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Thursday, December 8, 2022

DeLorean Alpha5 brings an old name back to the future

After a 40-year absence the DeLorean is making a comeback. At Monterey Car Week, the reborn brand unveiled, like so many other auto startups these days, an electric luxury sedan. It’s called the Alpha5, and that’s about all we know of it at this point.

The company has not yet said anything about specs, price, or even what chassis it rolls on. We doubt the company intends to develop its own in-house platform, like Polestar. It’s likely that the battery pack and motor “skateboard” will be sourced from an existing automaker. For now, it seem DeLorean is mostly banking on name recognition from an 80s movie franchise.

On the bright side, the machine does look good. On a basic level the car has a slippery, grille-less profile like so many other EVs and EV concepts. In person, the car does have presence, though. That may be due largely to its gullwing doors or the unique color.

Its sharpness probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was penned by ItalDesign, the legendary design house and carrozzeria. It’s the same firm that dreamed up the original DeLorean DMC-12. However, they didn’t go back to the same well for the Alpha5.

“Many people think it’s supposed to be based on the DMC-12, but it’s not,” explained Andrea Porta, Business Development Manager at ItalDesign. “We started with the DMC-24 from 1982,” Porta explained, referencing a series of sketches created by ItalDesign as a possible second car for the DeLorean brand if it had continued. In fact, ItalDesign created an entire lineage of “what if” cars that imagine what DeLoreans after the DMC-12 would have looked like if the company would have survived. There’s one for each decade missed — a gold sports car for the 90s, a blue wagon-like family hauler for the aughts, and a purplish crossover for the 2010s. Each one was given the name Alpha2 through Alpha4 and created as 1/4 scale models.

The Alpha5, like the DMC-12, has gullwing doors. Here, they’re massive, spanning nearly the entire wheelbase to give access to both the front and rear bucket seats. An integrated front spoiler lets air pass beneath it and over the nose. The body has many curves but the surfaces all merge in a natural way, unliked the forced lines of many modern cars.

It looks far more production ready than most concepts, but that’s likely due to the fact that ItalDesign has in-house coach building facilities that can create an entire monocoque and interior from scratch. However, it’s unclear whether DeLorean itself will be able to scale up for mass production.

The executives who spoke at the event did not have much to say except how excited they were to see the car in the sheetmetal rather than on a Powerpoint. When asked about what they wanted the car to be, they responded by saying they thought long and hard about the three pillars that make up the DeLorean brand. Turns out, they’re “design”, “iconic” and “rebellion”.

It seems like a big bet to hang the entire car with so much emphasis on name recognition from Back to the Future, as popular as the movie was. Will the new DeLorean have the specs to go head-to-head against established players? Only time (or a time machine) will tell. 

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