believe that there was a VIN 12170 that was later changed to
17170. It remains unclear from which point in the production line these cars came from as it appears theses cars were not all made at the same time. Since
VINs 586 through 606 are unaccounted for, it’s possible the 12,XXX came from that range and there is evidence of that based upon the low frame number. Evidence
indicates that these were early production cars. The VIN numbers go sequentially from 12171 to 12181 then jumps to 12199. No clear explanation has been given
as to why there is a skip there.
So how many cars were made? For 1981’s one can safely assume there were 6700 made (VIN 500-7199). There is a VIN gap between VINs 585 and 607 that hasn’t
been explained but it’s assumed that they were produced. The evidence indicates that the 10,XXX and 15,XXX are the same series, and so the VIN range would have
gone from 10001 to 10999 (there is no known VIN 10000 or 15000) or 999 cars. The evidence also indicates that the 11,XXX and 16,XXX range are the same, so there
were 1000 cars – VINs 11000 to 11999 (there was a VIN 16000). It’s believed that there were 171 cars made in the 12,XXX range before production ended. These were
re-VINned to 17,XXX series cars (VIN 17000 to 17170). Assuming the 12XXX were NOT 5XX series cars, then there appears to be 12 in the 12,XXX series numbered
after regular production. In the 20,XXX Series there were 105 cars made – VINS 20001 to VIN 20105. Total cars made were
6700 + 999 + 1000 + 171 + 12 + 105 = 8,987 cars.
Regarding VIN plates themselves, there are a few interesting facts. The earliest cars in the 5XX series did not have driver’s door VIN plates except for
VIN 502, which appears to have been added later. It’s unclear exactly when VIN plates started being put on the cars. The earliest picture seen is from VIN 570
but undoubtedly there are earlier ones. The style of the VIN plates changed around VIN 1250 with the beginning of the May production. Earlier VIN plates had
the date stamped in such a way that it looks like it was hand stamped while the VIN number is raised or embossed. Starting in May 1981 both the date and VIN
numbers have the embossed style.
To see the current VIN list of cars go to www.DMCNews.com (click on lower left picture to get pdf file with list). For more information on the RHD cars,
visit www.DeLoreans.co.uk, then click INFORMATION.
Of the 8,300 VINs currently in the database, many were submitted directly by DeLorean owners themselves, while others were gleaned from ads or other
sources on the Internet. Several thousands were compiled from factory owners lists, warranty cards and shipping manifests that have survived over the years.
You can help with this project by sending missing information that doesn’t appear on the list. What is being compiled is the VIN number, interior color,
manufacture date and location of the car. Check the above websites for current information. Also, VIN plate photos are being compiled by the Texas Delorean
Club (this site). Send photos of the VIN plate and VIN information/corrections to the author;
If you haven’t already done so, register with the Delorean Owners Directory at the Texas DeLorean Club web site. Click the DOD link from the horizontal
navigation at the top of the page.
Below, you can select a range of VINs to display known information about. Or you can select a range of VIN Plates, where you'll get a explodable thumbnail
image of VIN plates we have on file. Also, you can choose to find a single VIN to display all information available. Finally, you can look at statistics about all
the VIN information we have on file.
(VIN list last updated on 5/30/2014).