Hearing someone talk about the DeLorean always brings a throb to the heart, not just for those who are passionate about cars and the world of four-wheel motors, but also for the fans of one of the most alluring, famous and gripping cinematic sagas of all time, a true cult film of the 1980s: Back to the Future.
Over the last few months the dream car of millions of people, with its gull-wing doors (which were really heavy and equipped with anti-intruder bars, but light to open thanks to an interesting construction solution) and stainless steel body, has been in the limelight again thanks to the official announcement, which came as a shock for the numerous fans of the series directed by Robert Zemeckis, of a return to the market as from 2017.
Before going into the details of this welcome return and understanding how the DeLorean will go back into production, let us go back to its origins.
These go back 41 years ago to when the original dmc-12 model was thought up and designed by the DeLorean Motor Company, a company founded in Detroit thanks to a whimsical but clever engineer with a good previous career in General Motors (at just 42 years old he succeeded in achieving the rank of vice president), a certain John DeLorean.
The history of the iconic dmc-12 DeLorean car from the DeLorean Motor Company, which is the star of the Back to the Future journeys, thus starts in 1975, and it was the Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro who was called upon by the engineer John DeLorean to conceive and develop the shape of a sports car, a coupé model, built entirely from unpainted stainless steel and with a decisive, clean and immediately recognisable profile. The chassis, on the other hand, was entrusted to Colin Chapman’s Lotus team.
1981 saw the market début of the DeLorean dmc-12. Thanks to the popularity and charisma of its creator of the same name, its impact was enormous.
The American company had no experience whatever of producing cars, its own brand was almost unknown, and so it decided not to over-extend itself, introducing onto the market, between 1981 and 1983, only 8,583 vehicles. Europe had its part to play in this story, given that John DeLorean decided to open a manufacturing facility in Dumburry, in Northern Ireland, thanks to subsidies from the English Government which was looking to return the area to peace, at a time when it was plunged into civil war, by guaranteeing jobs to a large number of workers (over 3,000).
The head office was kept in America, to where the cars were transported by sea. Initially, all DeLorean models, as soon as they were completed, were sold only in the United States of America, but in due course, in an attempt to offset a quasi-moribund US market, John DeLorean decided to expand sales into the Old Continent too.
A little technical data
The DeLorean dmc-12 appeared as a car which was easy to drive, conceived for the well-off, extremely comfortable with spacious interiors and leather seats, quiet and safe by the standards of the time. The specifications of the DeLorean dmc-12 seemed, at first sight, to be persuasive, given that the American company announced a maximum speed in excess of 200 km/h. In reality, things were very different, since the 140 HP of the PRV V6 engine (a 6-cylinder 3,000 cc Peugeot-Renault-Volvo engine derived from the Volvo B28F engine, equipped with a Bosch K-Jetronic injection system and modified to be mounted the other way round, with the cylinder block and cylinder heads in light alloy and a single camshaft for each cylinder head) managed barely 170 km/h with an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.5 seconds. When new, the PRV V6 could conjure up 95 kW (130 HP) at 5,500 rpm and 208 Nm of torque at 2,750 rpm. The indicated fuel consumption was 8 km/litre and, as if that were not enough, in order to speed up its launch onto the market, the DMC was not as thoroughly tested as it should have been by Delorean, with the result that it proved either mechanically unreliable or of poor build quality.
It is also true that over time the DeLorean was improved. While the early models suffered from an assembly which lacked total precision – the doors did not close perfectly flush with the rest of the bodywork, many of the panels were not neatly aligned with each other and the bumpers were of differing thickness from one side of the body to the other – the later ones introduced onto the market were all-in-all well-designed, not least because the changes were introduced on an “ad hoc” basis continually throughout the production process, not annually, but each time that John DeLorean considered it appropriate. That is why there are no “annual" DeLorean dmc-12 models in existence, such as might normally be modified and developed from year to year and designated with a monogram or specific name. In fact, for its creator annual models “merely represented a strategy employed by car manufacturers to increase sales”.
Fall and rise
Other disasters independent of the quality of the car itself made the DeLorean’s life difficult: the dire economic crisis which weighed heavily on the well-being of the population of the USA, the strike by the English dock workers and the revaluation of the pound sterling against the US dollar. Not to mention the list price of 25,600 dollars, a good 7,000 dollars more expensive compared with a Chevrolet Corvette, which proved the final nail in the coffin for the future of this car. Notwithstanding the announcements by John DeLorean prior to the launch (a truly characteristic American show), therefore, and his conviction that his car was a real jewel, the DMC was obliged to declare bankruptcy in 1985. The whimsical entrepreneur tried to save his creature right up to the last minute by scraping funds together from a variety of sources, but a false accusation of drug trafficking (he was definitively acquitted of this charge in subsequent years) took his legs from under him and cut short the hopes of a large crowd of fans.
