Back to the Future…Again

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Apr 04, 2012

Make way for the electric…DeLorean. And under the hood, in place of plutonium stolen from Libyan nationalists, there’s a brace of Flux…batteries. Yes, the DeLorean Motor Company is back from the future, and it’s making cars again. These sleek stainless-steel sportsters with distinctive gull-wing doors may not be able to travel back through time, but they can ring in the future with 100 miles of zero-emission range.

The electric DeLorean: ready to rock and roll next year. (DMC photo)I first checked in on the electric DeLorean when it was a work in progress in San Diego, and it’s great to see that it’s now on its wheels, and will go on exhibit this week at the New York International Auto Show. The cars will be offered for sale, at approximately $90,000, next year. Initial plans are for a run of 300, but they could always build more. Here’s a close up of the plug-in DeLorean being built with Flux Power batteries (yes, that’s the real name) in California:

The reborn DeLorean is a Texas-based company, and it purchased the remaining assets of the first incarnation, which went bankrupt in 1982. Not surprisingly, there were still enough parts lying around to build more cars and rebuild existing ones, despite the body dies allegedly being dumped in Galway Bay.

The busy DeLorean works in Texas. Northern Ireland is a dim memory. (DMC photo)Not many people bought the DMC-12 during its brief heyday, and the factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland was plagued by labor problems and other unrest—even the opening ceremony in 1981 attracted Irish Republican Army protesters. Some 143 Molotov cocktails were thrown over the fence, burning all the company’s paperwork. “I can say that going to Northern Ireland was a mistake,” DeLorean said, but the executive who’d introduced the “wide-track” Pontiacs and promised to build an “ethical car” had lost credibility by then. The nail in the coffin of his once-bright reputation was an October 1982 drug enforcement agency bust for dealing cocaine (he was later acquitted and is no longer with us). Here’s a period DeLorean ad, for nostalgia’s sake:

The car, even with a very colorful story, would probably be dimly remembered today if it hadn’t starred as Doc Brown’s time machine (powered by flux capacitors) in three mega-hit Back to the Future films. If you remember, it became unstuck in time when the speedometer reached 88.

The DeLorean was under-developed in its day, and the cars were so poorly built that the company had to establish “correction centers” on both U.S. coasts to fix them before delivery was possible. So the DeLorean revival holds the intriguing possibility that the car—an undoubtedly inspired design from Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design—could finally reach its potential.

Stephen Wynne (this one’s British and no relative of the Vegas casino magnate) set up his version of DMC in 1995 and, wisely, kept it well away from Northern Ireland. Instead it’s in Houston, Texas, with dealerships in Florida, California, Illinois, Washington State and the Netherlands. There are 7,500 DeLoreans still on the road, and the new DMC supports them.

Liverpool-born Stephen Wynne is now Mr. DeLorean…in Texas. (DMC photo)You can’t buy a new gas-powered DeLorean, built from a combination of old stock parts and a new and improved stainless steel chassis, just yet, but the company says it will soon roll out that option. Where the old cars offered cassette players, the new ones will have satellite radios, iPod plugs, Bluetooth connections and satellite navigation. “We’ve added a more modern interface,” says Wynne, who’s a green car enthusiast—and he doesn’t mean hybrids. “Full EV is the way to go.”

Charging the DeLorean should take about five hours, but it’s a work in progress. ( photo)Chris Anthony is not only the CEO of DMC battery supplier Flux Power and the related Epic EV, he also does the packs for the cheerful Wheego LiFe and was one of the founders of ill-fated electric car startup Aptera. The latter planned to launch a lightweight three-wheel car called the 2e, but the plans fell apart when government funding wasn’t forthcoming. But some Aptera tech lives on in the DeLorean, in the form of the composite foam core underbody tubs that replace the DeLorean’s original design. Anthony originally developed the technology for lightweight wake-boarding boats, another venture for this serial entrepreneur.

Epic plans to offer not only its hybrid wake-boarding boat, but also an epically fast electric three-wheeled roadster called the Torq (I drove that one, and with a four second zero-to-60 time it is a Tesla Roadster-like experience) and an off-road electric ATV that could be ready for the Baja 1000.

“We reduced the weight by 50 percent and increased the strength six to eight times,” Anthony said. The completed electric car, with a 36-kilowatt-hour battery pack, weighs in around 3,000 pounds, or just 300 more than the gas version.

A classic 1980s DeLorean, showing the up-swinging gull-wing doors. (DMC photo)I can’t wait to see the electric DeLorean in the shiny metal. It should look right at home at the auto show, because gull-wing doors are back, including for other EVs. Modified versions are on the forthcoming Tesla Model X, and on the new Mercedes SLS AMG. The whole idea was introduced on the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, so it’s Back to the Future indeed.

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