One of the virtues of the original DeLorean is that its stainless steel body doesn’t rust. That’s not to say time doesn’t take its toll on the car. Like any car left outside or stashed away in a barn, a DeLorean will require restoration work. But unlike other vehicles, the stainless steel sportscar provides a set of unique challenges.
In this video on the LegitStreetCars’ YouTube channel, we see a 1981 DeLorean undergo a complete exterior restoration. After sitting neglected for 32 years, it was purchased by Alex, the owner of LegitStreetCars, and is slowly being brought back to life. It didn’t look too bad after an initial wash, which restored some of the stainless steel’s luster. But there were a lot of things under the surface that needed attention.
The first step was to refinish the stainless steel, including straightening out a crease in one of the body panels and fixing several dents. The metal alloy is remarkably resilient and highly resistant to corrosion, retaining its shine even if it sits outside for years. Next, the stainless steel surface was scoured and re-grained to look like new.
The other restoration work and reassembly took up the bulk of the time. The front and rear bumpers were removed and refinished. The original 14-inch wheels were cleaned and powder-coated. Parts like headlight buckets and the lower radiator grille were sanded and repainted. New old stock hardware and trim were tracked down and prepped for reassembly.
However, refinishing and repainting the parts proved easier than putting things back together. Alex ran into a host of issues dissembling the car, including broken fasteners, missing bolts, frayed wiring, and damaged trim. Additionally, DeLoreans are not known for their fit and finish, so panel gaps are the norm. It takes Alex several attempts to get the front and rear bumpers to line up with minimal gaps.
Next, it’s on to trim, replacing broken or missing pieces, and applying new decals. Frayed wiring and damaged light sockets are replaced. Everything is aligned and reassembled before Alex applies a ceramic coating to the stainless steel.
The final result is a spectacular transformation. Even though it doesn’t run, the stainless steel sports car looks brand new. In total, Alex spent about 120 hours cleaning, refinishing, and reinstalling the DeLorean’s parts. It’s a significant effort, but one that makes the car look like it went back in time.