Motors

DeLorean Alpha5: Why bother going back to the future?

If the people behind the latest DeLorean reboot were really serious about authenticity, wouldn't they be planning to build the new car in Dunmurry?

The Texas-based company behind the new DeLorean say the car will be an EV with a range of more than 300 miles. The gullwing doors are a nod to the Belfast original.

THERE'S a strong case to be made that the Belfast-built DeLorean DMC-12 is the most recognisable car of the last 50 years, writes William Scholes.

A wedge-shaped sports car with gullwing doors and stainless steel bodywork was always likely to make a lasting impression.

But it was the DeLorean's starring role as a time machine in the Back to the Future trilogy which catapulted it deep into popular culture and the 'most famous car in the world' conversation, along with James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 and Steve McQueen's Ford Mustang from Bullitt (and not forgetting Lightning McQueen, of course...).

That fame followed the infamy of what had gone before. When the first Back to the Future film arrived in cinemas in 1985, the DeLorean Motor Company Ltd had already collapsed.

Eponymous founder, the flamboyant John Zachary DeLorean, had persuaded the British government to subsidise his sports car project, with the promise that it would bring thousands of jobs to Belfast, then gripped by the Troubles.

The DeLorean DMC-12 inspires a cult following, with owners of the Belfast-built cars regularly bringing the cars back to the city. Picture by Justin Kernoghan/PhotopressBelfast.co.uk

The car itself had a complicated gestation and, showbiz bodywork and doors aside, was regarded as slow and underwhelming to drive - not a tremendous start for a car with ambitions to take on the Porsche 911 in the American market.

A reputation for unreliability and a recession in the US further dented the car's prospects, and at the start of 1982 the British government discovered that many of the millions of pounds it had pumped into the project had ended up 'resting' in a Panamanian bank account; the year ended with the company bankrupt and John DeLorean caught in an FBI drugs sting (he was acquitted following a lengthy legal battle).

It's a great story, if nothing else, and now the latest chapter in the DeLorean saga is apparently being written in the shape of this sleek four-seater all-electric sports coupe. I say apparently because, as yet, no-one has seen the real thing.

The DeLorean Alpha5 will run on electric. No word yet on a flux capacitor upgrade, though.

These images are "gallery photos" of the car, created by styling house Italdesign (company founder Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the DMC-12), and DeLorean says the real thing - called the Alpha5 - will be shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance in California in August.

There have been numerous attempts over the years to reboot DeLorean, all based on the shaky notion that a limited production car which later accumulated cult status deserves, in fact, to be revived.

The team behind this latest project is based in San Antonio, Texas and is part of the company which owns the rights to the name and the famous DMC badge, and whose main business thus far has been as the leading supplier of DMC-12 parts.

The website, delorean.com, is heavy on rather meaningless statements such as "We are writing our legacy in real-time" and "Instinctively adapting to the future with a heightened curated experience". Or what about: "Rooted in counterculture we confidently embrace the unexpected." Or: "We reimagine ourselves daily, and have a clear vision of our future, knowing it does not represent today. Embrace the unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable." And so on.

There is one light-hearted break from all this self-important waffle; the company quotes a 0-88mph time (4.35 seconds), a nod to the magic speed at which Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine would leap backwards or forwards.

The other vital stats - 0-60mph time of 2.99 seconds, range of "300+ miles" and a battery capacity of "100+ kWh" - are, while impressive enough on the face of it, EV-generic these days.

The team behind the new DeLorean quote a 0-88mph time machine sprint of 4.35 seconds.

Brand name aside, the styling connections to the 'classic' DeLorean appear to be confined to the gullwing doors (and Tesla can already sell you an EV with wacky doors) and a sort of louvre effect back window. I don't think there's even much stainless steel on show, which must count as a missed opportunity. To be honest, the Alpha5 is pretty much indistinguishable from dozens of other EV and supercar concepts doing the rounds.

The only reason DeLorean has any sort of currency today is thanks to the Back to the Future films. It might help sell Lego sets and Playmobil toys, but is it really a solid enough foundation on which to build a new car, and expect people to buy it instead of a Tesla or a Porsche Taycan or Audi e-tron GT?

In any case, if they were really serious about authenticity, they would be building the new DeLorean in Dunmurry...

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