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.
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.