Gold Cars
"This just in, sir… do we have Prince Albert in a can?"

What more is there to say about the Gold cars that you haven't already read a jillion times? Well, a few things. Like the never-before-published Telex print outs below. But wait. Let's go off on a tangent about Telex itself, because it was important in DMC history as well as this particular story.

Before email, before fax, there was the telex. And it was a mechanical machine. Corey Sandler of Creative Computing wrote in 1985,

"Remember Telex? Sure you do—it was that clanky, cranky old teletype machine in the shipping department that would rumble to life every once in a while and laboriously churn out a few pages of orders from Knockemstiff (Ohio), Bustard Head (Australia), Flin Flon (Manitoba), or other such outposts of civilization. Truth was you could grow a beard watching a Telex machine as it pecked its capital letters at 50 baud, a rate that can be pleasing only to a certified dyslexic. That's not a typographical error: 50 baud, as in one twenty-fourth the speed of your basic 1200 baud modem or one forty-eighth as fast as the 2400 baud models currently filling the shelves. That's 50 baud, as in about 2 minutes to print this column up to this point."

A poster on "The Straight Dope" Message board reminisced, "The network is a switched network just like the telephone: you have a physical pair of wires that go from your terminal to a central switching office. To send a message you dial (type, whatever) the number of the receiver. You can get a busy signal, no response etc. When the receiver responds you send your message. You can type it but most terminals had a way of typing off-line and keeping the message in a 'memory'in the form of a punched paper tape. Once connected you can run the paper tape to send the message. Communication was billed by time connected, just like the telephone, so you would want to keep it brief." Which is to say that if you had a Telex to send, you probably walked through the office slowly like a pimp and let everyone know about it.

(One might expect that Telex died after the advent of "cheap" $5,000 fax machines, but you'd be wrong, as it remained useful for stock traders and commercial maritime shipping for some time afterwards.)

The larger point is that Telex was essential, but slow, expensive, and not fool proof and miscommunications weren't uncommon. I have a point that ties in later. Anyway, back to the Gold Deloreans.

Probably the first thing that most people don't realize about the Gold Deloreans is that they were advertised in the American Express Catalogue… in 1979. So, people that plunked down a $10,000 deposit fully expected to be enjoying their Gold Deloreans in the summer of 1980 at the latest. Roger Mize (owner of the Gold Delorean that was in the bank in Texas,) wrote in Delorean World magazine in Fall of 1985 that he was "…expecting arrival in about six months, however, it was eighteen months later that it was finally delivered." Therefore, the following should be of no surprise:


Four deposits? What happened to two of them, then? They likely got tired of waiting. Maybe 18 months after ordering a car coated in Gold you come down off whatever you were smoking and in the cold, sober morning you realize that it might not be too good of an idea to spend nearly $100K on a car that might not even ever make it into production, yes? You certainly had to have faith that you would get your car before the operation went belly up. Lots of faith.

By September of 1981, personnel was working fast and furious to make it happen, and details were being finalized.


The Telexs started flying.


And here we see that Telex Communications were not properly received or interpreted.


It appears that they started having a cow over the miscommunication and the impossible delivery date.


At this point it would have been quite the kick in the golden nuggets if one of the two buyers cancelled after all, and perhaps Mr. Mize was beginning to have his doubts, as his car is assigned "priority" status.


Several sit-rep telex communications were necessary to keep on top of all the difficulties that were encountered.


Meanwhile, amid all these logistical and production nightmares, there is the little subject of insurance. One can just imagine anything going wrong in transit, and the need to insure against any mishaps, big or small. Another drain on valuable time and resources, coming up!


Have you seen the pictures of the damaged Deloreans when they weren't lashed properly onboard the conveyance bringing them to the US? The insurer had paid on those vehicles before and wasn't about to do it on THESE things.


Notice that Mr. Derrick Harpour of Toplis and Harding is understood as "Harpour of Topless & Harding" in the next Telex. Tee Hee.


At least they got Pam Wilcox's name correct this time. Before they referred to her as "Paula." Pam Wilcox, by the way, left behind a TON of pretty business cards with her name on them, which are still being traded in the community today. You can see one on Tamir's site.

Finally, the vehicles are consigned:


Nick Sutton mentioned in his book that the cost of the Gold Deloreans (raw materials) was $37,000 for construction of the vat, $15,000 for plating, and finally. $131,000 for a set of three panels. Delorean World magazine, volume 3, number 3, Fall 1985, printed the letter from American Express which says that Roger Mize was billed $89,250. Factoring in the immense labor, travel, shipping, insurance etc, the math on the whole exercise appears to make it a pretty sizable loss. They are a pretty automotive oddity, but also another distraction and drain of precious resources that would have been better spent, you know, trying to ensure a successful motor company. "Oh, but the publicity!" Whatever, you apologist. All the glory goes once again to the workers who slaved away, and prevailed yet again to make it the near impossible into reality.

Gold cars. Something that could only happen in the good 'ol 1980s!

(Cites for further reading on Telex: Please buy and read Nick Sutton's "The Delorean Story.")

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