A Look Inside
Book Review of "Looking Inside - The Stainless Sensation"
This is not really a “book”-book, it’s more a 500-page, boxed, fully illustrated, annotated, and collated (by year) forensic dossier that opens up on perhaps one of the most storied, star-crossed, sensationalized men in an industry that seems to have spawned an astoundingly motley collection of such visionaries and rouges.
By Doug Stokes
Tue, Apr 27, 2021 10:00 PM PST
The Stainless Sensation
by Alexx Michael
Additional Comments – Barrie Willis
Art & design by Alexx Michael
Editor: Anna Monteith
Published by: RSR Music and Publishing DeLorean Archives/Germany
500 pages, 300+ photos(color and b/w), 400+ documents
Check out www.deloreanbook.org for more information.
John DeLorean … lean, smart, handsome, well-bred, well-educated, well-spoken, erudite as all get out, always dressed to the nines, with a Jay Sebring-style perfectly-tousled head of snow white that he made look v. dashing all the way into the late 80’s, was a man with a plan.
His hopes, designs, diversions, disappointments, friends, fevered supporters, detractors, all that and problems with the feds are here an “open book”. (pardon the pun, I couldn't help myself)
He wasn’t Preston Tucker, Earl William “Madman” Muntz, Liz Carmichael, Glenn Gordon Davis, Henry J Kaiser, or any of the others who believed (some more than others ... but all with unbounded hubris) that they somehow, pretty much all on their own, had come up with the perfect personal car the masses. He was a top-of-the-totem GM executive who was set on one-upping his Detroit peers, and then some.
Having risen to the rank of General Manager of the GM’s Chevrolet Division and finding the $650K per that the post paid not really enough in terms of personal satisfaction, he quit cold and told the world that he was building his own car, a classic, eponymous, two-seat sports car that he had every confidence could/would/should compete with the best that Europe offered at any price. A noble quest.
Of all things this colorful (with all the shades of meaning that word conveys) book has, it even has a rock anthem written and preformed by the book’s author who resides in, of all places, Germany. In his own words he’s: “… a musician, songwriter, and producer, who spent most of his time playing in the hard rock band Shameless, with the help of my longtime friend, KISS drummer, Eric Singer.”
As nutball as the tragicomedy DeLorean story has come down over the years, German rock musician, and DeLorean owner (VIN 10277) himself, Alexx Michael seems imminently qualified to fill us in on the more salient details, and, by gum, he does. By the way, he credits Gene Simmons with punching his “on” button, saying something profound like: “Hey ...You should write a book!” and a few years and 500 pages and some 4 pounds of book later, we are here, looking inside “Looking Inside”.
Of course he has a bit of play-by-play from other players in the De Lorean (I was going to say: “cabal” but thought that might be too harsh … no, let’s leave it at that...).
Among the survivor/speakers are: Barrie Willis, Colin Spooner, Neal Barclay, and Carol Bills. They serve as eye-witnesses to the phenomena and tell tales that seem very plausible given the situation. DeLorean’s (almost as damn striking as him) second wife, Christina Ferrare (“former fashion model, actress, author and TV talk-show host” – Wiki) is only seen in a couple of photos. Their divorce, as I remember, was front page news, but I tary...
One of the ironies of this book is learning that, even when he was when acquitted of (held by many to be questionable) Federal drug-trafficking charges De Lorean fell, unable to staunch the bloodletting that was rampant and ongoing.
Losing his 400-acre estate in Eastern New Jersey to none other than (guess who?) Donald Trump who was there to scoop it up and turn it into a golf course (one of three in the Garden State that bear the former President’s name).
And … regarding the front-page, 120-point headlines of his highly-theatrical FBI “sting” drug bust, there’s plenty of fun for conspiracy theorists to have here about the why:s and wherefore:s of the accusations that reach in a number of directions and include, among others, players like the British PM, Margaret Thatcher, which stems from DeLorean’s manufacturing plant and other holdings in Ireland and his entangled and estranged dealings with Lotus Automobiles legend Colin Chapman.
