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Great Scott! New DeLorean DMC-12s in 2021

Chris Kaiser

Back to the Future fans rejoice! DeLorean Motor Company is one step closer to bringing us new DeLorean DMC-12s.

Last month, car nerds came one step closer to going back to the future for real. A lawsuit filed by SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association) has finally prevailed on the NHTSA to finalize rules governing the limited scale production of replica collectable/classic cars. Why do we care? Because these rules will allow DeLorean Motor Company to finally make good on their 4+ year pledge to make new DMC-12s.

DeLorean DMC-12 as seen in "Back to the Future" - backtothefuture.com
DeLorean DMC-12 as seen in "Back to the Future" - backtothefuture.com

The DeLorean DMC-12 is both one of the most iconic movie cars of the last 50 years and one of the biggest automotive flops of all time. Its short-lived run in the early 1980s ended abruptly amidst quality, financial, and legal woes. But following its appearance as the Time Machine in Back to the Future, the DeLorean has gained a devoted cult following, with owners networking to buy and trade spare parts or show off their personal modifications.

Setting the Clock Back

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 - carsforsale.com

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 – carsforsale.com  |  Shop DeLorean DMC-12s on Carsforsale.com

But how we get from OG Marty McFly fans to new DMC-12s takes a bit of background, so here goes. For that we have to go back to the dissolution of the original DeLorean Motor Company. When the company folded at the end of 1982, that left a mountain of spare parts and components for all those unbuild DMC-12s to be shipped from Ireland back across the Atlantic to a warehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Enter mechanic Steve Wynne. Already specializing in English and French cars like Lotus, Jaguar, Peugeot, and Renault, the Delorean, with its Renault based powertrain and Lotus development roots, was a natural fit. Plus, the unique styling resonated with Wynne’s iconoclastic tendencies. It didn’t take long for Wynne to become the world’s foremost mechanical authority on the DMC-12. Soon he had the DeLorean repair and restoration business largely to himself.

Over the Long Haul

Remember that warehouse full of spare parts? In the early 1990’s Wynne had bought the IP and trademarks to DeLorean Motor Company. In ’97, he set his sights on that stockpile of parts in Columbus. It took 85 semi-truck loads traveling 1,100 miles to get all that inventory from Ohio to Wynne’s massive restoration facility in Humble, Texas. The past two decades have seen Wynne dedicated to rebuilding and restoring DMC-12s.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 2.8L V6 - carsforsale.com
1981 DeLorean DMC-12 2.8L V6 - carsforsale.com

In 2015, Congress passed the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act which made provisions for limited run manufacturing of replica cars to their original specs i.e. without modern safety requirements like airbags. And while the act allows limited-run manufacturers to build up to 325 cars a year, not a single car has been constructed under the law’s auspices. Why?

DeLorean DMC-12 Concept Art - delorean.com
DeLorean DMC-12 Concept Art - delorean.com

Because the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has yet to review and finalize the rules. The agency hasn’t had an official director since the 2016 election and the “acting” director has … well… failed to act on the matter. But this is where SEMA has stepped in with their lawsuit requesting the agency get to implementing the 2015 law. The threat of litigation seems to have done its trick and the agency has, as of late last month, agreed to finally move forward. (Despite the concessions from the feds, SEMA has asked that their case not be dismissed until the NHTSA has actually finished their review and fully implements the law.)

Time to Charge Up Your Flux Capacitors

Delorean DMC-12 Concept Art - delorean.com
Delorean DMC-12 Concept Art - delorean.com

That should clear the way for Steve Wynne and DeLorean Motor Company to production of updated DMC-12s. Things like new brakes, power steering, interior tech, and modern head lights will give the new DMC-12s a cache all their own. Though the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act allows for up to 325 replicas to be built by any single manufacturer, Wynne said, in an interview with Popular Mechanics, that DeLorean was targeting closer to one to two vehicle per week. They hope to have final approval from the NHTSA within the next six months and to begin production in late 2021.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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