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Orie and the DeLorean Dream


“I started freaking out, worrying that the guy was going to back out of the deal. I ran down to the basement and started looking through Bruce Lee quotes preparing for the eventuality that it wouldn’t happen and found one: ‘Some dreams aren’t meant to come true.’” A swirl of emotion, excitement, hope, and doubt was blasting through Orie’s head. After years of search, hope, and missed opportunities, he had finally made a deal to purchase his life-long dream car, a 1981 DMC DeLorean.


Orie Has a Dream

We all have that one thing we want to accomplish that seems impossible. For many of us, attaining or maintaining the confidence to achieve the seemingly impossible is a tough, grueling process. It can be easy to start coming up with backup plans or creating excuses for why it’s ok to let our dreams slip out of reach. We convince ourselves that we’re putting them away for a noble cause; we’ve got to start thinking like adults after all, we’ve got to keep food on the table, and other pressing responsibilities. Before long, we start wondering who we thought we were to have such outlandish ideas anyway. We slip from our passionate, dream-filled youth to responsibility-laden work-a-day adults grappling with the inevitability of life; it’s a hard cycle to break. That being said, let me tell you more about Orie…

Orie and I crossed paths when I was in my early teens. He met my oldest brother Zac at the motocross track where they quickly developed a strong friendship. Orie was often at our house working on bikes or doing some shoddy custom paint job on a cheap helmet. I remember Orie was always making jokes, a fair amount of them inappropriate, some funny, a few not. He was often the butt of other people’s jokes, which I think he enjoyed. He was goofy, tall, lanky, and always had a smile. Whatever he lacked in talent on the motocross track, he made up for in congeniality and spunk. When my own brother Zac left on a two-year church mission, Orie filled the gap Zac left behind; he’d pick me up after school, and we’d head out to practice at the motocross track, then to his house for a movie. On the weekends, Orie would drive me to the races where we’d both compete underslept, often crashing our brains out.

Our paths split when Orie got married and I got more involved in high school shenanigans. Since then, we’ve stayed loosely in touch. Orie, like his father, became a fireman and settled down in Perry township, a relic of simple, spacious rural life in Northern Utah. I’d see what he was up to on Facebook, like finally getting that local motocross championship at 33 or some new project bike.

On June 26th, I was browsing Facebook and saw a post titled: “The dream continues…” Below was a picture of a 1981 DeLorean, gull-wing doors spread-gull, in a garage full of motocross memorabilia. My heart stopped for a moment as I thought, “Holy… freaking… crap…, he finally did it!!!” Ever since I’d known Orie, he’d dreamed of owning a DeLorean. On the verge of turning 40, after missing numerous opportunities and believing the chance had passed, and after indoctrinating his 10-year-old boy into the cult of DeLorean worship, an impassable opportunity had come up. With an ever-heightening sense of mortality, Orie grabbed it.

The Original DeLorean Dream

From its inception, the DeLorean was meant to be the stuff of dreams - a long-lasting, exciting and reliable sports car that could be passed down the family that was supposed to bring Northern Ireland out of social and economic despair. DMC, or the DeLorean Motor Cars, was the industrial brainchild of John DeLorean, a brilliant engineer, successful American automotive executive and the creator of the original muscle car, the Pontiac GTO. After success in Detroit, DeLorean set out to create the greatest sportscar the world had ever seen. The DMC project seemed promising from the outset with financial support from dealers, governments, and a host of celebrities. DeLorean locked in a deal with the British government to build his cars in Northern Ireland, which was being torn apart by The Troubles and had an 80% unemployment rate. With a body shaped by acclaimed designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and a chassis built by race-proven Lotus, the DeLorean was the stuff of dreams.

For many of DeLorean’s Irish workers, this was the only job they’d ever had and there were consequences for having cars built by a completely inexperienced workforce.The rush through production meant that many customers received faulty cars with shoddy electrical and mechanical problems. Customers were also left underwhelmed by the Peugot-Renault-Volvo V6 which, pushing a lowly 130 horsepower, merely encouraged the car to an uninspiring 0-60 time of 10.4 seconds. Matched with a slow US economy, the car performed and sold well below expectations. After only two years of production and building only 9,000 cars, DMC filed for bankruptcy after John DeLorean himself was charged with trafficking $24 million of cocaine -- the dream was over. If it hadn't been for Doc Brown and Mary McFly it’s likely the DeLorean would have faded into obscurity, rather than being a commonly recognized name. Still, the DeLorean has amassed a loyal following in the 38 years since the company’s bankruptcy.