It was precisely in that year, however, and straight after the bankruptcy of its parent company, that the DeLorean dmc-12 rose up like a phoenix from its ashes and took its rightful place as a leading player in the history of the cinema, entering by the back door, the one set aside for cars, given that the director Robert Zemeckis and the screenplay writer Bob Gale had the genial idea of rendering it immortal in the special saga of Back to the Future. For the first episode the production team acquired three vehicles for 50 thousand dollars. Two original models - not replicas - made their appearance in the film, suitably modified, “playing” the famous time machine of the mad scientist Emmet Brown, known as “Doc”. The third DeLorean, on the other hand, served as a source of spare parts for the other two. The scene which guaranteed the DeLorean from Back to the Future a place in the history of the cinema was the one in which the car, driven by the other character from the film, Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox), thanks to a powerful flux capacitor (a neon tube beneath the floor) breaks through the sound barrier at the speed of 88 mph and is projected into the future.
Thanks to the success of the film and the importance of the “role” played by the dmc-12 itself in the saga, the valuations of the cars which had been sold went through the roof and having acquired one during the previous few years became a source of quite a considerable fortune. Crowds of “nerds” replaced managers as buyers of surviving DeLoreans and it is thanks to them that the myth surrounding this particular car model has remained intact over the course of the past 30 years.
It is specifically on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, that the DeLorean Motor Company, a company with the same name but in no way connected to the original, has announced that it wishes to launch, with effect from 2017, a DeLorean dmc-12 “updated” in respect of its electronics, its emissions and its mechanical components (the engine, a naturally aspirated V6, will produce between 300 and 400 horsepower), but otherwise identical in respect of its aesthetic appearance to the car which charmed so many fans during the 1980s and which achieved immortality thanks to the film Back to the Future. All for around 100,000 dollars. Definitely no easy feat.
The DeLorean Motor Company of the “present day”, in actual fact is not entirely unacquainted with the dmc-12. Since 1997, in fact, the year of its appearance in the car world thanks to the businessman Stephen Wynne, it has been dealing with the reconditioning of the around 6,000 DeLoreans still in circulation (in Italy some 30-40 specimens of the model still remain) or those which have been restored and are preciously preserved in the garages of collectors and keen admirers, the financial value of which is currently in the region of, on average, 35 thousand Euros (based on the condition of the vehicle, the valuation ranges between a minimum of 17,500 Euros and a maximum of 52,500 Euros). In reality, the idea of re-launching this iconic car onto the market is not at all a new one, given that as far back as 2008 the DeLorean Motor Company expressed its first intention to try to re-launch production of the DeLorean, but everything ended with nothing finally achieved, largely as a result of legislative and bureaucratic types of problems.
The situation has changed in a positive way thanks to the acquisition by the DeLorean Motor Company of the rights needed to reproduce the spare parts for the dmc-12, and to the approval, in the United States of America, of a new federal law, known as the “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act”, designed to assist small and medium-sized companies in their manufacture of a limited quantity of vehicles intended as replicas of cars originally introduced to the market over 25 years ago. Thanks to these two strings in its own bow, the DeLorean Motor Company has reassured its fans that it is finally in a position to build the vehicle in a limited series of 300 specimens. The thing which is driving the enthusiasm of the fans is that, as well as the above-mentioned new mechanical and electronic parts (satellite navigation system, heated seats, etc.), a large portion of the car will be original, i.e. manufactured with the same parts as the iconic dmc-12 of the 1980s. The DeLorean Motor Company in actual fact has acquired over the preceding years all the remaining vestiges of the workshops of the original company; these are sufficient to assemble 300 specimens of the vehicle.
Over the past few weeks the first advertising spot for the new DeLorean, filmed entirely in a desert, has also been doing the rounds of the various networks. Among the few details which it is possible to report, those which stand out are the automatic gear lever and a speedometer which reveals the maximum speed limit: 85 miles an hour. The lucky few who succeed in procuring one of the 300 updated replicas of the dmc-12 will not be dealing with a sports car like the ones defined as such by today’s standards, but will be in the reckoning (and what a reckoning!) for a true collector’s item, dedicated to a niche of passionate enthusiasts rather than to the general public.
While they wait for the opportunity to get their hands on a “modern” DeLorean dmc-12, those true enthusiasts who are keen to acquire one and to drive one of the vehicles manufactured in the early 1980’s may contact DeLorean Europa, which is able to reassure the buyers of the good quality of the models available to it and which have been perfectly restored, with full support and guarantees. It is also possible to follow up the more tortuous and “painful” path for one’s finances, such as the US on-line market (e-bay, for example), which offers a large number of DeLoreans, often in a poor state of repair, which need to be restored and brought to life again with love and passion. In either case, for those enthusiasts from Italy, it would be advisable to ask for information from someone who has already gained experience in the importation of the famous dmc-12, such as the members of the Club Italiano DeLorean, in relation to current prices for used vehicles and to the trustworthiness of any potential adverts found on the Internet.
Be prepared, then; it is not a dream. The DeLorean will be back in production and we shall soon be seeing it darting through the traffic of our cities.
For all those nostalgic fans it will be a true case of “back to the past”!