The former American car maker John DeLorean has died aged 80.
Car maker John DeLorean has died at the age of 80
DeLorean, whose car company at Dunmurry near Belfast collapsed in 1982, died in New Jersey on Saturday of complications after a recent stroke.
The government had backed his factory with £80m of public money, in the hope that it would create 2,000 jobs.
He was acquitted of conspiring to sell over £12.5m of cocaine to save the firm in Los Angeles in 1982 but died still wanted on fraud charges in the UK.
DeLorean, whose namesake car was turned into a time machine in the Back to the Future films, had been a rising executive at General Motors before starting his own company.
Manufacture of the DeLorean DMC-12 car began at the Dunmurry plant in 1981, with fewer than 9,000 cars rolling off the production lines before its closure in 1982.
Despite the firm's failure the car, with its unpainted stainless steel skin and gull-wing doors, gained a cult following.
BBC Northern Ireland's business editor James Kerr said DeLorean was a "talented maverick".
"The problem was he did not have the money to back his big idea for a very different type of sports car," he said.
"The car was launched in the midst of a recession. The market collapsed as did the company when the government refused to bail him out.
"This happened at the same time as an arrest for drug dealing and fraud and although there was no conviction the financial scandal of his company's collapse dogged the rest of DeLorean's life."
In 1999 he was declared bankrupt.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, permanent secretary at the Department of Commerce in Northern Ireland when the company closed, said DeLorean was an extraordinary individual.
"On the one hand, he was a very striking, charismatic, like a motor industry executive acted by somebody in Hollywood," he said.
"If he wanted to, he could turn on the charm offensive, but at other times he could be very abrasive and unpleasant."
Dick Mulholland, a former worker at DeLorean's factory in Dunmurry, said he inspired the workforce when he first brought the company to the province.
"He was a guy who brought a dream, we all lived that dream, we all felt part of that dream, it was our dream," he said.
"But when you found out what had really gone on, you had to say to yourself that a lot of the blame (for the company's failure) must lie with John DeLorean."