In October 1978, construction of the manufacturing plant began in Northern Ireland. Officially known as DMCL (DeLorean Motor Cars Ltd.), the facility was located in Dunmurry, just outside Belfast.
This section of the website provides some biographical information about some of the key people from DeLorean Motor Cars Ltd, and the roles they played within the overall ‘dream’.
The test track was designed more for quality control purposes, than the more traditional development test track - designed to push the car to its limits.
The track was designed to fit within the remaining space available within the proposed boundaries allocated to the company.
The architects designed the track for realistic speeds of 50 mph, although 70mph was attainable on the main banking corner.
There were a variety of different surfaces designed to test each DeLorean, including ‘sleeping policemen’, which were designed to simulate bumps in the road.
The most recognised feature on the track was the water splash, located of to one side of the track - designed to test the sealing of the gullwing doors, as well as other areas where water could seep into the cabin of the car.
Charles K 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.
Don Lander was Managing Director of Chrysler UK from 1974-76, and played a major role in DMC’s history where he was placed in charge of the Belfast plant in the fall of 1980, replacing Charles Bennington as Managing Director.
Mike Knepper recalls “Bennington kept everything wrapped in secrecy. Slowly the feeling that if there’s nothing to hide, why hide it? Was converted into strong suspicions, then accusations. Lander another ex-Chrysler executive was a 180- degree switch from Bennington, both personally and professionally, he brought a sense of order and direction to the operation that revived the enthusiasm”.
Lander was the head of operations in the Belfast plant when John DeLorean gave orders to increase production produce double the required output. Lander brought up to objection that the inexperienced work force could not cope with the new demands set by John.
None the less DeLorean had been given facts and figures by Dick Brown showing the demand for the new DMC-12. With this as a basis, and also they believed that the more people the company employed, the more chance the whole project would be supported by the British Government, production was increased to 80 cars a day and Lander was left the task of making John DeLoreans requests into a reality, while at the same time making sure quality control was on a steady increase rather than a downward spiral.
Mike Loasby served his apprenticeship with Alvis, where he rose to the position of Development engineer. Later he held the same position with Aston Martin Lagonda. He switched to Rover / Triumph in 1969, but six years later he returned to Aston Martin, and in 1978 was appointed Managing director of Aston Martin engineering.
Hired by Myron Stylianides, Mike Loasby joined DMC as director of product engineering in 1979, as Bill Collins was making preparations to leave after torrid relations with Lotus, over design and loss of control of the engineering project.
From his brilliance of past projects (most notably at Aston Martin Lagonda) that in the tight schedule and with friction from Lotus who at that point had control over the DMC pre-production cars, he managed to organise the car into being a production car rather than a more Lotus engineered car (hand built car). Loasby had to deal with lots of problems on the hand over of Lotus drawings and tooling, after meetings with Charles Bennington proved fruitless. Loasby realised that apart from supporting executives like George Broomfield, and Ted Collins (who were all on the team), they might not meet their critical timelines. They also had serious reservations on some of the Lotus designs, the front suspension being the major concern (a fact that at a later recall proved the DMC team right).
Loasby tried in vain to go over Benningon's head and talk directly with John DeLorean, in an attempt to bypass the politics of the situation, but even DeLorean had limited influence on the way Lotus handled the project. Loasby had to make do with what he had.
With the ambitious schedules for the car, the organisation of the factory, production lines for the chassis, gullwing doors and the fibre-glass tub, not to mention the design and building of the DMC test track, it was amazing that the car made it into production when it did. If the project had been in any other executive’s hands, the car may not have been sold into the market place as quickly as it did. Loasby’s engineering knowledge and abilities also helped avert several potentially serious problems, which would have needed the factory to recall cars early on, losing millions of dollars in revenue, not to mention the damage to the DMC reputation.
In 2001 at the Euro fest event, Chris Nicholson was fortunate enough to meet Mike Loasby and have a brief conversation with him on some aspects on the DMC. After the days events –and lots of DeLorean enthusiasts asking questions, Mike and his wife took refuge in Chris’ DeLorean - which was on show for peoples choice, and ultimately won first place.
Chris said, “Never have I been happier for a person to sit in my DeLorean”.
Mike also noticed that a copy of John DeLoreans autobiography and kindly offered to sign it. Thanks Mike!
Barrie Wills was the director of purchasing for DeLorean Motor Cars Limited.
After 12 years at Jaguar, in 1968 he was appointed as chief buyer (special projects) for Jaguar Cars Limited, and was a member of the British Leyland purchasing committees.
After moving to Kirstall Forge Engineering briefly, he returned to Leyland as supplies manager - truck and bus division, and later moved to the Reliant Motor Company as director of material control and thereafter was given responsibility for product development as a member of the board.
Barrie has continued to work extensively throughout the automotive industry and has worked for the majority of the big name manufacturers, and a few of the smaller ones such as Sinclair, in which he was involved in the development of the C5. Barrie has also purchased a DeLorean, and is a member of the UK DeLorean owners club.
Joe Daly began his career in accounting with the Ford Motor Company. He was controller of the Linwood plant, Director of Finance for Chrysler UK and later worked for Chrysler International.
Before Joining DeLorean, Joe had worked extensively in combining the activities of Chrysler with those of Peugeot, as part of the Peugeot takeover
George Broomfield, an American, started with General Motors in 1952 and later helped to start up GM plants in Brazil and Argentina. In 1971, he moved to Opel of West Germany as project engineer on a new car, and the following year was made manager of production planning and facilities.
In 1977, he was made staff engineer for all General Motors overseas operations.
Working alongside Mike Loasby and other executives like Barrie Wills, they managed the impossible - and were only a matter of months short of their deadlines. Once when William Haddad was talking with Broomfield about the Lotus-DeLorean connection, Broomfield said:
“They make eight cars a day at Lotus, when there is trouble on the line, they go out and kick a tire or file down a corner. When you are building eighty cars a day, you can’t do that. We need mass-production precision - that’s what Lotus doesn’t understand. You can’t go out and kick a production line”.