I called this book a dossier in my first sentence above, and that it is. There’s a slew of letters, notes, and legal documents here that lead me to this thought:
… You know those courtroom movies where the [choose one:]
1.) Young idealistic, or
2.) Old gristled seemingly washed up, handsome but demeaned and dissipated by drink, or
3.) Perky young single mother, or
4.) Slow-talking back country lawyer…
piles up reams of evidence and his ragtag (but dogged) staff starts wading through it to a final conclusion?Well...that could be you here.
The evidence of an obsession that turned into a living nightmare that was all about a kind of cool car that had gull-wing doors, exotic stainless steel bodywork, and a rear engine** is all here, neatly stacked in perfect chronological order.
And (most) of the puzzle pieces actually fit … but many readers will be surprised that that there DeLorean-designed buses, light trucks, a Mog-like utility vehicle, two very familiar looking (Jaguar SS100 and XK-120-looking machines) and even a rather handsome 4-door version of the DMC-12. There are renderings, notes, and information about all of them here.
Heck… and in something of declaration of a chest-beating moment of early ‘80s good times American Express announced a “24 Karat Goldplated DeLorean” that they promised that, “only 100 would ever be produced”. In March of ‘81a representative of AE dropped a check off for $30,000, which equated to three deposits on the gleaming machines. The factory itself had received one such deposit so the notes say that four were so built, and that grandfalloon broke up pretty quickly.
This book is another book of history that cries out for an index, that failing aside, if your taste in stories runs to that of great automotive lost causes and their probable causes, you’ll find some interesting time reading the hundreds of memos, notes, telegrams, court documents, and letters that frame (ooops bad choice of words, sorry!) a morality play that plays with cars.
I would note that author Michael seems to be somewhat of a partisan here and offer as evidence this line from his page that gratefully acknowledges some of the people who contributed to this book.
The line reads: “This list of course, excludes: James Hoffman, Martin Gibson, Marian Gibson, Margaret Thatcher, the FBI, Ivan Fallon, Hillel Levin, Jack Bruce Gardyne MP, Bill Haddad, & Art Buchwald” an “enemies list” well fitted for the occasion we must assume.
Not a cheap date (DeLorean automobiles are going for $15 - $19K out LA way) this book at $88 usd will be, for a very special few, a keepsake that reminds of a heady and headstrong time in the auto industry.
The first 100 editions of the aptly named "...Inside" will come with a commemorative coin. The tasseled bookmark pictured is OEM with every book as well as is the aforementioned slipcase. The packaging and presentation here seem to me to elude to the huge cache of raw information and insider comment found within.
The last words in this book, dead nuts at the bottom of page 500, are: TO BE CONTINUED which are expressed bright red, Back To The Future-style type.
… So I asked Michael just what he was alluding to there, and here’s his unabridged answer: “If all goes well I will release a second part at some point. Super curious what you think about the book. I did so much research especially about the drug case. Such a crazy story.”
My answer back was for him to hang tough, that he’d soon see what I’ve said about the book and to please keep me on his list if/when he’s ready to continue this saga that has spawned numerous other books (at last count10 or 12), and some half dozen films (one starring a somewhat overheated Alec Baldwin!) about John Zachary DeLorean.
There are, it seems, miles to go, before this story gets any real sleep... and in the end, maybe the handsome visionary’s stainless steel sports car left a fascinatingly sad paper trail rather than smoldering tire marks on the pavement.
AN “INSIDER” COMMENTS ON “LOOKING INSIDE”
After reading Alexx Mitchell’s: ‘Looking Inside - The Stainless Steel Sensation’ for the above review, I made contact with one of the people who was mentioned in Mitchell’s book, Chris Theodore, and asked him if he’d like to look at the book and perhaps comment on it from his (much closer than my) point of view and experience.
