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Automaker DeLorean dies
Developed futuristic-looking car in the 1980s that was a notable marketing failure.
March 21, 2005: 8:18 AM EST
The DeLorean, with its unusual doors, was developed by automaker John DeLorean, who died Saturday.
The DeLorean, with its unusual doors, was developed by automaker John DeLorean, who died Saturday.
1964 Pontiac GTO
1964 Pontiac GTO (Photo: GM)

ATLANTA (CNN) - John DeLorean, who developed the futuristic-looking sportscar that captured the country's attention during the early 1980s but ultimately proved to be a marketing failure, has died. He was 80.

DeLorean's death was confirmed by Tom Domlovil, a funeral director at A.J. Desmond & Sons, in Troy Mich.

Paul Connell, an owner of Desmond and Sons, said the Royal Oak, Mich., office is handling the arrangements. Connell said DeLorean died Saturday at the Overlook Hospital in Summit, N.J., from complications from a stroke.

A spokeswoman for the hospital would not confirm the death.

DeLorean, born in Detroit in 1925, worked at Chrysler and Packard Motors before joining General Motors in 1954, according to Contemporary Authors Online. While at GM, he was instrumental in introducing several innovative vehicles, including the Pontiac GTO and Firebird, and the Chevrolet Vega.

He rose to the position of North American car and truck production chief at GM before resigning in 1973, complaining of GM's inability to adapt to changes in the marketplace. In 1981, he attempted to introduce the DeLorean, a performance vehicle that included air bags -- then considered a novelty and now standard equipment.

The DeLorean's high price tag in a tight economic climate resulted in the vehicle's failure to catch on. In 1982, a year before his company collapsed, he was arrested on charges of attempting to sell cocaine in an effort to raise funds for the venture. He was acquitted on all charges after his defense that the government attempted to entrap him.

DeLorean's gull-winged car, which bore his name, was used as the time machine in the "Back to the Future" movies.

"John DeLorean was one of Detroit's larger-than-life figures who secured a noteworthy place in our industry's history. He made a name for himself through his talent, creativity, innovation and daring," said Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO, of GM in a statement released by by the company. "At GM, he will always be remembered as the father of the Pontiac GTO, which really started the muscle-car craze of the '60s. Our thoughts today are with his family as we join them in mourning his passing."

For more on the muscle cars of bygone days, like DeLorean's GTO, click here.

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