DeLorean’s plan to produce updated versions of its only model has been delayed due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) dragging its feet on the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act. The car was supposed to be here as a turnkey classic years ago, but the regulator failed to act after the 2016 election. The NHTSA doesn’t currently have an administrator, and the acting administrator would not sign off on the regulations. Vintage automobiles probably aren’t very important to an agency that’s also trying to manage autonomous and electric vehicles.
However, the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act was supposed to be the keystone in allowing DeLorean and the like to assemble new cars. Noticing three years had passed with no progress, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) decided to sue the NHTSA last fall. James Espey, vice president of DeLorean Motor Company, has taken this as a good sign — and he believes the company could start production in 2021.
Don’t call me Ishmael, but it seems to me that stories of failure are perhaps more engaging than those of success. Sure, we all love a good Horatio Alger story of someone pulling their socks up and making something of themselves, but they’ve made a lot more movies about the Titanic than stories about the Queens Mary and Elizabeth, both 1 and 2 all combined. The same is true of the automotive world. As far as I’ve been able to determine, there’s never been a theatrical movie dramatizing the life of Henry Ford (Cliff Robertson played him in a television mini-series and PBS’s * The American Experience recently profiled Ford on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth) but I bet you remember Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker. Maybe there’s more dramatic meat to work with, the inherent tragedy of one’s reach exceeding one’s grasp, in a notable failure. Perhaps that’s why there have been a number of documentaries produced about John Zachary DeLorean’s eponymous company and the car that it produced (and why there was even a Bricklin musical). It needs saying, also, that a lot of the interest in the DeLorean can be attributed to the car’s starring role in the Back To The Future movie franchise. Combine a pop culture icon and the dramatic failure of a bravura personality and there’s bound to be interest.
TTAC readers, the Best and the Brightest, seemed to have liked the first Magazine Memories so I started to sort and organize the boxes of old buff books in the basement, with an eye towards another column for you guys. The first piece was about a Sports Car Graphic from 1969, a golden age for both performance cars and auto racing. I thought it would be interesting, by way of contrast, to look at an era of less worthy automobiles, the “malaise era”, so named because of a speech given by Jimmy Carter during his presidency that attempted to address a sense of national lethargy. Though Carter never actually used the word malaise, the tag stuck. Looking at magazines from the middle of the Carter years, the winter of 1980-81, though, the cars were so boring and mediocre that I thought it’d be too much of a challenge to even joke about how boring and mediocre they were.