We last checked in with the DeLorean Motor Company in Humble, Texas, in 2017. That was two years after Congress had passed the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act, and one year after the classic car parts and restoration firm thought it would be building the products it’s named for — new DeLorean DMC-12s. The problem was that the government bodies required to turn an act into enforceable administrative law never got around to doing their parts of the job. Thanks to a lawsuit from the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) and industry pressure, there’s a chance the paperwork will get finalized this year. James Espey, DMC’s vice president, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has done its part, issuing a 120-page book of draft regulations to go along with the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft rules. If all goes well, Espey told Hagerty that DMC could begin production at a rate of about one or two cars per week sometime in 2021.
Long before that happens, there’s a 30-day public comment period on the guidelines drawn up by NHTSA, then a review by the Office of Management and Budget that could take six months. Even if those matters run smoothly, NHTSA doesn’t have an administrator, and hasn’t had one since the current presidential administration took office. Part of the holdup with the LVMVMA delay was that acting administrator James C. Owens wouldn’t sign off. If a new administrator enters office before the OMB process concludes, or the process drags out past the election, or NHTSA ignores the matter to focus on autonomy issues and massive recalls again, these latest steps forward could turn into huge steps back. To forestall that, SEMA has asked the judge presiding over its lawsuit not to dismiss the case until NHTSA finalizes everything.
Assuming all goes well, what are potential buyers looking at? A DMC-12 that’s come a long way from its last iteration. The 3.5-liter V6 DeLorean originally decided on is headed for retirement, so another, unidentified engine with about 350 horsepower is in the running. Mechanical features like power steering, cruise control, and 21st-century headlights, all unavailable on the original, are shoo-ins. Convenience features like navigation, Bluetooth, and climate-controlled seats seem destined to make the options list. ABS and traction control might make the cut. The last cost estimate we got in 2016 put the price at about $100,000; we won’t be surprised if that’s gone up some. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the $27,500 MSRP of an original DMC-12 in 1981 equates to $81,227 today, so the numbers aren’t outrageous considering the upgrades.
Now DMC, and other small outfits like Icon, Revology, Superformance, and Checker, await the government’s next overdue moves.