Electricity Takes DeLorean Back to the Future

The car that once made news with cocaine busts and jaunts across time is making headlines once again.  Readers with a basic knowledge of automotive history will recall that the DeLorean DMC-12 was the brainchild and swansong of car manufacturing legend John DeLorean, the longtime principal at GM often credited for the Pontiac GTO.  Originally billed as an affordable supercar (the 12 in the model’s name was supposed to represent a sticker price of $12,000, roughly half of what the car went on to actually sell for), the DMC-12 was sideswiped by numerous performance and build issues, and DeLorean himself was eventually charged and acquitted of trafficking cocaine in an attempt to keep the company fiscally solvent.  The episode gave birth to at least one corny joke that ended with a punchline about “snow tires.”

Most people are eminently more familiar with the DeLorean from its cultural rescue by Steven Spielberg, who in 1985 cast the model as the sleek time machine depicted in his Back to the Future trilogy.  Regardless of repute, the legend of the DeLorean took a fresh turn last Friday when the Texas-based DeLorean Motor Company unveiled a new all-electric version of the DMC-12.  Formed in 1995, the new DeLorean company has no relation to the original one, but did purchase the parts stock and rights to the name and logo.  Until now, the company’s core business has consisted of selling, servicing, and restoring what remains of the roughly 8,500 original examples of the car that were produced between 1981 and 1982.

In partnership with Epic EV, a company formed by onetime Aptera founder Chris Anthony, the DeLorean Motor Company is now retrofitting original DMC-12s with 260-horsepower electric motors, and remodeling the driver’s interface to include a modern transmission selector and frills like an iPod dock.  As reported by Reuters, the car will have a range of 70 to 100 miles and will retail between $90,000 and $100,000.  While early critics have wondered whether an electric drivetrain will offer enough power to transform the notoriously heavy DeLorean into a zippy sports car, the new motor could hardly be worse than the car’s original engine.  That unit, a Renault-built V-6, developed a paltry 132 horsepower and provided tepid 0-60 acceleration times of around 10 seconds, a disappointing performance metric that contributed to the car’s underwhelming sales.

Considering Spielberg’s renowned fictional transformation of the DMC-12 into a car of the future, there’s no small irony in the actual metamorphosis of the model into one that offers real-life cutting edge technologies.  But fans who must have the genuine time-traveling article should take note of a serendipitous development in Southern California.  This December, the Calabasas-based auction company Profiles in History, which specializes in Hollywood memorabilia, will auction off one of the original DeLoreans used in the films.  Primarily featured in Back to the Future Part III, this example is one of only three survivors of the original seven picture cars that were modified for use in the films.  Promotionally displayed at last summer’s Comic-Con convention, the Old West DeLorean has been in a private collection for the last eight years.  Part of the proceeds from the car’s sale will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which funds research for potential cures and treatments for Parkinson’s disease.