Features/ Special-features/ DMC DeLorean: Back into the Future!

DMC DeLorean: Back into the Future!

An American dream, Hollywood fame, troubled by drugs, the DMC Delorean had every recipe for a superstar. Despite multiple failed attempts, this mid-engine sports car retains a legendary status. In recent events, the DMC DeLorean, or DMC-12, is resurrected with a modern electric powertrain. This marks the "Back to the Future" hero's third or fourth attempt at a comeback. Interestingly, the resurrecting force this time comes from a UK-based company called Electrogenic. The original DeLoreans were built in Dunmurry, Ireland, divided by borders but united by pop culture.

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The Fall and Rise of the Original DeLorean

The original DMC DeLorean was codenamed DMC-12 as a pre-production prototype. This internal code name became unexpectedly popular, even though it wasn't used in sales or marketing for the final production version. The "12" was derived from the promised $12,000 sticker price. The car was the brainchild of John DeLorean, who believed in it so much that he incorporated his own name into both the company (DeLorean Motor Company) and once again on the car itself. John DeLorean was a superstar in the 1960s. He was the 6-foot poster boy behind the attainable poster cars Pontiac GTO and Firebird. His success propelled him to the top of General Motors, becoming the youngest division chief in the company's history.

This newfound position sparked his desire to create his own sports car company. He left GM in 1973 to start DMC. The legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign was involved in designing their first and only car, resulting in one of the raddest cars of the 80s with its distinctive bare stainless steel body panels. The Ireland plant was chosen to address a high unemployment issue in the area and benefit from government subsidies. However, complications during pre-production forced drastic changes, including ditching the rotary engine and a price increase to $25,000 at launch.

John DeLorean specifically considered using a Comotor Wankel engine, a joint development by Citroen and NSU. However, he ultimately went with the underpowered PRV V6 engine we know today due to fuel inefficiency and transmission issues. The engine only produced 130 hp and 207 Nm in the US, with European models having a slightly better 154 hp. Even the 5-speed manual variants could only manage a 0-100 kph sprint in 9.5 seconds, which was even slow for a sports car in that era. In the US, automatics were more popular, and the sluggish 3-speed gearbox further hampered performance. After driving the DeLorean, Chris Harris commented that the handling was more scary than the car's speed, possibly a result of its high kerb weight.

The DeLorean was plagued by quality and reliability issues. Electrical glitches stranded drivers, and the iconic gull-wing doors had fitment problems. (Even in 2024, stainless steel panels are challenging to produce, right Tesla?) A few recalls fixed the initial issues, but owners and fans were already frustrated.

Adding to DeLorean's bad luck, the car's launch coincided with the still-going US oil crisis. While the 1982 model addressed the initial problems, the company was already suffering financially. Production delays and reliance on government loans kept them on shaky ground. A desperate period led John DeLorean to meet with an unknown investor, but he was entrapped in a drug bust. Though later acquitted, the damage was done, and it was the final nail in the coffin for his sports car dream. Dealers wouldn't even take on warranty or service work due to outstanding debts from DMC, making things even harder for existing owners.

1985: A New Cult Following

In 1985, the DMC DeLorean received a new lease on life thanks to the Hollywood movie "Back to the Future." The car became a central character, helping the protagonists travel through time. Its futuristic looks perfectly complemented the movie's retro-future aesthetic. The successful movie trilogy, all starring the DeLorean, might have saved the company if it had come out a few years earlier.

2024 Rebirth

Since 1995, many have tried to capitalise on the missed opportunity presented by the DeLorean's Hollywood fame and give the car another chance. After the original DMC's bankruptcy, a Texas company acquired the rights to the DeLorean name and its leftover inventory. This company services, restores, and supplies spare parts around the world. In the 2000s, they promised to build new DMC DeLorean models but later backed out due to technical difficulties.

Rumours of a new electric vehicle launch persist, with some prototypes spotted sporting the DeLorean name (instead of DMC) and the model name "Alpha 5." However, this hasn't even gone into production yet.

The same company that converted Jason Momoa's 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II to electric is now turning its attention to the DMC DeLorean. Electrogenic has built a drop-in kit for the DeLorean that can be retrofitted regardless of the original transmission (manual or automatic). This promises a fully electric DeLorean with 212 hp and a whopping 3,200 Nm of torque at the wheels. This is a significant bump from the original, for sure, propelling the car from 0 to 100 in under 5 seconds. The brand has also developed a battery pack that fits in place of the fuel tank. Electrogenic claims an electric range of 240 km from the 43 kWh battery pack. The car now features regenerative braking to recover some energy back into the battery. Unfortunately, there are still no flux capacitors or thrusters for time travel.

On the inside, the DeLorean retains its Stewart-Warner gauges, including the iconic speedometer, alongside a small digital screen for battery information. To make the car a worthy daily driver and weekend sports car, Electrogenic offers improved climate control, launch control, ECO mode, Sport mode, and Vehicle to Load (V2L) CCS fast charging. However, like all their conversion kits, the DeLorean kit is neatly hidden and unrecognisable from the exteriors and the updates haven't made the car heavier. The asking price of the conversion kit is 68,60,084 rupees (converted).  

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TopGear Magazine July 2024