John delorean remembered as ‘struggling, tragic genius’ electricity merit badge requirements

Russo, who now lives in Florida, said he saw Mr. DeLorean just “a few months ago,” after Mr. DeLorean had taken up residence in the Parsons Village condominium complex in Morristown. “He looked better than ever,” said Russo. “My wife and I miss him already,” he added. “Our hearts go out to his family.”

Township Committeeman Don Cross described Mr. DeLorean as “fascinating and laid back,” and “struggling but brilliant, one of the great tragic figures of the 20th century.” Cross said he had come to know Mr. DeLorean “fairly well” through several business and social occasions. “I liked the guy,” Cross said.

As mayor, Cross said he had officiated in the marriage of Mr. DeLorean’s daughter, Kathryn, at the estate “in either 1999 or 2000.” He had also officiated at the wedding of the sister of Sally Baldwin, Mr. DeLorean’s fourth wife, at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster Township. Cross said Mr. DeLorean held some “fascinating” automotive concepts, including the idea of a ceramic automobile engine. Cross was so captivated by the idea that he referred Mr. DeLorean to an investment group in New York City.

In an interview with this newspaper in 1987, Mr. DeLorean said he “loved” Lamington Farm. “I couldn’t imagine not living here,” he said at the time. Auto Executive John Zachary DeLorean was born in Detroit on Jan. 6, 1925, the son of a Ford Motors employee. After graduating from the Lawrence Institute of Technology, now The Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Mich., he was recruited by the Packard Motor Car Company in 1952, where he served as director of research and development until 1956.

That year, he joined General Motors as an engineer with the Pontiac Division. He remained with GM for the next 17 years, rising through the ranks to become group executive vice president in charge of the manufacturer’s car and truck divisions. His many automotive innovations for GM included the Pontiac GTO, the affordable “muscle car” that became one of GM’s best-selling automobiles. A dispute over company management, however, led Mr. DeLorean to resign from GM in 1973 and found the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC). In 1982, that company introduced what was to be its only model, the DeLorean DMC-12. At $25,000, the metallic, low-riding sports car, complete with side doors that opened from the bottom and spread like steel gull wings, was more than double the price of the average car. But its distinctly futuristic look earned it the respect of auto aficionados, even though only about 9,000 were made. The vehicle ultimately achieved celluloid immortality when used in the popular “Back to the Future” movies staring Michael J. Fox. Drug Charges Mr. DeLorean had produced a visionary car, but it was the beginning of the end for a man who, at the age of 40, had become GM’s youngest general manager. DMC’s plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, became plagued with quality and financial problems. An investigation of financial irregularities by the British government was conducted, but no criminal conduct was found. All the same, the British ordered the plant closed on Oct. 19, 1982. That same day, Mr. DeLorean was arrested in California and charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy for allegedly arranging to buy $24 million worth of cocaine from FBI agents posing as drug dealers. A Los Angeles jury found him innocent of all charges in August 1984, saying he had been entrapped by the government’s sting operation. But soon after his acquittal he faced another trial, this time in Detroit on charges that he siphoned off $9 million from his company. Once again, he was acquitted. Mr. DeLorean also experienced his share of domestic turmoil. In October 1985, his divorce from his third wife, former model Cristina Ferrare, created a media sensation after it went to trial before Superior Court Judge Michael Imbriani in Somerville. At that time, Imbriani ruled that Ferrare could keep the couple’s two children, Kathryn and Zachary, while Mr. DeLorean could retain nearly $200 million in assets, including Lamington Farm. Trump Deal Financial troubles continued to plague Mr. DeLorean and in 2000, he was forced by a bankruptcy court to sell Lamington Farm. The estate passed through the hands of an investor, who sold it to another high-profile millionaire, Donald Trump. Trump, in turn, developed the Trump National Golf Course, using the estate’s stately manor home for a clubhouse.

On Monday, Cross said he felt that Mr. DeLorean “had a deal in principal” directly with Trump at one point, but that deal “fell apart” when Mr. DeLorean tried to negotiate “too hard.” “They were both excellent business people,” Cross said. He added that Mr. DeLorean had also failed to pursue a prior offer from a prospective buyer that would have given him rights to the estate’s luxuriant manor house “for life.”

Cross said he believed that Mr. DeLorean’s fiscal and legal problems worked against his genius for invention. “He was 40 when he introduced the GTO and 80 when he died,” said Cross. “That was another 40 years of productive use. He could have come up with more ideas and concepts, but because of DMC and the sting, no one wanted to be around him.” No matter how the professional world viewed him, however, car enthusiasts continue to hold Mr. DeLorean in high regard.

On Monday, local writers joined more than 250 mourners who added comments to an on-line guest book. “John gave the world many wonderful things,” wrote Kevin Rude of Far Hills. “He touched my life and I own two examples of his dream,” wrote Joseph Molino of Basking Ridge. “Even though I never met him, he taught me much.”

In an e-mail to this newspaper, Molino said he purchased a DMC-12 after being inspired by the “Back to the Future” movies. “I saved up my money for years and became as much of an expert as you can without owning one,” he wrote. “I would drive out to see them for sale even though I couldn’t buy them. I just wanted to experience it.” He said his purchase eventually influenced his father to buy a DMC-12. Together, father and son read up on Mr. DeLorean, whom Molino called “a maverick and a dreamer. “To me, he was the original ‘outside the box’ thinker,” Molino wrote. In the 1987 interview with this newspaper, Mr. DeLorean described himself as neither a hero nor a villain. Rather, he called himself as a born-again, self-made man who had been unfairly persecuted and who only wanted to get his life back on track. “I believe that adversity makes you a stronger person,” he said. “I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been.”

Besides his fourth wife, Sandy Baldwin, Mr. DeLorean is survived by a son, Zachary Tavio DeLorean; two daughters, Kathryn Ann DeLorean and Sheila Baldwin DeLorean; three brothers, Charles “Chuck” DeLorean and his wife, Shirley, Jack DeLorean and his wife, Karen, and George DeLorean; two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Hometowns of the survivors were not released. A private funeral service was to be held today, Thursday, March 24, at A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home, Royal Oak, Mich. Memorial contributions may be made The Lawrence Technological University, John Z. DeLorean Scholarship Fund, 21000 W. Ten Mile Road, Southfield, Mich., 48075; or to Morristown Memorial Hospital Foundation, Campaign for the Heart, 100 Madison Ave., Morristown, N.J., 07960.