October 19, 1982 – John Z. DeLorean is arrested for conspiracy to traffic cocaine


On October 19, 1982, the world watched in disbelief as one of the most prominent figures in the automotive industry, John Z. DeLorean, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine. This arrest marked the beginning of a turbulent chapter in DeLorean’s life, leading to legal battles that would last for decades. Despite his acquittal of the drug charges in August 1984, his troubles were far from over, but he would eventually redeem himself.

CCTV footage of the DeLorean arrest.

John Zachary DeLorean was a brilliant and charismatic engineer and executive who had worked for General Motors, where he played a pivotal role in the development of iconic vehicles like the Pontiac GTO and the Chevrolet Vega. However, he is perhaps best known for his ambitious vision of creating a stainless steel sports car, the DeLorean DMC-12, which would feature distinctive gull-wing doors. To turn his dream into reality, he founded the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) in the late 1970s.

DeLorean’s rise in the automotive world was meteoric, and his DMC-12 soon became an iconic symbol of the 1980s, thanks in part to its appearance in the “Back to the Future” film trilogy. But even amidst his professional success, DeLorean’s ambition knew no bounds, leading him down a path that would ultimately tarnish his reputation.

The John DeLorean Arrest

The turning point in DeLorean’s life occurred on October 19, 1982, when he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute a massive 55 pounds of cocaine. The charges were a shock to the public, as DeLorean was not only a respected automotive figure but also a charismatic entrepreneur. He was accused of attempting to finance his struggling car company with the proceeds of a massive drug deal.

DeLorean’s legal battle was closely watched, and he faced the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. However, in August 1984, he was acquitted of the drug charges after a highly publicized trial. The jury found that he had been the victim of entrapment by federal agents posing as drug traffickers.

While DeLorean may have been cleared of the drug charges, his legal troubles were far from over. He faced a different legal battle, this time on charges of fraud. He was accused of embezzling money from his car company and manipulating its financial statements to secure additional funding. DeLorean’s legal woes would persist for years.

Throughout the next two decades, DeLorean faced numerous legal challenges and was forced to pay millions of dollars to creditors and lawyers. The DeLorean Motor Company eventually went bankrupt, and the iconic DMC-12 was no longer in production. DeLorean’s dreams of reshaping the automotive industry had crumbled, and he was left with a tarnished legacy.

The Legacy of John Z. DeLorean

John Delorean arrest
DeLorean DMC-12. By Kevin Abato, www.grenexmedia.com – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Despite his legal battles and financial setbacks, John Z. DeLorean continued to maintain his innocence. He maintained that he had been set up by government agents and remained adamant that he was not guilty of the charges brought against him. Over time, his story faded from the public eye, and he retreated from the spotlight.

In March 2005, John Z. DeLorean passed away at the age of 80. His life was marked by extreme highs and lows, from his groundbreaking contributions to the automotive industry to his dramatic arrest and subsequent legal battles. The DeLorean DMC-12, however, lived on as an enduring symbol of 1980s pop culture.

In retrospect, John Z. DeLorean’s life was a rollercoaster of ambition, innovation, and controversy. His arrest on October 19, 1982, marked the beginning of a tumultuous period, but it was only a chapter in the larger story of a man who dared to dream big. Despite his legal troubles, DeLorean’s legacy endures through his iconic car and the enduring fascination with his life’s ups and downs. Click here to learn more about the life of John DeLorean.

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