He said “Sure,” so I shipped him the 4-pound/500-page book off to him in Michigan. What follows here are Chris’ remarks based on his own dealings with the mythic Mister D.
“… Author Alexx Michael’s subtitle of this book, “The Most Incredible Story in Automotive History,” is not hyperbole.
The saga of the DeLorean car and DMC could easily fill an encyclopedia and still be insufficient. If the story of the car is incomplete, capturing the essence of John Z. DeLorean is an impossibility. Fortunately, the author doesn’t try. Rather, he fills the pages with photos, documents, correspondence and JZD’s hand written notes (many published for the first time) with commentary from Barry Will’s, DMC’s first and last employee. Michael entices the reader to put together the pieces of the puzzle – yet some pieces will always be missing – buried with the remains of co-conspirators like Colin Chapman.
I only witnessed two years of this saga, having joined a startup company, Legend Industries, to develop the twin-turbo DeLorean (Chapter 7, p.270), but had followed John’s career from an early age. Like every car guy, I dreamed of starting my own car company. Of course, no one had successfully done this since Walter P. Chrysler, but somehow DeLorean looked like he might pull it off. Knowing that would never happen, the next best thing would be to help someone else fulfill their dream.
A complicated man, John DeLorean was a man of contradictions: charming, conniving; candid, dishonest; narcissistic, self-deprecating; con man, visionary; chock full of ideas both good and ridiculous. One can get glimpses of his character in the many documents, yet the whole story will forever be incomplete.
I cannot help but interject some of my own personal knowledge here. Credited as a “brilliant” engineer, he was ranked at the bottom of his class at the Chrysler Institute, with performance reviews that foretold some of his character flaws. One wonders if his accomplishments at GM were of his own doing, or his underlings, like Bill Collins.
After joining Legend, I was warned by an individual very close to the top of the GM hierarchy to “be careful,” yet the story of his indiscretions remained sealed within the walls of GM. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that John “quit” GM, I believe he was asked to leave. Yet John, was a strong leader who got thousands to believe, execute and implement his ideas. The sales performance of Pontiac and Chevrolet under John DeLorean’s direction has never been equaled.
This author of the “Inside” is an unabashed DeLorean enthusiast … but he does not try to influence the reader, letting the documents speak for themselves. I’m tempted to read the book again, to further examine the many clues and surprises hidden in the documents but will try to resist.
For DeLorean enthusiasts and historians, desperate to piece together the “whole” story, it is an invaluable resource. Be forewarned, however, you may be entering a rabbit hole from which you may never escape. John DeLorean was a tragically flawed man, but the true tragedy was for the thousands of people who worked to make John’s vision a reality, only to have their dreams become a nightmare.”
-Chris P. Theodore, May 2021
Chris P. Theodore - An engineering student at the University of Michigan, Chris’ love of all things automotive lead to spending over four decades in the industry, from specialty makers: Cars & Concepts, ASC, Saleen and Legend Industries, to Director at AMC, Engineering Vice President at Chrysler and VP of Product Development at Ford.
Significant cars developed during his career include the 2005 Ford GT and Mustang, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Plymouth Prowler and Chrysler Minivan. Concept cars at Ford included the Forty-Nine, 427, Model U, Bronco, Shelby Cobra Concept and Shelby GR1 among many others.
Theodore is currently President of Theodore & Associates. He participates as a guest judge for Motor Trend Car of the Year, Amelia Island and Concours d’Elegance of America. Theodore also maintains an eclectic collection of cars, from a 1959 Nash Metropolitan to the 2004 Shelby Cobra Concept (code named “Daisy”).
By the way, if Mister Theodore’s name sounds familiar … among a number of other things listed here he’s the author of a very cool book that we reviewed here a little while back, “The Last Shelby Cobra”. If you’ve not read that one, it’s a great ride with Chris, Carroll Shelby and the final iteration of the vaunted Shelby Cobra.
About The Author
Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.