From gadgets to engines, Mark McCoin is no newbie to inventing.

McCoin, 61, a machinist at an aerospace manufacturing company in Phoenix, has tinkered since he was little, creating his own toys as a child and patenting inventions as an adult.

The Senita man was a jet-engine mechanic in the Navy and later designed and built molds and equipment to produce a one-man hovercraft.

His path was similar to his late father, Dan, a nuclear-power operator in the Army.

Dan McCoin served on the USS Sturgis, a Navy cargo ship in World War II converted to the world’s first floating nuclear power plant in the 1960s by the Army. The MH-1A reactor was the most powerful of the Army’s small fleet of reactor plants.

Dan McCoin, Mark’s father, was a nuclear power engineer. [submitted]
Eventually, father and son inventors worked on projects together.

Among them was a hydrogen-powered automobile engine — the McCoin Rotary Engine, or MRX. It runs on expanding gas, including hydrogen. The McCoins received a patent in 2009. Dan McCoin died the following year.

The engine generates more power on less fuel than the well-known Wankel rotary engine, according to McCoin, and also can run on steam or diesel fuel.

McCoin believes the revolutionary engine powered by hydrogen can change the automotive world — and help address the climate crisis with its zero-emission technology.

In a YouTube video from 2007, McCoin said he is “confident that someday I will be able to produce a car that will exceed 80 mpg highway and 125 mpg city!”

DeLorean dreams
Dan McCoin and fellow engineer-inventor John DeLorean were business acquaintances who shared an interest in automotive innovation. Mark McCoin recalled that DeLorean, like his father, had transmission patents, a history with Studebaker and a mindfulness about the environment.

Dan McCoin invented a flywheel regenerative braking transmission, his son said, to improve a vehicle’s fuel economy. It was eventually put in a Studebaker.

McCoin said DeLorean was hoping to use their engine and a McCoin transmission in what was at the time DeLorean’s concept car. DeLorean’s gull-winged DMC sports car, of course, had a starring role as the time machine in the “Back to the Future” films. McCoin has the letter dated July 21, 1986, addressed to Dan McCoin, that reads, “Your engine is very interesting. Do you have a prototype?” It was signed, “Sincerely, John Z. DeLorean.”

The DMC concept car that Delorean had hoped would include McCoin’s transmission and engine. [submitted]
DeLorean died in 2005, but McCoin dreams that one day he might partner with DeLorean’s daughter, Kathryn DeLorean, in creating a vehicle manufactured in Maricopa conceived by their fathers and powered by the McCoin hydrogen-fueled engine. She launched a Detroit-based car company last year.

McCoin, active in the AZ DeLorean Club and Arizona Hydrogen Association, said Kathryn DeLorean is aware of their fathers’ history and in January opened dialogue about possibly jointly opening a Maricopa manufacturing facility of a DeLorean car conceived by her father with a McCoin engine and transmission.

McCoin recently entered a contest to design the logo for DeLorean Next Generation Motors’ upcoming vehicles. He took third place.

But McCoin isn’t opposed to going it alone. With or without DeLorean, he is formulating plans to manufacture a vehicle with his engine and power train in Maricopa.

Mark McCoin holds a patent for a hydrogen powered engine. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
Inquisitive mind
McCoin came to Maricopa in 2015. He loved the small-town feel and recognized the city’s growth potential.

“And you couldn’t beat the housing prices,” he said.

He and his wife, Yolanda, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico, have four adult children.

A military brat born in France, McCoin came to the U.S. at age 3 when his father was transferred to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to start nuclear-power training. McCoin spoke mostly French at the time.

Another transfer took the family to El Paso, Texas, when he was 12. There, he would eventually do machining for several companies.

McCoin was creative and inquisitive, always questioning how things work. He had a habit of deconstructing items around the house.

“I would take apart a toaster just to see how it worked,” he said.

When he could not figure out why something worked the way it did, he would ask his father.

One day, McCoin asked him why there was a daytime and nighttime. His father explained by spinning a basketball with a dot on it while McCoin held a flashlight to represent sunlight.

Later, at 3 a.m., McCoin said he woke his dad to ask if the planet was still turning, and if so, why.

“I have been seeking answers ever since,” McCoin said.

Another invention the father and son worked on was a nuclear-fusion reaction chamber. McCoin said the reactor would fuse hydrogen fuel.

“Twenty years ago, nobody wanted to talk to you about using hydrogen as fuel,” McCoin said. “But now, the environment and industry has changed, and they are seeing the potential.”