A small US company run by an British entrepreneur will start building modern versions of the DeLorean sports car from the hit movie trilogy Back to the Future.
A change in US federal law means that the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) of Humble, Texas, can each year build up to 500 examples of DMC-12, the car made famous by the films, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.
“It’s fantastic. It is a game-changer for us. We’ve been wanting this to happen,” DeLorean CEO Stephen Wynne told US reporters. “That was a green light to go back into production. That was prohibited. It was against the law to do it.”
Wynne said the company will build replica 1982 DeLoreans under a low-volume manufacturing bill approved by the US federal government. Dozens of DeLoreans are at the Humble facility. Some are owned by the company but many are shipped there from around the world to be refurbished.
It’s not the original DeLorean Motor Company – that went into receivership after building around 8500 DMC-12 cars at a plant in Northern Ireland between 1981-83. Nearly all were left-hand drive; some were right-hand drive for the UK market.
The new DMC acquired the original surplus DeLorean parts in 1997 and gained the rights to use the DMC name, logo and trademarks.
It has since been servicing and refurbishing existing DMC-12s. But, thanks to the new law, it expects to start building the new DMC-12s this year, each costing around US$100,000.
Wynne estimates he has enough surplus stock to initially build 300 cars. The new cars will be thoroughly updated, with modern safety aids, electrics and drivetrain, and will retain the classic gull-wing doors and early-1980s styling.
The law was introduced in June last year as the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015.
It calls for America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to “establish a programme allowing low-volume motor vehicle manufacturers to produce a limited number of vehicles annually within a regulatory system that addresses the unique safety and financial issues associated with limited production.”
It also means the many replica carmakers in the US will no longer have to skirt safety laws by selling cars as kits to be built by the buyer. They will now be able to market them as fully built-up.
But the law comes with hard-and-fast federal stipulations. Among them:
- Production is restricted to 500 cars a year
- Each car must be built under licenced rights from the original maker and resemble a car at least 25 years old
- Power has to come from a modern engine built by a mainstream manufacturer that conforms with current emission regulations.
DMC is already speaking to engine suppliers. Its vice-president James Espey has told US reporters that it is talking to an American company and two overseas firms.
The current favourite on the DMC books is a naturally aspirated V6 delivering between 225-300kW. The original DMC-12’s engine was a wheezy 100kW 2.9-litre V6 built in France for use by Peugeot, Renault and Volvo and mated to a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic.