Stainless luster: Texas company preserves the DeLorean dream
Angie’s List Classic Cars member Matthew Kreiss of Kempton, Penn., was in high school when he first set eyes on what would become his dream car for decades to come: a showroom-new 1982 DeLorean DMC-12. John DeLorean’s wholly original take on the American automobile had debuted just a year earlier. “I loved the look and style of it,” Kreiss says. “I promised myself I would buy that car someday.”
With unpainted stainless steel body panels, gullwing doors and an unmistakably angular body, the rear-engined DMC-12 is almost impossible not to notice. “When I first saw it in 1982, I thought it was really just a neat-looking car,” says Richard Strecker, an Angie’s List Classic Cars member in Loveland, Ohio. But, he says, with a price tag of more than $25,000 for most new DMC-12s at the time, the car was beyond his means.
But, even despite DeLorean Motor Company’s short-lived production of the DMC-12 brought on by the manufacturer's folding in 1982, both men held onto their dreams. Strecker eventually found and purchased his 1982 DeLorean from a local used-car dealership in 1991. Kreiss collected DMC memorabilia in the intervening decades and eventually purchased his dream car 23 years later, also an ’82, in 2005.
An instant classic
With two years of production and a total of more than 9,000 DMC-12s built, it’d be easy to assume that parts and service for such a unique vehicle would be hard to find. But the assumption would be wrong, Kreiss says. “My car had 112,000 miles on it when I bought it,” he says. “But that didn’t bother me because it was a comfort and convenience knowing there was a major company in Texas that had the parts supply to keep it running.”
That company, entrepreneur Steven Wynne’s DeLorean Motor Company in Humble, Texas, is one reason that more than 7,500 DMC-12’s are estimated to still be in existence today and the majority still driven on a regular basis, says DMC vice president James Espey. After purchasing almost the entire factory’s inventory of original DeLorean parts in 1995, Wynne established his company with the goal of keeping DMCs and their owners on the road.
More than adequate supply
A lack of parts inventory is one headache DeLorean owners don’t have to worry about, according to Espey. The company's large inventory of DeLorean-specific parts is enough to keep vehicle owners supplied for decades to come, he says. Besides the huge volume of unique DeLorean parts left over from short production period, John DeLorean designed the uncommon DMC-12 with common parts in mind.
“The front brakes are Ford, the rear brakes are Jaguar, and it uses the same engine you’ll find in Peugots, Renaults and Volvos,” Espey says. “[John] DeLorean wanted it so that anything you see or touch must be unique to the car, but for everything else – the engine, the transmission, the brakes – he told his guys to get the best product at the best price.”
Kreiss says that those common parts make for an easy ownership experience. “It has just a regular engine with nothing fancy about it,” he says. “You can take the car to any shop and it will cost you no more to fix than it would a Ford or a Chevy – it’s not like owning a Ferrari – it’s an exotic car that’s easy to maintain.”
Some parts, such as the driver’s side doors, are relatively difficult to replace, as the original stamping dies for those and other characteristic stainless steel panels were never recovered from the original factory in Ireland. Other parts, such as a notoriously defective original radiator cooling hose, can be swapped with other parts from other car makes of the same era, or they can be completely re-engineered and reproduced using the blueprints acquired from the original DeLorean Motor Company.
Building from the ground up
And for DeLorean enthusiasts who want someone else to do the work, the modern DeLorean Motor Company offers a full range of services. From its Humble, Texas headquarters, the new DMC offers DeLorean owners regular maintenance service, complete restoration work and even the chance to buy a “brand-new” DeLorean.
Starting with a donor DMC-12 frame and a small number of donor parts, DMC’s restoration specialists pick more than 2,500 factory-original unused parts from their inventory and combine them to construct an almost completely brand-new vehicle. “It takes about six weeks to build it from the ground up, and we’ll add all the modern conveniences like stereos, GPS and iPod adapters,” Espey says.
Customers can also choose from an array of enhancements such as upgraded suspension systems and Stage-II engine modifications to improve upon the performance of the DMC-12's stock 130-hp engine. Priced at more than $57,000, Espey says DeLorean Motor Company’s Texas headquarters churns out about 12 to 15 “new” DMC-12s each year and that the reservation list averages a 6-month or more wait.
The modern DMC also has several franchise locations that offer a full range of services in Florida, Illinois, Washington and California, so a DeLorean owner is never more than a day or two away from a qualified shop, Espey says. The company even has a branch in the Netherlands to cater to European DeLorean enthusiasts. The company's franchises and its headquarters also offer restored and customer-consigned vintage DMC-12s for purchase.
Both Strecker and Kreiss say the DMC-12 is a unique vehicle that takes a special kind of owner to appreciate. “It’s not a perfect car, but to love a car of that type you’re going to love it for its faults and what’s good about it,” Kreiss says. Strecker adds that despite his passion for his DMC-12 originating before the car’s starring role in 1985’s Back to the Future, ownership comes with certain responsibilities. “You do get a lot of people who ask where the flux capacitor is,” he says.
Editor's Note: Interested in touring the DeLorean Motor Company facility or learning more about technical resources for DeLorean owners? Check out DMC's Open House October 14-16, 2011.