Be honest. When’s the last time you saw a DeLorean DMC-12 in the brushed stainless flesh and didn’t immediately imagine using it to travel back to 1955? Like Mark Hamill, the DeLorean has been typecast, and will never live down its role as Robert Zemeckis’ iconic time machine. But now, it may be known for something else, and this, in a way, also comes from the future. For the first time, the official DMC-12 will be electric.
Understanding how this came about may take a little schooling, so read on. In 1976, former GM executive John Z. DeLorean pulled the sheet off of his rear engine prototype, the DMC-12. The “12” stood for the $12,000 it was supposed to have cost, though the list price ended up being more than twice as much. The DMC-12 was produced for just two years, from 1981-1982, and about 9,200 of them rolled off the line before the company went bankrupt.
Why did the DMC fail? It could have been the anemic 135 hp engine that sat past the rear axle, but it probably had more to do with John DeLorean’s suspected drug trafficking fundraiser. Though he was never convicted of the crime, and wriggled his way out of the charges with entrapment loopholes, legal troubles never left him afterward, and the DeLorean Motor Company failed. The remaining acres of DeLorean parts were shipped to Ohio, and the body-stamping dies are now suspected of anchoring some fish nets in Wales.
Then came 1985, and with the help of Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, the DMC-12 was cemented in…wait for it…history. The Back to the Future films featured the gullwing sports car as the basis for Doc Brown’s time machine, and whether it was because the car already appeared to be from the future, or because the flat deck lid had plenty of space for a Flux Capacitor, today you can’t picture Marty McFly without his DeLorean.
But we have a running joke around here that the car was really cast for its slowness. Since the power came from a 2.9 liter V6 built by a bunch of Frenchmen, the DMC-12 only produced 150 hp. Strangled with American emissions garrotes, our version made around 135. This offered a minibus full of crazed Libyans plenty of time to open up their AKs on Doc Brown while Marty built up speed to 88 mph and rocketed back to 1955.
Remember that place in Ohio with all the DeLorean parts? In 1997, Stephen Wynne,
an entrepreneur out of Humble, Texas bought them all. He had recently acquired the “DeLorean Motor Company” name and now used the spare parts to restore old DeLoreans. But that wasn’t all. The new DMC also puts together about 20 “new” DeLoreans every year, albeit with updated engines and a 60 grand asking price.
This weekend Wynne showed up at the International DeLorean Owners Event in Houston, and he had a surprise. It’s called the DMCEV, and it might be the most powerful factory DeLorean ever. It makes about 260 hp and can get to 60 in just 4.9 seconds. But in a move only Doc Brown could have predicted, all that power comes from an electric motor. So yes, there’s plenty of torque.
Originally, the DMC-12 had a weight distribution of 35%/65%, front to rear. Battery placement in the DMCEV has improved on this somewhat, though the system adds about 200 lbs to the car overall. Wynne has people working on that. There’s an iPod dock in the console, and that iconic slatted grille swings away to reveal a charging port, which you’ll need to use every 70-100 miles if you buy one. So it’s far cooler than a Nissan Leaf, and travels almost as far. We’re in.
More details, like price and release date, are still forthcoming. In fact, the DMCEV isn’t even finished yet. But we’re excited nonetheless.
Why? Because the DeLorean might just be the perfect platform for the electric
car. It’s built by a small dedicated firm that’s willing to work slowly and has proven, for more than a decade, that it can. Most of the tooling is already in place, as well, so instead of wasting millions on design, they can put the money into manufacturing, finishing, and the like.
But the best reason the DMC-12 makes a great platform is its potential customer base, all of whom are nerds. (If you’re among them, please take this as a compliment.) If you’re a DeLorean fan, or have ever seen the Back to the Future films, you won’t care that your DMC-12 doesn’t play a V6 exhaust note. In fact, you’ll probably be thrilled that it sounds like it’s buzzing into the future.
Frankly, it might be doing just that.
Images courtesy DeLorean Motor Company