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OEM Report: Automotive

Considering the future

By Gretchen Salois

A U.S. company overcomes fabrication challenges to bring back the DeLorean DMC-12

January 2012 - As car companies churn out new models of vehicles annually, the DeLorean Motor Co. solidified its presence with the only model ever produced by the company, the DeLorean.

Made famous by the iconic 1980s “Back to the Future” movie trilogy, the original design was manufactured for the American market in 1981 and 1982 in Northern Ireland, according to The DeLorean Museum, Humble, Texas. John DeLorean formed the original DeLorean Motor Co. in 1975. The company itself was short-lived, but the DMC-12 sports car was propelled to icon status. Texas entrepreneur Stephen Wynne acquired parts of the original company’s inventory and today supports DeLorean owners and enthusiasts.

Frame revamp
Pearce Design Components Inc. closed its DeLorean renovation business in December 2010 but still offers DeLorean-related parts for sale from its inventory. The company used MIG wire feed welding in its PermaFrame construction. In 2002, Pearce constructed 10 PermaFrames, a rework of the original DeLorean’s structure. Pearce used MIG wire feed welding in an inert atmosphere using three-part gas. The wire is matched to the material of the frame and all welding joints are then passivated, which is different from rod-welding and does not require the joints be coated.

Compared to the DeLorean's original frame, Pearce’s version weighs 10 lbs. more with its epoxy coating. The original frame could handle 130 ft. lbs. for torque in the engine compartment and the new frame handles 310 ft. lbs. of torque in the engine compartment with a calculated correspondence throughout the frame, according to the Pearce Design website.

According to the DeLorean Museum, the DMC-12 has a number of uncommon construction details, including gull-wing doors, unpainted stainless steel body panels and a rear-mounted engine. The stainless steel panels are fixed to a glass reinforced monocoque underbody, which is affixed to a double-Y frame chassis. Scratches on the stainless panels can be removed using non-metallic scouring pads or sandpaper.

The body dies used to stamp the stainless steel panels were scrapped or dumped into the ocean to be used as weights for a fishery. Despite this, thousands of new, unused body panels remained and the supply is assured for many more years, according to the DeLorean Museum. This occurred after the initial DeLorean Motor Co. filed for bankruptcy in late 1982. 

The stainless material presents challenges for restoration. Unable to use plastic filler, which is often hidden by a car’s paint, the stainless steel must be reworked to exactly the original shape, contour and grain, according to the museum’s website. Rather than touch up panels, those in need of extensive repair often are replaced entirely.

According to Chris Anthony, CEO of Epic Boats LLC, San Diego, the company is building DeLoreans in Texas using remaining stock from the old factory so welding is not necessary. Restoration, however, is still a “tricky process,” in large part because of upgrading the vehicle to a stainless frame, “which has a lot of advantages, including weight reduction and added strength over the original epoxy-coated steel from Pearce Design Components,” he says.

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The DMCev emerges
The cult following of the vehicle has continued into the 21st century and is taking an eco-friendly twist as engineers seek to go electric. “Electric drive components are now ubiquitous, proven and affordable, which has now made us confident in a full-drive system worthy of the DeLorean brand,” says Anthony, who Wynne first went to with the idea of working on an electric car, the DMCev, the electric version of the iconic vehicle, worked on by the team at Epic and the DeLorean Motor Co. “In the production DMCev, we will use Epic’s new resin-infused composite structures for this body, which will drop the total weight of the vehicle by about 200 lbs. and make is much safer versus the original,” Anthony adds.

Both aluminum and stainless steel are considered “vital” materials, necessary to give the DMCev the lightweight performance the vehicle needs to “set it apart from all other EV companies out there today,” Anthony says. FFJ

 

Sources

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Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
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Trilogy Machinery Inc.

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Mate Precision Tooling

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Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International

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Flow International Corporation
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Osborn

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