Missed Opportunities and Disappointment

As I’ve often observed, cars reflect their owners, and during our conversation Orie explained his connection with the DeLorean. “Some people love DeLoreans because of the movie (Back to the Future). For me, I liked the movie, but I’ve just always loved the car. It was weird, it was unique, everybody made fun of it, I was like, ‘This car is me!’” As a kid, Orie garnered a collection of photos of himself standing next to DeLoreans in the wild, on trips to California he’d make his dad pull over so they could snap a few photos.  A tour of Orie’s house further reveals his love for DeLoreans with various scale models and photos displayed throughout the house, his son even has a DeLorean shrine in his bedroom. Orie always knew he was going to own a DeLorean, someday; it wasn’t even a question.

It was a question for everyone else that knew Orie, however, since DeLoreans aren’t exactly cheap or easy to come by. Orie came close to purchasing a DeLorean a couple of times over the years but the opportunity slipped away due to lack of funds or the car not being quite right. At age 22 Orie had his first opportunity to buy a driving DeLorean for only $13,000, the owner was having some financial troubles and needed the car gone. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Orie was also buying his first home at the time and borrowing any more money meant his home loan wouldn’t go through. A few more opportunities came and went through the years, but the cars were either astronomically priced or in terrible shape. In the meantime, Orie joined a DeLorean club to get his fix, “There are a few guys that have them, I’m kind of the nerd that’s part of the group. I don’t own one, just a fanboy basically at this point.”

Over the years, Orie has been very vocal about getting a DeLorean. “My friends have made fun of me for years, everyone kind of assumed it would never happen,” Orie explained. His own confidence in getting the car seemed to wane with time as well. As he navigated the fourth decade of his life, the doubt and inevitability of never achieving his dream started to creep in, little by little. Orie tried to reconcile not having his DeLorean by filling his time with other fun projects, a Honda Civic EG6 hatchback, a Honda Prelude, a Nissan 300ZX. Knowing that these were only back-up projects, Orie was never fully satisfied; none of them meant anything compared to the DeLorean.

A New Hope

It’s hard to plan for when opportunity strikes, as it often comes out of the blue. For Orie opportunity came in the middle of figuring out what to do with a motorless Nissan 300ZX. After attempting and then giving up on a project to put a Chevy V8 in his Nissan 300ZX, Orie started to moderate his expectations. “Now, I’m thinking ‘this is ok,’” he explains, “I’ll just put the stock JDM engine in it, use it as a weekend driver and let the kids enjoy it a little bit. Then this random DeLorean shows up. When I say random, I mean, I’ve been looking every day for the last 27 years.” 

After nearly three decades of searching for the right DeLorean, one showed up on eBay with a starting bid of $7,500. Orie laughed at the price, “Ya know, ‘cause they always go for way more. But I thought I’d watch it because the owner had done some stuff and his ad didn’t give a lot of details.” 

After a few days of bidding, the ad inexplicably disappeared. In a panic, Orie emailed the seller to express his interest. A couple of days went by with no response, and the opportunity seemed all but gone as the anxiety, regret, and realization crept in. That is until an unexpected reply came back: “Hey, $21k and it’s yours. The deal fell through. I’m not enjoying the process; I have no idea what I’m doing. I just need to be done, are you serious?” 

You know that moment of realization when something exciting is about to happen? When your heart starts racing, you can’t focus and you can’t remember where you put your keys? The flurry of excitement began, after decades of time invested in searching classifieds, browsing forums, reading books on DeLoreans, indoctrinating his kids in the cult of DeLorean, the dream may finally come true. Orie continues, “So I call him and say, ‘Honestly, the max dollar amount is this, if you’re OK with it give me a call.’ A few hours go by with no call and I’m like ‘Ah, I’m about to make a stupid mistake over a thousand bucks, here’s another regret I’m about to have.’ I tell myself, ‘You gotta start thinking about how I can sell this dirt bike, I gotta get rid of that Civic.’ I’m playing the game of ‘what can I dump really quickly in 24 hours to get what he’s asking?’ I gotta stop milking this out, I’m getting older, it’s not as fun to be working on stuff, I just gotta get this done! I’ve talked about this for 30 years now.”

