It was one of the most iconic cars of the 1980s – and yet also one of the industry’s biggest flops. Now, 40 years after the original DeLorean DMC-12 made its debut, there are signs that it could be headed for a comeback.
No, the original stainless steel-bodied sports car won’t go back into production – despite a few abortive attempts over the years. Instead, several stylists have been working up all-new designs that remain true to some of the original DMC-12’s key attributes, starting with its distinctive, gull-winged doors.
While they are certain to still require roads where they’re going, and won’t come equipped with the flux capacitor used to allow time travel by the DeLorean in the Back to the Future film trilogy, the news that ItalDesign is getting ready to reveal its concept is creating quite a buzz on social media.
The legendary design house has put out a terse teaser, complete with carefully shadowed images of its new design compared with the original DMC-12. It says it aims to “celebrate an icon of automotive history” with what it calls “a sneak peek of the (near) future.”
ItalDesign would be the perfect place for a new version of the controversial sports car to emerge. One-time GM exec John DeLorean turned to the design house to come up with his much-ballyhooed sports car. Leading the project was Gieorgetto Giugiaro, himself an industry icon, who subsequently left to form his own design house.
The teaser image does retain the familiar gull-wing doors but adopts a more curvaceous shape, overall, than the relatively slab-sided original DMC-12. The shot shows bold shoulders more like that of a modern supercar, and one would have to expect that to be the route a modern DeLorean Motor Co. would have to take.
The original model, which went into production in January 1981, never really lived up to initial expectations. Despite its then-radical design, it was far heavier than originally planned, much of that due to the extensive use of stainless steel. It was powered, or, more appropriately, underpowered, by a 2.9-liter V-6 sourced from Renault. Making a mere 130 horsepower, one might understand why the character Marty McFly only barely hit the 88 mph necessary to travel through time.
Speculation suggests that a modern version of the car would be powered by an all-electric or, at the least hybrid, drivetrain. That would suggest use of a much more modern skateboard platform beneath the body in the teaser.
Of course, who might bring back the DeLorean is another question. The original firm went bankrupt after founder John DeLorean was busted in a scheme to sell cocaine to raise money to keep it going. A subsequent investigation raised plenty of concerns about what happened to all the investors’ money, notably funds provided by the British government to secure production at a plant in Northern Ireland.
All told, barely 9,000 of the cars were produced before the operation folded in 1983, with a base price of around $30,000, a tidy sum for its day.
The complex mess created by DeLorean and his team made it all but impossible to resurrect the company, despite efforts by several hopefuls. That includes a Texas company that acquired not only leftover parts but also the name and logo. This new DeLorean Motor Co. has been trying to relaunch production since 1995. It took until 2016 to settle an assortment of lawsuits with DeLorean family heirs but the startup continues facing challenges.
Until now, perhaps, as the ItalDesign concept may signal, the Texas firm is ready to move forward with an all-new take on the DMC-12, rather than looking to just rebuild the old car. The fact that the DMC logo is apparent on the teaser image would suggest the project is more than just a styling exercise.
But ItalDesign isn’t the only house exploring ideas about what a DeLorean could look like today, it seems. Spanish designer Angel Guerra has released his own take on the subject, as you can see here.
“As a thank you to that 1981 vehicle, as a tribute to the machine that somehow brought me to the professional future I fantasized about as a child, I have decided to honor it with a project done in my spare time,” he said. “I have professionally redesigned the DeLorean adapting it to the automotive world four decades later. This is a thank you to an icon and a movie that marked my childhood. This is also a new DeLorean for my son’s generation.”
For those geeked up by Guerra’s design, be advised that it’s even less likely to go anywhere than what ItalDesign plans to reveal.
“This project is personal and is not commercially related to either the DeLorean Motor Co. brand or the Back to the Future movie,” Guerra added. “This is just a tribute to design.”