The Gold-Plated DeLorean You Likely Didn't Realize Existed

Most car enthusiasts know the DeLorean as an infamous sports car with a stainless steel exterior and gull-wing doors. The rest of the world recognizes it as one of cinema's most famous icons from the "Back to the Future" trilogy. Given its legendary status in pop culture history, it's hard to believe it was only in production for two years (1981 to 1983). According to Motor1, only 8,583 DMC-12 models were built. But did you know there was a version of the now-defunct vehicle that came plated in 24-karat gold?

Let's back up a year before the DMC-12 actually hit the streets. Interest in this revolutionary "car of the future" was high, and DeLorean had some high-powered advertising partners on its side. In late 1980, American Express released a Christmas catalog wherein the lucky consumer had the rare opportunity to buy one of a very limited number of gold-plated DeLoreans. The verbiage on the ad read: "This Christmas American Express brings you the gold at the end of the rainbow." 

American Express touted the glittering 24-karat gold DeLorean as being engineered by Colin Chapman, famous for his time at Lotus, and designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, a world-renowned automotive designer. The ad boasted features like a high-end glove leather interior, multi-speaker stereo system, rear-mounted V6 2.85-liter engine, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, and cryogenically pre-set stainless steel torsion bars. Available in five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission, it went from zero to 60 mph in under eight seconds.

A golden opportunity to own an icon

Then came the hook — there would be no more than 100 of these limited-edition versions made. The consumer only had to make a $10,000 deposit on the $85,000 so-called "masterpiece." According to the CPI Inflation Calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $85,000 in 1980 is equivalent to just over $283,000 today, as calculated on April 21, 2022. But the devil was in the details as the fine print said: "There will be no refunds and no deferred payment privileges." Only the wealthy could afford such a golden prize.

According to the DeLorean Museum, only two sold through this AMEX promotion. After the factory closed in 1982, a third was cobbled together from some spare parts made in case one of the other two got damaged and pieces from an early development model. A "fourth" was made, but it wasn't from the "official" AMEX promotion. According to My Car Quest, an owner of a regular stainless steel DeLorean decided he could gold plate his car and did so for about $8,000. A far cry from the $85,000 AMEX price tag. 

Short-lived though it may have been, the DeLorean still endures as one of the most famous cars in movie history. The gold version of the vehicle will far more likely remain firmly stuck in our society's collective archive of lesser-known automotive history.