It’s almost impossible to think of the name “DeLorean” without thinking of a specific stainless-steel sports car, a series of movies about time travel and not boning your mom, and cocaine trafficking. There was, of course, much more to the DeLorean Motor Company, even if they only managed to make one car. For example, there was this amazing little off-roader: the DMC-44.
People forget the DMC-12 was never intended to be the sole product of the DeLorean Motor Company. DeLorean had plans for radical engines, and, more practically, the company identified the growing off-road and utility vehicle market as an area they’d consider entering. They even commissioned a J.D. Power market feasibility study to better understand the potential market.
That study suggested that the small vehicle DeLorean came up with could be successful in a market that was currently served by a mix of small trucks, Jeeps, Land Rovers, and full-size utility vans.
The little DMC-44 off-roader was really a clever and simple design. It was a mid-engined little trucklet with a cab-over-wheels passenger compartment and a flat multipurpose loading area to the rear. By positioning the engine in the middle below the loading floor, the entire wheelbase of the DMC-44 was usable for passengers and cargo.
This was much better than something like a Jeep, which had a small load area, and a full 1/3 of the vehicle’s length was used for the hood/engine, something DMC points out in this promo video for the little workhorse:
There were two proposed engines, both off-the-shelf units: an air-cooled two cylinder making between 35-40 horsepower and a four-cylinder making about 75 HP. They don’t specify what off-the-shelf engines they have in mind, but if I had to guess I’d say maybe a BMW flat-twin motorcycle engine for the small one, and maybe something like a Ford Kent 1.6 for the bigger one? Just guesses.
The DMC-44 had solid axles front and rear, with plenty of suspension travel and a generous ride height. In design, it’s sort of similar to the U.S. Military M274 “Mechanical Mule,” just with more provisions for bodywork.
There were a lot of power-take-off (PTO) options considered, and in the J.D. Power study it’s interesting to note that the suggestion was made that the DMC-44 should be compatible with existing PTO tools like pumps and winches and mulchers and industrial marital aids or whatever from Sears and Montgomery Ward.
The suggested entry-level price for a hypothetical DMC-44 in 1980 was going to be about $2500, which would be about $7800 today. That’s pretty good, and cheaper than a similar modern vehicle, like a Yamaha Viking EPS side-by-side.
It’s not clear if the DMC-44 was intended to be street-legal or not, but they do list “commuters” in their scrolling list of uses, and in the video they say the DMC-44 has “special gear trains geared for pulling or urban commuting,” which suggests they felt the DMC-44 could be used as a city car of some sort, which makes this whole thing even more fascinating.
Of course, the DMC-44 never made it past the prototype stage, and by 1982 DMC was bankrupt. DeLorean is back now, though, and they’re planning to re-start production of the famous gull-wing’d DMC-12. Maybe if that goes well, they’ll consider resurrecting the DMC-44 as well?
I mean, J.D. Power thought it was a pretty good idea.