Dick Brown, who died in January at age 81, and for whom a memorial service was held last week in California, was a key figure in Mazda's emergence in the U.S.
But his most adventurous days may have been spent as a top lieutenant of John DeLorean during the former General Motors executive's star-crossed effort to get the DeLorean Motor Co. up and running.
Brown told author Hillel Levin that when he joined DeLorean's fledgling outfit in 1975, "I took it for granted that he knew what he was talking about. John was supposed to be an excellent engineer who could get a car from the drawing board to the highway. ... We felt he had the horsepower to get things done."
But as Levin wrote in his 1983 book Grand Delusions, Brown learned early on that the charismatic DeLorean did not play things straight.
"John used to tell me that my problem was trying to be purer than the driven snow," Brown said. "He'd say, 'Real successful people have had to cut corners and manipulate. That's the way things get done.'"
Despite the admonition, Brown stuck with DeLorean Motor until 1982, by which time the company was crumbling and DeLorean had been arrested on charges of drug trafficking in an effort to keep DeLorean Motor financially solvent. He was found not guilty after successfully arguing that he was entrapped.
Not only did Brown set up DeLorean's dealership network, he became DeLorean's troubleshooter. When the manager at the company's assembly plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, quit in a dispute with John DeLorean in the summer of 1978, Brown, who was in town to sign a funding agreement with Northern Ireland authorities, was taken aside by his boss.
"He put his arm around my shoulder and told me he had no one around who knew about launching the company. He asked if I could stick around in Belfast and help set up the procedures to get the plant going."