Charles "Chuck" Bennington
Charles K Bennington started with the Ford Motor Company in 1953 before joining Chrysler. he was in charge of the latter's plant construction in Switzerland in 1967 and worked in senior management positions in London, South Africa and Turkey before being made staff executive to the president of Chrysler Europe, based in Paris.
Charles Bennington joined DMC in December 1978. He set up his office in the early months of
1979 at Warren House. Bennington, being a Chrysler man, was in good company with the likes of Gene Cafiero, and other top executives. He was in his early 50s when he joined the company.
He still retained his American accent; even through much of his working life had been spent overseas, building plants and factories - from Cape Town to Turkey. It was this experience that appealed to John DeLorean, and earned him a place at DMC.
Bennington was put in overall charge of overseeing the development of the new Dunmurry plant (as well as the DMC-12 and other duties), although Dixon Hollinshead supervised the construction of the factory under Bennington's authority. Dixon had previously overseen the building of a Mazda headquarters complex and was recommended to John DeLorean by Dick Brown.
Before the production car became a reality, tyres were a concern. Bennington chose the Good Year brand instead of Pirelli, as they had ‘too much shoe for too little performance’, and were an expensive $200 each at the time. Good Year tyres were readily available in the US, cheaper, gave a smoother ride and were more than adequate for the task. At Shoreham on England’s south coast, Bennington had the interior ‘mocked up’ while Lotus worked on the rest of the
engineering work. Bennington brought John DeLorean down to see the ‘mock up’ in the spring of 79.
“We went out and borrowed a set of golf clubs and threw them in the back, more as a joke to show John they would fit than anything else”
Bennington pushed himself like no other - his typical schedule was 6-day weeks, sometimes 7. At the height of activity before the car was ready, he flew to Milan to work with
Giorgetto Giugiaro on the updated look of the DMC-12. In addition to these pressures, Bennington also began commuting to Detroit at weekends
On Friday night after a tough week, he would catch a plane to Detroit and turn up at Visioneering first thing on a Saturday morning. Work all weekend, fly home Sunday night and start in Belfast early Monday morning.
“I was a bit whacked Monday night” he reflects.
By mid week, however he would be at Lotus and by Friday, he would repeat the cycle.
With the pressure of the factory, the car and the Lotus connection, the timetables of the whole project looked like it could never meet its deadlines. At one point early on he recalled telling DeLorean he wasn’t going to hit his schedule on the car. DeLorean retorted
“I’m inclined to believe you, but I don’t think we want to go public on that stage until you get more detail on it”.
Bennington, through pressures of work and personal life, had a car accident while at DMC. Late one night, as Bennington was driving his Lotus Esprit along the winding Irish roads, the road turned sharp right but Bennington did not. He went straight ahead - cleared a low wall and ended up in a field. He caught the DeLorean plane to Norfolk the next morning in considerable pain. His ear was almost severed and he had several cracked ribs…but still he carried on.
After fulfilling his duties, Bennington was moved to Coventry, England to tackle other roles within the company, most notably addressing the right-hand drive option on the DMC-12.
Don Lander succeeded Benningon's role as managing director.