Engineering Is Bringing the DeLorean Back…to the Future!

Inside DMC's low-volume production of essential time travel components.

Great Scott!

(Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

(Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

The DeLorean—one of the most iconic cars in movie history—is going back into production for the first time since 1982.

The DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) has been servicing and restoring DeLorean cars for over 30 years, but now, thanks to a recent change in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) policy, it can start producing them as well.

Low Volume Replica Vehicles

In December 2015, the NHTSA’s Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act was amended to permit small companies to produce a limited number of replica motor vehicles resembling cars produced at least 25 years ago.

The companies are required to register with the NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as file annual production reports. The vehicles must also meet the Clean Air Act (CAA) standards for the model year in which they are produced, which most likely means installing a new engine and emissions equipment.

No word yet on whether those CAA standards will apply to Mr. Fusion.

Going Back in Time with DMC

DMC has five locations in the United States and its headquarters in Houston typically has 35-50 cars in for service or restoration at any given time.

“We’re a big fish in a small pond,” said DMC vice president James Espey. “We have all the leftover DeLorean parts, including a full set of engineering drawings. If you own a DeLorean, you know who we are and we probably know who you are.”

It’s a relatively small company, but DMC expects to add 30-40 new employees over the next year to support its production program. For a virtual tour of DMC’s showroom and warehouse using Google Street View, click here.

DMC headquarters in Humble, Texas.  DMC's headquarters in Humble, Texas (Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

DMC headquarters in Humble, Texas.  (Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

Approximately 90 percent of the DeLorean’s 2,800+ parts are available as new original stock. These come from the original DeLorean factory, US Warranty Parts Center and even from some of DeLorean’s original suppliers. The rest are either OEM or reproduction parts.

“We have a list of about 100-150 holes in our inventory that we’ll have to fill over the next 12 months to do this production,” said Espey. “Our biggest problem is that we have all these 2D drawings on paper and many suppliers don’t know what to do with them.”

“It really gives me an appreciation for the people who did the original engineering work on this car back in the ‘70s. The skill it takes to draw something with complicated curves, like a bumper cover, on paper and then hand it to someone who can make a tool out of it; it’s a lost art-form,” Espey added.

 Thus far, DMC has gotten by without an in-house engineer. However, Espey suggested that this new project could justify hiring someone to convert DMC’s 2D drawings into CAD files. Keep an eye on our jobs board if that sounds appealing to you.

30 Years of Prototyping

The new DeLorean cars will be faithful reproductions of the originals with improved performance, emissions and safety features. That might sound like a contradiction. How can a replica that uses most of the same parts be better than the original?

Espey has an answer: “I tell people that since the factory made 9,000 cars, we’ve had 9,000 prototypes on the road for the last 30 years. We’ve seen everything that can go wrong from use, from lack of use or from abuse. We know the weak areas of the car.”

The power window motors, for example, had a nearly 100 percent failure rate. That’s why one of the first projects in the early ‘80s was engineering new window motors. The same goes for the exterior door handles; the originals were made of plastic and hence not capable of withstanding 30 years of exposure. The new handles are made from cast zinc.

(Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

(Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

The biggest difference between the new replica vehicles and the originals is the engine. DMC is currently in discussion with three (unnamed) major auto manufacturers about the new engine.

“We would prefer a V6,” said Espey. “We’ve been offered a V6 by two of them and the third offered an inline turbo-charged four-cylinder. We really want between 300 and 400 horsepower naturally aspirated out of the V6 and both of the V6 suppliers can do that. The inline four cylinder is about 270 horsepower, which is still double the stock horsepower.”

The replicas will also use larger wheels and tires—and consequently larger brakes—since performance tires for 14- and 15-inch wheels are no longer available. That’s the biggest exterior difference between the replicas and the originals.

Underneath, the replicas will use a similar backbone chassis design though DMC would prefer a double wishbone suspension in the front over the original design, which uses an upper A arm and lower control arm. DMC is also working to replace the epoxy-coated mild steel frame with stainless steel or bonded aluminum.

DeLorean Production Volume and Price

DMC plans to take things slowly, producing roughly one car per month in the first year. After that, production will ramp up over the course of the next six years to one car per week for a total of 300 cars.

I know what you’re thinking:

“One car per month? That’s about as funny as a screen door on a battleship!”

Well Biff, first of all, it’s “screen door on a submarine” and second, the point of this whole endeavor isn’t to bring the DeLorean back into mass production. Instead, what we’re seeing here could be the beginning of a new cottage industry that focuses on low volume production runs of classic car replicas.

How great would it be to see new E-Type Jaguars or ‘65 Mustangs on the roads again?

Of course, the replicas aren’t likely to come cheap. Although the DeLorean’s price hasn’t been finalized, DMC is expecting it to be somewhere in the $80-100,000 range.

There’s still much to be done between now and the day DMC rolls out its first new DeLorean. Unless you have access to a flux capacitor and a vehicle that can hit 88mph, you’ll just have to be patient. That being said, there is something you can do to help out DMC.

 DMC's headquarters in Humble, Texas (Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

(Image courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company.)

“One of the biggest holes in our inventory right now is a replacement left front fender,” said Espey. “If any of your readers think they could offer something that would work for low volume amortized over 500 or 1000 pieces, we would love to hear from them.”

For more information, visit DMC’s website.