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Still a Classic

Inside the DeLorean factory: Where beautiful cars are made — one at a time

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Four years ago, I was outside the Cooper Station post office in New York when a surreal but recognizable shape rolled to a a stop. Pedestrians stopped in their tracks and smiled, people on the opposite side of the street ogled slowly at a distance, and just about everyone on that block, myself included, got out their crappy 2006-era cell phones and started taking postage-stamp sized pictures to send to friends. As I snapped away, a man on a bicycle stopped at the driver’s side of the idling car and asked the owner to open the door. A moment later a stainless steel door shot upward towards the sky. 

 

It was of, course, a DeLorean DMC-12, known by most simply as “the Delorean.” I can’t explain why it the effect it had on people, but I can say that I’ve never seen anything like it before, particularly from notoriously narrow-focused and hurried Manhattanites.

 

Knowing the reactions that such an intriguing machine is capable of delivering, I was especially excited to tour the factory here in Houston. Here are some scenes I saw during my visit.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The assets, copyrights and DeLorean Motor Company name were purchased by Stephen Wynne, and in 2007, new DeLorean DMC-12s went into production in the DMC facility in Humble, Texas.

 

Wynne started as a mechanic in Los Angeles and became such a specialist with the unusual demands of the DeLorean DMC-12 that he went into business repairing and restoring them. He expanded into Houston, and when he eventually decided to go into small-scale production, he chose to stay because of the lower cost of living.
 

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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With a stockpile of every component required to build the car, DeLorean Motor Company can build new DeLoreans and perform any repair or restoration task that should ever come up. These transmissions, though stored for more than 25 years, are wear-free and in like-new condition.

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The facility builds one new car at a time, but is kept busy with repairs, upgrades, restoration and detailing from customers from all over the world.

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John DeLorean made his career in Detroit, but started his own company because he was sick of the “planned obsolescence” that the major carmakers employed at the time. “It seemed like as soon as you finished paying off the car it was rusted through,” joked DMC vice president James Espey.

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The unique gullwing doors require far less free space to open in tight parking confines than conventional doors.

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The beautiful finish of the stainless steel body is one of the first things you notice about the car. It’s the surface detail, and the fact that it will never rust or corrode, that makes you understand why it’s “five times the cost of a conventional steel body,” said Espey.

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Walking through here is a bit like going back in time. From this, it’s not hard to imagine how the original DMC-12s were produced back in Belfast in 1981.

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The facility has a surplus of electronic components, body work, tires and chassis components.

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In addition to restorations and upgrades, cars are sent here from all over the country for maintenance and storage.

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When the original carmaker learned it would be shutting down in 1982, it built 1,000 extra stainless steel doors as spares because they would be too difficult to ever recreate without the original tooling. Many are in the Humble facility. “At the current selling rate, we should have about a 100-year supply,” said Espey.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Engines are but one of the many fascinating sights around the DMC facility.

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An Irish car that was the brainchild of a man from Detroit adds up to something that epitomizes “only in Texas.”

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Rolls Royce bought a DeLorean DMC-12 to study the effect of aging on stainless steel bodywork before implementing a similar finish for the hood on their $400,000 Phantom Drophead Coupe.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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A row of matching DeLoreans sits outside the DMC facility in Humble.