One man. One dream. A whole lot of stainless steel and an untimely end to a passion project.
The DeLorean and its story are unmistakable.
Thirty-four years after the original company’s bankruptcy, the new incarnation of the automaker headquartered in Humble, Texas, has made a promise. Come May 2017, you can buy a brand new, never-driven DeLorean crafted from a mixture of new-old stock parts (from the original inventory) and refabricated components, some of which have even been created using cutting-edge 3D printing.
First, some history. James Espey, current vice president of the new DeLorean Motor Company recounts the story of the company’s original founder in the documentary DeLorean: The Man, The Car, The People (also below). John Z. DeLorean’s first foray into the automotive industry was with now-defunct Packard, who were already on the downturn. Espey notes that DeLorean was able to use this to his advantage. He worked his way up after a handful of years and left his position as head of research and development for Pontiac, where he helped spearhead the GTO, remarked as one of the most successful muscle cars of the 1960s. Then it was off to Chevrolet and finally General Motors corporate.
At GM, DeLorean rose to one of the vice presidents of North America, soon reaching one step below the presidency. He decided the company wasn’t for him and split off to form his own firm. By 1974, John Z. DeLorean had incorporated his namesake company and was renowned as an automotive maverick, thanks to his GTO fame and overall charisma.
DeLorean’s passion project had set sail. Design by the famed Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italy, an efficient (albeit underpowered) engine from Peugeot-Renault-Volvo that included state-of-the-art electronic fuel injection. Consulting and a manufacturing process from defense contractor Northrop Grumman ensured that the gull-wing doors opened with ease. The innovative car drew interest from experts all across the nation, and the factory to produce the DeLorean DMC-12 employed a great number of Northern Irish citizens, amidst an unemployment crisis and armed conflict that included hunger strikes and the IRA. Despite these obstacles, Barrie Wills recounts in Carfection’s recent documentary that the car, from ideation to final assembly, was crafted in 28 months, a record that has yet to be broken.
Unfortunately, DeLorean’s dream was short-lived. The car drew investors and the aforementioned know-how, yet DeLorean was always chasing additional funding to get his company off the ground. Once the cars started arriving in the U.S., they were plagued with quality control issues, a dead cold winter in 1981, and the discouraging economic recession of the early 1980s. No one was buying cars, period.
It was a government sting operation that spelled the end for John Z. DeLorean. He was later acquitted on grounds of entrapment, yet the damage was done. With no more funding in the pipeline and lackluster sales, the company laid off factory workers by the thousands and the company went into liquidation, just as the quality issues were beginning to be remedied and the staff were finding their footing. However, this may be partially a misconception, as John DeLorean himself said in a 1988 interview.
“… all of a sudden we found a very hostile attitude on the part of the Thatcher government towards our company… consequently they elected to close us. When they closed us, our company was making over $4 million a month and actually had two and a half years of firm orders on the books. So I think the biggest misconception is that somehow our company failed; it didn’t fail, we were closed by the British government.”
Fast-forward to late August 2016, when in just 100 days’ time, a new government ruling will allow the Humble, Texas-based DeLorean Motor Company to produce a series of brand-new replica cars. Part of the holdup has involved the determination of an engine supplier, as the original engines (of which there are still a significant supply) no longer meet current emissions standards.
The company’s blog reports that they have narrowed down the engine candidates to two choices, both from major manufacturers which cannot be divulged at this time due to nondisclosure agreements. Nevertheless, DMC continues in the blog post that the new DeLorean will be powered by an engine with at least double the horsepower and nearly twice the torque, with an additional 100 lb/ft. This would make the numbers 260+ hp and 253 lb/ft of torque (up from 130 hp and 153 lb/ft respectively).
A new and improved DeLorean, ready for release in under a year’s time. The dream of many, including this writer, is closer than ever to being fulfilled. The car that sparked the imagination and ingenuity of so many is still alive and well in the 2010s.
WATCH BELOW: DeLorean: The Man, The Car, The People – Carfection
[Photo by iStock]