PJ Grady Europe

William T Collins

William T Collins

Bill Collins with over 20 years of automotive experience gained from general Motors had risen to the position of Chief Engineer at the Pontiac Motor Division of the divisions B-cars.

While he was settled in this position, he realised that it was only a matter of time before he would rise within the company, and to higher success, however a man by the name of John DeLorean presented Collins with an idea that would turn his position at General Motors on its head.

John DeLorean approached Bill Collins, about the possibility of designing and building their own car - the two men had previously worked closely together at General Motors and knew that they ‘got on well’.

In October 1974, the temptation was too great to pass up, and Collins joined the DeLorean team - and the true birth of the DeLorean car became a reality. After the two men discussed the possible class of car which they wanted to design, they both settled on a ‘gentleman’s sports car’

Collins sat down with a clean sheet of paper and set about designing the new DeLorean motor car. With his experience gained from his time with GM, it was not long before Collins knew his critical dimensions, agreeing with DeLorean on the use of Gullwing doors – an idea that both men felt added to the uniqueness of the design, and complemented the initial ideal of building a ‘safety vehicle’.

Bill Collins took the design dimensions to Pioneer engineering, which took the important figures and translated them into a basic seating package - which was later made into a seating ‘buck’.

Bill Collins with DeLorean Seat Buck

In 1974, John DeLorean and Bill Collins went to Europe and visited the Turin Auto Show, to find a designer for their new sports car. It was not long after they had visited 4 different design companies that they settled for Ital Design.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was only 36 at the time, however very few designers/ prototype builders had the credentials of Giugiaro. The basic contact was drawn up in February 1975, and a month later a formal contract was signed by both companies.

After DeLorean and Collins had given Giugiaro the basic package of the car, the master went to work and within the space of one month, had produced designs for both men to look at. After the most agreeable lines of the car had been chosen, the car was finally ready to move forward. Collins travelled back to Ital Design every three weeks to approve the work by Giugiaro, and to report back to DeLorean.

It was not long after that the first sets of drawings had been approved. In July, Collins travelled back to Ital Design to approve the epo-wood styling which ital design had now finished. When Collins had approved of the ‘car’ it was then sent to Design Caucus to begin fabrication of the first set of pine die models.

Not long after the pine dies were produced, fabrication on the first recognisable DeLorean (prototype - P1) was started in October 1975. Kar Kraft was the company who played a large part in the fabrication exercise, with Bill Collins overseeing the project. In October 1976, the first prototype was a running car, however the Citroen engine/transmission did not meet the requirements, along with other criticisms. Before testing could be carried out fully on the car, C.R Dick Brown took the car, which he needed for dealer interest for potential investments. And Collins pushed forward with the second prototype.

The second prototype (prototype 2) was started after the completion of the first, and was due to be finished in July of 1977. When asked by a colleague, Collins commented that 10 additional prototypes would be used for durability and crash testing.

When Lotus was contracted to make the DeLorean into a production car, the company asked to see the Collins prototype. After test drives and assessments, the Lotus thoughts were not favourable of the DeLorean, it was decided to make serious changes in the fundamental aspects of the car from a steel backbone chassis through to the dropping of DeLoreans ERM (Elastic Reservoir Moulding) to the eventual use of VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection) for the body tub.

Bill Collins while at Lotus started to realise that the car that he had created, was slowly changing before his eyes, in a short space of time, the car had changed under the stainless steel skin.

In the first of a few skirmishes between Collins and designers at Lotus in the spring of 1979, Lotus Employees commonly joked of the Collins prototype, Lotus engineers made a game of asking newcomers to the project to guess the weight of the front bonnet, it looked light yet could only be lifted by a strong man Collins had deliberately weighted it at nearly 500 pounds to balance the car - Lotus did not realise or care.

Slowly Collins was finding it more and more difficult to work with the people at Lotus. When his ideas and suggestions were not being listened to, he left the company in 1979, later to be succeeded by Mike Loasby, who would also share the same frustrations as Collins had.

After leaving DeLorean, Bill Collins put his design and engineering expertise into a new project – the Vixen RV – an innovative motor home with an unusually low ride height and handling that was more like a car than a van.

The Vixen RV - designed by Bill Collins