As a DeLorean owner (www.DMC10515.com) and someone who does a DeLorean audio show (www.DeLoreanTalk.com) I feel pretty confident in saying – “no.”
In my short few years of DeLorean ownership (plus the fact that I’ve got a big mouth and love talking to a lot of people,) I would say that a large majority of DeLorean owners bought their cars BECAUSE of seeing it / learning about it from Back to the Future. And as someone who drives #10515 a fair amount, I can tell you – 95% of everyone that approaches me at gas stations, grocery stores, parking lots, etc., either make a BTTF joke, or ask “Where’s the flux capacitor?” That’s just 5 people out of 100 who start out with a question about John DeLorean, or DMCL, or Ireland.
Another gull-wing-door car that came out a few years before the DeLorean was the Bricklin (www.Bricklin.org). They made around 2,500 Bricklins, which isn’t a large number, but it’s enough to get some attention – yet almost NO ONE knows what a Bricklin is… well, except DeLorean owners. DeLorean made only 9,080 DeLoreans (www.DeLoreanDirectory.com/census), compared to the 1981/82 Corvette, which turned out 66,000+ cars. And thousands of those DeLoreans sat at dealerships and storage yards waiting to be sold after the company closed in 1982.
The difference between the Bricklin and the DeLorean… Back to the Future – which came out on July 3, 1985.
So again, no, without Back to the Future, I believe the DeLorean would be known just slightly more than the Bricklin, even with the sham drug charges against JZD.