When something is autographed by the person whose name it bears, it often makes that item quite valuable. In Ken Knowlton’s case, it made his quite rare.
For 12 years now Ken has owned a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 and is a top notch maven of the car. He belongs to the Ohio DeLorean Owners Association and attends the national organizations gatherings whenever possible. For him it’s a great way to spend time with others who share his passion.
“There were 218 Deloreans in Gatlinburg last year,” he said of the national organization’s affair.
Ken is the third person to own this particular DeLorean. “The third owner is always the happy owner,” said Ken. “The first guy buys it and lets it sit in a garage. He doesn’t run it because he thinks it’s going to be more valuable.” As we all know, when a car doesn’t run all sorts of bad things happen. Fluids get gummy, belts and hoses deteriorate, and a whole host of other problems that will cause the car to not run.
So, according to Ken, the first owner realizes the car is a mess and decides to sell it. Along comes the second owner who thinks he can fix everything but soon realizes that he can’t. That’s when a person like Ken steps in and becomes the third owner.
“The third owner knows what’s happened to the car and how to fix it,” he said. That was Ken with this DeLorean. In fact Ken and his father took on the task of getting this car back into mint condition.
“I couldn’t drive it reliably for a year,” he said of the task of getting the DeLorean back on the street. Now, according to Ken, the car runs great.
“This car is made for country roads,” said Ken. “It likes the twisty turns. It’s almost as wide as it is tall so it hugs the road.”
Ken mostly drives his DeLorean to car events. “Car shows love to have you come,” he said. “Lots of folks always come by and talk and take pictures.”
The notoriety of the car, with its distinctive design qualities, it’s somewhat sordid history and also the fact that it was a “star” in all three of the Back to the Future movies, always attracts a lot of attention.
“The worst thing about it is that it takes about a half hour for me to get gas. I have to stand there and answer all the question from everyone who comes over to look at it,” said Ken with a smile, admitting that unless he’s in a hurry he doesn’t mind this at all.
He doesn’t drive the car in winter. The paneled brush stainless steel body can be prone to rust. And these panels cannot be repaired, just replaced.
Ken’s DMC-12 is all original DeLorean, including the alternator. According to Ken, the most difficult part he had to find was a 75 cent fuel filter. He found some but the person who owned them didn’t sell parts, only traded. Ultimately, Ken admitted that he had to purchase an ignition to swap for the needed parts. The 75 cent fuel filter ended up costing him about $170.
Ken said that he only goes to about four car shows a year and also the regional and national DeLorean events. It was at one of these events where he met an aging John DeLorean and asked the former auto exec if he would be kind enough to sign his car. DeLorean did, in the glove box. Ken added that afterwards DeLorean’s assistant came up to Ken and told him that the man had never before signed one of his namesake cars.
While John DeLorean went on to sign a number of other DMC-12s before he passed away, Ken’s was the first.