A couple hours later, the owner replies, “Sure dude, you send me a deposit and if you can be up here soon let’s do it.” 

Orie was in a flurry of excitement and anxiety over the opportunity and was afraid it might disappear at any moment, “I started freaking out, worrying that the guy was going to back out of the deal. I ran down to the basement and started looking through Bruce Lee quotes preparing for the eventuality that it wouldn’t happen, ‘Some dreams aren’t meant to come true.’”

The Purchase

The trip to pick up the car started out rough, “I got pulled over an hour and a half from home, right at the Idaho-Oregon Border.” While passing through a construction zone overwhelmed with excitement, Orie clipped an orange barrel. After getting a ticket and wondering if this was all a bad omen he was back on the road again. “I’m sweaty now, nervous, every car looks like a cop car, every SUV looks like a highway patrolman, and I’m just going out of my mind.”

After the twelve-hour drive, Orie arrived in Gig Harbor, Washington exhausted and emotionally spent. After a few desperately needed hours of sleep, it was finally time to pick up the prize. Most of the DeLoreans Orie had seen were hands off affairs at car shows or owner meetups, this was a thoroughly hands-on experience. It all seemed surreal when the owner asked, “You wanna sit in it?” Orie opened the stainless-steel gull-wing door and climbed in thinking, “Is this really happening? I don’t want to break anything in front of this guy, but the dream is starting to feel real…and I’m trying to not show the emotion.”

The garage was filled with scattered parts. The owner had started working on the car but had soon gotten in over his head. The “OUTTATIME” license plate and a Marty McFly driver license in the center console were omens of a previous owner’s connection to the car. Prior to Orie completing the purchase, the owner shared a bit of the car’s history; originally sold to a man in Maryland, the original owner drove it for about 9,000 miles and then passed away. After that, the car just sat for about 20 years in storage. The family decided to sell the car to a guy in Southern California, at the time it had some fuel problems with the complex mechanical fuel injection system. Hoping to retrofit the car with more modern propulsion, the owner bought a Tesla motor and battery packs. When that ended up not working, the Californian sold the car to the current owner in Gig Harbor. This purchase happened only eight months prior to Orie finding the car on eBay. Realizing he had gotten into a bigger project than he had bargained for and feeling the effects of unemployment, the current owner decided to sell the car to Orie. After a couple of hours going through parts, the purchase was finalized, and Orie was towing his newfound DeLorean back to Perry, Utah.

What's Next?

While looking over the car in his garage, Orie pointed out various interesting bits. Under one of the door panels, you can still see the original sharpie marks, written by an Irish factory worker 40 years ago. The car is essentially a fiberglass tub rested on top of a narrow hourglass shaped frame. Orie’s car is in exceptional shape, and the original leather shows few signs of wear. Sitting in the car is a small, nostalgic glimpse into optimistic 1980s luxury. 

For Orie, owning a DeLorean has always been about enjoying the car for what it was meant to be, a driver’s car. “I just want it because I wanna drive the crap out of it,” Orie tells me, “and because it’s my favorite car. I’m not looking for it to be an investment for me or anything, I just want to drive it.”

And that’s really the beauty of this project. Orie just wants to drive the thing, and he wants to share the experience with everyone else. During the couple of hours we were together, I heard him invite us, or others (through his stories) to take his car for a drive (although it doesn’t have an engine yet).

Meeting up with Orie to write this story has been an inspiration for me. Though circumstances postponed his ultimate goal, a daily-driver DeLorean, he’s found other ways to enjoy what he can. His garage is a grown-up playland of tools, dirt bikes and cars (both whole and in pieces). While hanging out, I couldn’t help but think of all the dreams I’ve postponed for whatever made-up reason. Hanging out with Orie inspired me to act and make my dreams reality.

Orie’s not out of the woods yet, but he has most of the components of his dream sitting in the garage. The ultimate goal is a reliable daily driver that he can enjoy and share with others. So what’s next for Orie’s DeLorean? “I got a LS engine, I’m working with some guys in the UK to be able to mount the transmission”. This Chevy V8 will likely triple the horsepower found in the DeLorean’s original V6 and will be worlds more reliable. The wheels of hope are in motion along with the invitation, “Dude, I want you to come drive this thing.”

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