The DMC DeLorean: More than just a time machine

“Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean?"

7w ago


Can a blessing become a curse?

You see, most of the cars that are created don't stand out. It's true, when was the last time you turned your head on a Nissan Qashqai? Some cars are more special than others, and it's not always justified. Some marked history, some redefined the way we go from one place to another, some became part of our culture, and others got featured in movies. We all know Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle or James Bond's DB5, but arguably the most famous movie car ever must be this one, the DMC DeLorean. However, the Hollywood star is known just for one thing, it's appearance in the movie Back To The Future. Yet the DeLorean is so much more than just a car that looks good behind the camera. Time to give the car a little justice.

A​ movie star, and a commercial failure. That's all people really know about the DMC DeLorean. But behind the car hides one man's dream of the ultimate driving machine. John DeLorean was one of the most respected executives in the U.S. automobile industry. Most notably, he was the genius behind sports cars like the Pontiac GTO, and Firebird. You see, John was not your average engineer, and he was known as quite a flamboyant fellow who dreamt big. In 1973, he created his very own company, the DeLorean Motor Company. However, things weren't as easy as it seemed. Due to financial issues and delays in the manufacturing processes, DeLorean only managed to deliver his first cars in late 1980. As exuberant as its founder, here was the futuristic-looking DMC DeLorean.

And I must say that I am a huge fan of the way it looks. Still 40 years later this car looks like it actually came back from the future. The car was designed by the great Giugiaro, and it's all about sleek lines and sharp edges. The two-seater coupé has body panels that were made out of stainless steel to give it a unique look. Moreover, "gullwing" doors were added to increase the wow-effect. It looked like nothing else on the road, and even if John DeLorean's company beginnings were bumpy, he was ready to sell 20'000 to 30'000 units of his car every year.

A​ movie star, and a commercial failure. That's all people really know about the DMC DeLorean.

Jonathan Yarden

Well, that didn't really happen. The conception of the DeLorean sports car was still all over the place. Colin Chapman from Lotus was hired to engineer the body, chassis and suspensions, while the engine was co-developed by Peugeot, Renault and Volvo. That's quite a mix. The result is a car that looks super fast that is actually powered by a 2.8-litres V6 that only makes 132 hp. That's not very powerful, even for 1980. Even though John DeLorean received hefty checks from celebrity investors like Johnny Carson, the DeLorean was plagued with problems that were mainly due to manufacturing-related issues. Originally priced at $12'000, it finally sold for $25'000 (nearly $80K in today's money). Add negative reviews from the press and a bad North American economy, and you find yourself with an inventory piling up. John DeLorean desperately needed money to keep his dream alive, which led to poor decisions. Later in 1982, he was charged with cocaine trafficking by the FBI, and shortly after that DeLorean Motor Company filed for bankruptcy. Only about 9'000 DMC DeLorean units were made.

However, it doesn't mean that it was quite the end of the DeLorean in terms of media exposure. The failed small-volume sports car regained massive attention when it got a part in Robert Zemeckis' Back To The Future movie in 1985. You probably all know the movie, but it tells the story of a teenage boy who accidentally goes back in time with a time-traveling DeLorean that was built by the oddball Doc Brown. They went on to do three movies that instantly became hits, and became part of the pop culture. It was initially imagined by the director that the time machine was going to be a refrigerator. But the idea was later scrapped fearing that kids would get trapped in one after watching the movie.

No, it doesn't have a flux capacitor! The DMC DeLorean is more than just a wannabe time machine, and it's quite annoying to keep on hearing people say "It's the Back To The Future car!". Eventually, they'll drop a quote or two of the movie that aren't even funny anymore. Let's talk about the car. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jérémie offered me the unique opportunity to drive his DMC DeLorean, and I wasn't disappointed. So, here I am in front of this UFO that is actually not as big as I'd think. It looks larger in pictures. You get inside, and you immediately realize that the sitting position is pretty low and laid back. The seats inclination is fixed so you really feel like you're in a very comfortable deck chair. You start driving, everything feels great, but it's true that it's not fast. Fortunately, this car is equipped with a 5-speed manual gearbox, and not the atrocious automatic one, so at least it feels engaging. The DMC DeLorean feels more like a pleasant GT than a track-focused sports car, and that's a good thing because I would love to take this car out for long road trips. Only thing missing is the radio, as apparently it used to be an option. Therefore, the empty space in the center console is replaced by a giant sticker with the name of the car.

Obviously, you get all the attention for the wrong reasons. That freaking movie again. But it's nice to see all kinds of people looking and smiling at the car. It drags more attention than a supercar, and that's what I like. Doesn't matter the age, or gender, everyone knows the DeLorean and associates it to this awesome adventure movie, and I don't blame them. I just feel that the DMC DeLorean deserves more credit than just being a movie icon. It's a futuristic car that could have been quite different if everything would have worked out the way John DeLorean wanted. But, whatever the manufacturing issues and its commercial failure, the DMC DeLorean has proved us that it has become an important piece of history that will always polarize because it represents so much more than a car.

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I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Jérémie for making this possible. You can follow his adventures here:

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