John DeLorean was one of those people who wasn't afraid to think outside of the box, from the Pontiac GTO to the DMC-12. Even weeks before his death we was reportedly working on a radical new engine

The DeLorean DMC-12 is an automotive icon, for better or worse. The futuristic sports car was ambitious and truly captured the imaginations of onlookers, but sadly the dramatic fall of DeLorean is just as well documented as its brief rise.

What isn’t so well known is that John DeLorean was reportedly working on something just weeks before his death.

The breadcrumb trail begins with American national radio show host Tom Torbjornsen and the various accounts he’s given on a phone call with John DeLorean. At the time Tom was researching a claim made by an inventor called Tom Kasmer that he was soon to collaborate with John DeLorean on a new car.

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Was John DeLorean working on a new car before he died?

Kasmer had been working on a highly unusual powertrain known as a hydristor or axial. In essence three cylinders surround a driveshaft and are connected via what is called a swashplate which, as each piston fires, causes the shaft to rotate. As if that wasn’t mind-bending enough, each of these cylinders would contain two pistons. Ahead of its time? Overly ambitious? Maybe — but that had been John DeLorean’s MO his whole life.

Torbjornsen then claims to have received a call from DeLorean himself confirming that plans were afoot for a new car that would make use of the hydristor powertrain. Arraignments were then reportedly made for a live radio interview on the subject scheduled for a few weeks later. Tragically John DeLorean would die of a stroke before the interview in 2005.

Was John DeLorean working on a new car before he died?

What’s even more interesting is that if you scour the internet you’ll find a few other clues that DeLorean had been contemplating a similarly unorthodox engine since the 1980s. A set of notes and sketches emerged, now owned by DeLoreanWiki and published by Jalopnik, of a hydristor type engine that appears to be in John’s handwriting.

A letter to his lawyer enclosed these drawings and even suggested that these ideas dated back much further than the 1980s. There’s also mention of a means to recover kinetic energy and redistribute it to a turbo or supercharger. Amazingly this doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the KERS we see today, but this is completely combustion driven as opposed to electrically. It isn’t known if these designs were originally intended for the DMC-12, or if they served to inspire what would never become his next venture post 2005.

Sadly we won’t know the true extend of Jon DeLoreans plans, but these fascinating clues suggest that whatever he was working on, it would have been just as attention-grabbing as his past ventures.

Thanks to Studio 434 whose DeLorean DMC-12 is pictured.