The iconic DeLorean from Back to the Fu­ture rides again

Jetgala - - CONTENTS -

The strange his­tory – and re­turn – of the DMC Time Ma­chine. Great Scott, in­deed!

It takes a spe­cial mix of in­gre­di­ents to make a car an icon. Among other things, the de­sign has to be rev­o­lu­tion­ary, the look has to be spec­tac­u­lar, and it has to have that cer­tain some­thing that makes it charisma on four wheels.

An amaz­ing his­tory helps too, yet for the DeLorean DMC-12, the fact that it be­came world fa­mous thanks to the Back

to the Fu­ture movies was al­most the least in­ter­est­ing part of its story. Some peo­ple were even amazed to learn it was a real car, not some­thing mag­icked up in a Hol­ly­wood prop stu­dio.

By the time Doc Brown (played by Christo­pher Lloyd) re­vealed his time ma­chine to Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), the DeLorean Mo­tor Com­pany was bank­rupt, the fac­tory doors were closed, and its vi­sion­ary leader was fac­ing jail time.

Per­haps even more sur­pris­ing was the fact that the orig­i­nal run of 9,000 or so cars were built in North­ern Ire­land, then clas­si­fied as a war zone due to The Trou­bles, a long-time con­flict be­tween Catholic and Protes­tant fac­tions.

Gun­ning for the big time

A huge gov­ern­ment sub­sidy – some say more than £50M (equiv­a­lent to £180M to­day) – brought the ex­cit­ing project to Belfast in 1981. It was a city badly in need of good news, and it was per­son­i­fied in the charis­matic John Z. DeLorean, a Ro­ma­nian-Amer­i­can who al­ready had a place in auto his­tory thanks to his work on the Pon­tiac GTO and Fire­bird mus­cle cars.

The son of a Ford fac­tory worker who put him­self through school while sup­port­ing his mother, he was a hot­shot set to be of­fered the pres­i­dency of GM when he quit: He had big­ger plans.

In a burst of cham­pagne bub­bles, he un­veiled his sil­ver stain­less steel DeLorean DMC-12 ($12,000 was the orig­i­nally planned price), and the world wowed. It had dis­tinc­tive gull-wing doors that opened up­wards, a rear 2.8-liter V-6 en­gine, and looked un­like any­thing else – al­most some­thing from the fu­ture, in fact.

Celebri­ties were soon be­hind the wheel, chat show leg­end Johnny Car­son was an in­vestor, and DeLorean’s jet­set­ting lifestyle seemed to prom­ise an avalanche of or­ders. It seemed to be a win-win for ev­ery­one.

But it wasn’t.

Sec­ond wind

The or­ders came in slower than ex­pected, de­sign is­sues were ig­nored, costs kept ris­ing, there was an in­ter­na­tional oil cri­sis (which meant the cars were man­dated to only go to 85mph), and de­spite the har­mony be­tween the work­ers, there were Trou­bles-re­lated ri­ots out­side the fac­tory.

The fi­nal straw came when DeLorean was ar­rested and charged with at­tempt­ing to traf­fic co­caine, a des­per­ate last re­sort to save his com­pany. The charges were later dis­missed, but the dream was over and

DeLorean seemed des­tined to drive into his­tory as an Icarus-style les­son.

But the story wasn’t over yet. Orig­i­nally, de­signer Bob Gale planned to use an old re­frig­er­a­tor as the time ma­chine in Back to the Fu­ture, but as soon as he saw the look of the DeLorean, he was hooked. They had to ad­just the speedome­ter to go to 88mph, add some lights and the Flux Ca­pac­i­tor, and soon enough a movie leg­end was born.

Nearly all the DeLore­ans were built as left-hand drives, and thanks to the ideal cli­mate (and the movies), the vast ma­jor­ity of them ended up in Cal­i­for­nia, which is also home to the DeLorean Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion – and thrillingly, you oc­ca­sion­ally see one on the streets.

It was how­ever a Texas con­nec­tion that bought DeLorean back to life in 1997.

Un­like other rare cars, there was a fac­tory-full of parts left be­hind when DeLorean went un­der, and Liver­pudlian­born Stephen Wynne, a ded­i­cated fan and US res­i­dent since the 1980s, saw an op­por­tu­nity.

He and a part­ner bought the name, the re­main­ing en­gines, parts and blue­prints and, start­ing in Hum­ble, Texas, li­censed sev­eral spe­cial­ist garages across the USA and in the Nether­lands. De­mand for re­pairs was con­stant, and they be­gan mak­ing a few “re-man­u­fac­tured” cars, too.

An icon re­born

In 2015 the Low Vol­ume Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Man­u­fac­tur­ers Act fi­nally made smallscale replica pro­duc­tion of cars like the DeLorean fi­nan­cially vi­able, and the limit was set at 325 cars per year. DMC will ini­tially man­u­fac­ture fewer than that but hope to up­scale pro­duc­tion quickly – and the or­der books are al­ready full.

The new DeLorean will still be stain­less steel, but it will also have a 300-plus-horse­power en­gine, new brakes and sus­pen­sion, larger wheels, satel­lite and HD ra­dio, and a state-of-the-art sound sys­tem, though the sticker price of $100,000 plus still doesn’t in­clude a ca­pac­ity to bend space and time.

If you can’t wait there are al­ways orig­i­nal DeLore­ans to buy on eBay, and there is (al­legedly) one 24K gold­plated DeLorean that’s for sale by a pri­vate owner.

It was one of three that were sold as part of an Amer­i­can Ex­press pro­mo­tion; you can see the oth­ers at the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum in L.A. (which is also home to the re­stored time ma­chine used in the movie), and at the Na­tional Au­to­mo­bile Mu­seum in Reno, Ne­vada.

You can buy an im­i­ta­tion Flux Ca­pac­i­tor, and Wynne says that while as many as seven out of 10 own­ers bought their first car be­cause of the movies, only a few dozen have “pimped out” their ride to look like it: most sim­ply love it the way it is.

Other eye-catch­ing con­ver­sions have in­cluded a li­mou­sine, a Hum­mer, a Mon­ster Truck, a hov­er­craft, a golf cart and a taxi, and over the years the DeLorean has in­spired mu­sic, art ex­hi­bi­tions and doc­u­men­taries.

Proud celebrity owner Seth MacFar­lane of­ten fea­tures the car in his shows Fam­ily Guy and Amer­i­can Dad, and there was a Back

to the Fu­ture ride at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, but it was de­stroyed by a fire in 2008.

The DeLorean has never been far from the movies, and af­ter a sup­port­ing role in this year’s Ready Player One, hope­fully

Driven will be hit­ting the big screen too. It stars Ja­son Sudeikis as one of the FBI agents who worked the st­ing to bring down John DeLorean (played by Lee Pace).

For fans though, it’s just an­other signpost on the jour­ney.

They’re used to get­ting the best park­ing spots out­side restau­rants (“Valets fight for the keys,” says Wynne), be­fore ad­mit­ting that there are some dis­ad­van­tages to be­ing an owner:

“Peo­ple are al­ways com­ing up to talk, to take photos, and to touch the car to see if it’s real. So you’re al­ways wip­ing fin­ger­prints off!”

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