After a 34-year hiatus, the DeLorean Motor Company announced it is putting its famous stainless steel gull-winged sports car back into production. Between January 1981 and December 1982, about 9,200 cars were built. The company plans an additional 300 units, beginning in 2017. Want one? Prepare to spend $100,000.
Back To Production
You're not stuck in an episode of The Goldbergs, this is for real. "How," you might ask?
When production ended in 1982, there were enough parts in inventory to produce many more cars. In 1985, entrepreneur Stephen Wynne started a mail order parts business to serve DeLorean owners. A decade later, he aquired the remaining parts inventory, bought the DMC logo, and opened a new DeLorean Motor Company near Houston, Texas to support remaining cars.
And, that's where it would have ended had a new law not entered the books last December. The "Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act" allows small companies to build limited numbers of replica motor vehicles that resemble the appearance of cars produced 25 years ago or more. It was passed so builders of Cobra replicas and similar cars could sell their wares without meeting advanced safety standards.
Automakers must, however, meet the Clean Air Act requirements for emissions. No problem; the new DeLoreans will come with modern 400 horsepower engines -- a vast improvement over the originals.
Driving The Future
Ever wonder what it's like to drive a DeLorean? I know -- because my best writing buddy in Dallas owns one. I jokingly call his car "The Oven," but it's as cool as you imagine. Contrary to its exotic design, it's not fast, struggling to reach 88 miles-per-hour with any sense of urgency. The Peugeot Renault Volvo (PRV) rear-mounted V6 was put in the right place, but with just 130 horsepower, it barely made it from 0-60 mph in 10 seconds -- slow even by 1980s standards. The suspension is compliant over rough pavement, but plants the low-slung car on curvy roads.
Once inside, DeLoreans are delightful. It's a little hard to see out the back, but leather seats are comfy and the air-conditing keeps the car chilled even during hot Dallas summers. It's not possible to roll the full windows down because of the door design, so little windowlets retract for drive-through windows and tollbooths. There's nothing like parking at Starbucks for an evening coffee, popping the doors, and watching the aghast on people's faces. They've seen a ghost.
Making A Movie Star
John DeLorean, the former GM executive credited for creating the Pontiac GTO, is most famous for the sports car that made a movie out of Back to the Future. He went all out for his rear-engine car, tapping Italdesign's Giorgetto Giugiaro for the body design. Lotus was contracted to engineer the backbone chassis, which was based on the exotic Esprit.
Problems became evident immediately after launch in 1981. Placing an auto plant outside Belfast, Northern Ireland was made possible by funding from the British government, but manufacturing in the middle of a civil war was not so bright. Sluggish sales sent DeLorean scrambling for funding, which is how he ended up in an FBI bust with accusations he was planning to import cocaine. DeLorean got off, but the car was finished.
Like Preston Tucker, DeLorean's dream car was immortalized by Hollywood and has a rabid following. Soon, they'll be able to do something Tucker aficionados never will: Take home a brand new one assembled from original parts. Visit delorean.com for more information.
To learn more about DeLorean, read these books: Dream Maker by Ian Fallon & James Srodes, DELOREAN by Jon Z. DeLorean, and On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors by J. Patrick Wright.