Creating an alternate history is difficult. We all know how actual history ended up, the path from Point A to Point B, but we forget how many steps had to happen in between — and how little people knew about the future at each stage. DeLorean waded into those waters to develop three prototypes from a world where DMC never died, and got things... close.
The company designed a car from each decade between the DMC-12 and the Alpha V — 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. Each one is meant to represent what the company would have made in that era, following in the history of the original gullwing-door coupe. Each one is meant to be forward-looking, representing a futuristic car for its era. But each one already knows where the future went and can’t escape that knowledge.
The effort is based on the rediscovery of DMC’s old sedan concept, the DMC-24 — or, as DeLorean is calling it, the DMC Alpha. What if that car had made it to production, and buoyed the company into the nineties? Where would things go from there?
In this alternate Earth, DeLorean released the Alpha2 in 1996. It was a two-gullwing-door coupe, designed in 1993, that kept the company aloft for the remainder of the decade.
Let’s start with the pros here. That canopy is straight off the C5 Chevy Corvette, which wouldn’t come out until 1997 — period-correct, but ahead of the curve. The sloping hood, which ducks below a fender-to-fender strip of metal behind the headlights, was also fairly common on exotics of the era. Even the general rake of the car, following the character line from the front wheel well to the top of the rear fender, makes sense for the time.
But comparing the car to other coupes of its era, the design starts to look a little... modern. Notice the sharp, swooping arch of the rear fender, starting in the door and extending to the tail light. Coupes of the nineties, from supercars on down, tended to flatten out in the rear — lifting over the rear wheel and staying high, like the C5 Corvette.
Then look at the front end of the car, with its full-width front grille that tapers inward as it approaches the headlights. Compare that to the small grins of the S1 Lotus Elise or even the Ferrari F50, which valued airflow over front-end styling. A grille of that size is a modern styling touch, not one that matches the nineties — alternate or not. The lighting, too, is sleekly modern. Narrow, pinched headlights and segmented pixel-style tails that wrap around the rear quarter weren’t incredibly common back in 1996.
This DeLorean comes with a caveat — the company states that, while “2006 saw the release” of the car, “this concept vehicle was not intended for mass production.” With that little asterisk, we can forgive the lack or mirrors or transparent windows.
Again, we’ll look to the positives first. This sort of flat silver color is extremely period-correct, as is the interplay between broad curves and sharp angles. Even the wheels feel right, like they could be off a luxury car of the period.
But again, our modern sensibilities sneak in. Look at the height of the front end — concepts in the early aughts slung low and angular, growing longer at the base of the front bumper than they were at the hood. The full-width lighting strip on the hood blends in with modern EV designs, but would be wildly out of place in 2006, when headlights still held room for big bulbs.
The 2000s were a time of myriad concept cars, many marking a new design language or corporate fascia. In that way, the Alpha3 works well — it presages DeLoreans to come, in a way. But that method relies on having other cars to carry those styling cues to the street. In this alternate history, is DeLorean still just selling one two-seat coupe? Are the few Alpha3s on the roads enough to keep the company in the black? A sedan makes sense, going from two doors to four signifies a mass-market approach, but who is this alternate DeLorean selling to?
Also, the wordmark for the Alpha3 is an American flag, because of 9/11. I’m not kidding.
Following the train of mass-market appeal, DeLorean’s offering for the 2010s is a three-row crossover. Perfect, one would think, in the Age of the GMC Acadia. Here, as time slips into the future, the concept begins to look more aligned with reality — our alternate universe is catching up to the styling cues DeLorean has been using all along.
The AlphaIV is the appropriate segment for the time, and it gets many of the details right. The angle of the D-pillar resembles that of a period-correct Range Rover, and the tall, blunt front end has finally found its home. But even here, there are points that miss the mark.
The lighting, again, is purely modern here. These are still the early days of the Nissan Juke, where thin lights are reviled as alien and weird. The AlphaIV even features an illuminated wordmark in the grille — something very 2020s, in our quest to feel like the future. The tail lights, though, finally look like they’re period-correct.
Similarly, we’re in the early days of the crossover-as-default-vehicle. They hadn’t yet eclipsed sedans in U.S. sales, and were still seen as a choice for people who needed the room — not just the singular choice. As such, crossovers of the time didn’t have such steeply raked windshields or rear glass. They were in it for practical visibility, not to be style symbols.
Of course, all the design critiques overlook one other quirk of the AlphaIV: its powertrain. You see, this was a mass-market three-row crossover in the early 2010s — of course it’s not electric, those days hadn’t arrived yet. No, instead, it’s the much-more-practical hydrogen fuel cell.
Each of these cars aims to be a product of its alternate era, but none of them can escape the modern lens from which they were drawn. The design team may have used period-correct tools and materials to craft each exterior, but they couldn’t have used period-correct minds.