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Fashion December, 3 2009

Highsnobiety Q&A | DeLorean Motor Company

On the eve of their collaborative release with The Hundreds, we caught up with Cameron Wynne of DeLorean Motor Company to discuss cars, clothes and more. (Yes, what you see above is part of the collection! Black jags on flat black DMC-12. Will be outside The Hundreds store all day tomorrow for the release.)

How did you become involved in DeLorean Motor Company?

Well first off it’s a family business. I have been around DeLorean’s from the day I was born. Originally in California my father had a repair shop repairing DeLoreans. One of my first memories of DeLorean is being dropped to school in one of the movie cars from Back to the Future, which my father’s shop had serviced and was undergoing road testing. So I have been around them my whole life. My first car was a DeLorean.

Read the full Q&A and see more photos of The Hundreds DMC-12 after the jump.

Given the relatively small number of DeLorean cars on the road, what is the primary function of the Company today?

Of the more than 9,000 built originally, there are still more than 7,000 around today. DMC (Texas) and our dealers (Illinois, Florida, California, Washington, The Netherlands) are the only sources for factory original and reproduction parts. All of our locations also perform every kind of service, up to and including complete restorations. Each of our location also carry a number of ready-to-go certified pre-owned DeLorean cars for sale. Where I work, at our Texas facility, we also assemble complete cars on a “made to order” basis from our stocks of new and reproduction parts. Basically, anything to do with DeLorean’s, we’re the place to go.

For our generation (20s/early 30s), the obvious connection with DeLorean is “Back to the Future.” Do you get a lot of collectors coming to you with that cultural reference in mind? Is there a typical DeLorean collector?

Absolutely. Most people’s first exposure to the DeLorean nowadays is through the BTTF movies. I’d bet that someplace in the world right now, one of those movies is being aired. There really isn’t a “typical” DeLorean owner; men, women, teenagers, senior citizens. If there is a common link amongst them, however, they tend to be pretty tech-savvy in regards to the internet and computers in general.

Tell me a little about DeLorean’s advances in the automobile industry and what you know about the initial reaction within the car world to the DMC-12.

On one hand, DMC was forced to make some sacrifices between the prototype and production cars in order to get the car to market in a reasonable timeframe and at the best retail price. On the other hand, some of the features of the car, including the gull wing doors and stainless body panels, are surprisingly practical. The doors, for example, only require 14” of side clearance to open and close – less than a standard automobile door. John DeLorean worked for GM in Detroit in the late 50’s through the 70’s and saw the problems with rust – cars then would often have rust holes in them before the last payment was made – stainless provided an elegant solution.

Take a look at the cars on the market in the 70’s and early 80’s – nothing to get too excited about, for the most part. The DeLorean was literally unlike anything else at the time. As with hot new cars on the market today, the first cars sold for as much as $10,000 over the original $25,000 sticker price. DeLorean cars appeared in movies like Rocky III and television shows like Dynasty – it was the “it” car of the 80’s, without question.

The Collaboration

How did you link up with the Hundreds?

Bobby contacted us initially a couple years ago and we really weren’t ready to do something like this at the time. Late last year he contacted us again and together with Fuse Marketing (our brand management company) the three of us decided the timing was right for all of us. Personally, I was a fan of The Hundreds and lobbied hard for it as I see it as an amazing opportunity.

Describe, in brief, your roll within the collaboration?

As I mentioned earlier, I have been a fan of The Hundreds for some time, so this was a great project for me in many ways. I was able to offer input early on in the design phase and also got to spend some time with Bobby one-on-one as he came learn more about our operation here in Texas. I’m also representing DMC at the roll-outs in LA and SF this week.

On your end, what is the benefit of collaborating with a clothing company?

The BTTF movies constantly expose the DeLorean to a new market each time they air – adults today will introduce their kids to the movie, and a new generation of DeLorean enthusiasts is born. By introducing the young adult market that is represented by The Hundreds to the DeLorean brand – and vice versa – it’s a unique opportunity for both of us.

Looking at the t-shirt designs, they are nostalgia based. The car is presented as an icon, but in many ways also a relic of the past. Given the cultural associations, is it difficult to turn the DMC-12 into something that can exist without this treatment?

It’s not as hard as it might seem. While you can look at a Corvette or Ferrari from the early 80’s and compare it a new model, the earlier cars now seem dated. Contrast that with the DeLorean, which because it was only in production for three model years, looks the same now as it did then. There have been no evolutions over the years to make it seem dated. It’s not uncommon for me to get asked by people today if it is a “new” car.

A good example of another brand that has made this work is Harley-Davidson. That was a brand that was all but given up for dead in the 70’s, owned by a company better known for bowling alleys (AMF). Though their brand value has taken a hit of late, they’ve done a phenomenal job rebuilding their brand image and keeping it relevant since they were bought out in 1981 by an investment group.

There is also something very American about the imagery. Given the roots of the DeLorean Motor Company, and its current home, how do you navagate past, present and future without losing what was essentially a global outlook from the outset?

It’s true the original shape was penned by an Italian, and the car was engineered and built in the UK using parts from Europe, the UK and USA – a “world car” before the term even existed. However, save for perhaps a hundred cars, all production ended up here in the States, where most of the cars still reside today. Also, because the parent company (DMC) was based in the States, and John DeLorean’s association with General Motors and the US auto industry, it’s widely regarded as an American car.

Today DeLoreans exist in dozens of countries all around the world – from the Philippines to Panama to South Africa. On our Facebook page, less than 1/3 of 9,000 or so fans our US-based, with the rest abroad. So not only are the cars spread around the world, the enthusiast base is, as well.

The Future

Undoubtedly, the collaboration with the Hundreds will reinvigorate interest in the DMC-12 and even attract new admirers. But, its a small collector market and a the actual cars are limited. Do you think DeLorean has greater potential as a brand to be viewed as say a Ferrari in terms of existing beyond the car enthusiast?

The Hundreds collaboration will pique interest in a part of the market that we may not be thought of very much right now, for sure. There is a great deal of potential for the DeLorean brand to extend beyond the existing DeLorean car, based on the innate connections that people associate with John DeLorean, his automotive career and the history of the car itself. Future products from DeLorean Motor Company will only serve to bolster that image

There’s the occassional peak at a new model from DeLorean. Is it coming? What connection will it have to the DMC-12, and will it be marketed as American?

It’s long been the policy of DeLorean Motor Company not to comment on future products – parts or otherwise. We’re always looking for new ways and strategic partners that can leverage the DeLorean name with a quality product. That goes for automotive and other industries as well.

Anything else that might be unexpected you could tease us with?

All I can say about future projects is stay tuned – there are a lot more to come. Watch the DeLorean Motor Company Facebook and Twitter for updates on the future. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, it’s been fun.

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