Back to the Future is one of the most recognizable movie trilogies of all time. Since it first came out in theaters in 1985, fans all around the world just haven't stopped loving it. Director Robert Zemeckis gave his best effort to give the audience a movie classic, and we can’t be happier about it. Although the movies feature fun and charismatic characters like Doc and McFly, there's more to the story.
Attention to detail and a talented director created one of the most memorable movie cars of all time. Known best as “The Time Machine,” the DeLorean DMC-12 is a giant part of the trilogy, and we certainly can say that the movies wouldn’t be the same without it!
It’s flashy, kind of strange, and brings out the child in the audience. Who didn’t want a car that could travel through time? Even President Reagan was impressed by the car and quoted the movie in one of his speeches. But there's a lot behind the scenes about the DeLorean, so here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about the car!
20 It’s The Company's Only Model
Many movies feature a popular car brand. Steve McQueen drove a Mustang in Bullitt, and James Bond can be seen mostly in Aston Martins. In Back to The Future, there was a different approach.
The team chose the DeLorean DMC-12 for the movie and immortalized the first and only model of John DeLorean’s company.
The first prototype of the car was introduced in 1975, and production started in 1981. There was never a successor, a facelift, a new prototype, or anything after the DMC-12. It was the first and last thing DeLorean Motor Company has ever built before declaring bankruptcy, closing the door for other maybe even crazier vehicles.
19 It Was Very Slow
The DeLorean looks fast! With its long front hood, gull-wing doors, and two-seat configuration, the DMC-12 looks like a supercar. On the street, it looks like it'll eat Porsches for breakfast! Sadly, this can’t be further from the truth. It was intended to use a Wankel engine form Citroën/NSU, but that never happened. Instead, they made it with 2.85-liter V6 made by Peugeot-Renault-Volvo. It was based on a 2.7-liter engine from a Renault hatchback, and “nothing special” describes it perfectly.
It produced only 130 hp—and that wasn’t impressive even in the '80s.
With a 5-speed manual gearbox, the DeLorean DMC-12 will hit 60 in a long 8.8 seconds, and the 3-speed auto was even worse—not what you expect from these looks for sure!
18 It's Very Rare
Being the only model from a new brand, you can’t expect mass production–and that’s exactly the case with the DMC-12. Different sources state production numbers are somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 for the lifetime of the car. That's not a lot, even considering they made them for only 3 years–from 1981 to 1983. There are approximately 6,000 of them left, but being such a memorable collector’s car, you'll hardly see any of them on the street. However, finding a good one for sale isn't a hard thing; if you really want one, it'll cost you somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000!
17 It Was Badly Assembled
DeLorean Motor Company wasn't in any way an experienced car manufacturer. It's true that John DeLorean was a General Motors executive, but that didn’t help with DMC-12’s quality. There was a plan to build a factory in Puerto Rico, but instead, all cars were assembled in Ireland in a small neighborhood called "Dunmurry."
Due to the high unemployment rate in Ireland at the time and the lack of any car industry in Ireland, workers were inexperienced and undertrained.
That resulted in many problems with the car and lots of unhappy customers. By the time they fixed quality problems, the company was doomed.
16 It Was A Big Pop Culture Hit
Since it first appeared in Back to the Future, the DeLorean DMC-12 has become a big hit. People all over the world remember the iconic looks of the car, and every now and then, the time machine is used in the entertainment industry! It was used in Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” as the car Parzival uses to win the first race. Adam Young drives one in Owl City’s video for the single "Deer in Headlights." American Dad’s main character, Stan Smith, builds his own in season 4 of Seth MacFarlane’s show. The Time Machine is also a playable car in the 2015 video game “Rocket League.” Macklemore drives one in his video for "Thrift Shop." There are many more cameos and references for the DMC-12, definitely making it one of the most recognizable cars of all time!
15 You Can Buy A Perfect Replica Of The Time Machine
Being such a pop culture hit, the DMC-12 has been the object of many modifications. Most of them are attempts to recreate the car as seen in the movies. Some of them are successful; some, not quite.
There are companies that specialize in turning good condition DeLoreans into perfect visual replicas of Doc’s time machine, and they also rent them out!
So, if you want to be Doc or McFly for next Halloween or just want to fulfill your childhood dream, it’s never been easier. Of course, time travel isn't possible, but hey–we’ve passed 2017, and it was nothing like in the movies, so maybe it’s a good thing?
14 The Original Car Was Never Painted
Remember the last time when you saw a car with a bright, eye-pleasing color? Well, that wasn’t the case with the DMC-12. When they left the factory in Ireland, their body panels were brushed stainless steel! This may be a little odd nowadays, but it surely became part of the futuristic look of the vehicle. It was flashy, mechanical, and emphasized the character of the car. Some DeLoreans were painted by the dealers for the customer; others were painted at some point in their lives by the owners. Originally, the only DMC-12s that weren’t naked steel were… gold. As part of a promotion between DeLorean and American Express, they were gold-plated cars with a price tag of $85,000! Only three gold DMC-12s were sold, leaving the majority of the cars with the flashy steel body panels.
13 The Gull-Wing Doors Were Quite Unique
Today, there are all kinds of car doors. Lamborghini uses scissor doors; Rolls-Royce uses suicide doors. Many other manufacturers use some kind of cool door that goes up in different ways.
When DeLorean was introduced, car doors were mostly standard, even for sports and exotic cars. Actually, the only other cars with gull-wing doors at the time was the Mercedes 300SL from the 1950s and the Bricklin SV-1!
This was another strange but eye-catching feature of the DMC-12, which contributed to the iconic status of the car. The doors were quite easy to operate, and you didn’t need any more space in tight spots than you did with normal doors!
12 There Was Never A Competitor To The DeLorean
This may sound a little controversial! Today, when every car model has at least one competitor and every brand produces every kind of vehicle, it's hard to imagine how the DeLorean can be one of its kind. Well, when it was produced, the only other rear-engined rear-wheel-drive car on the market was the Porsche 911. But it's very different from the DMC-12–it was smaller, lighter, with 4 seats, and much faster. Also, the price was very different and wasn’t as exclusive as the DeLorean. The Pontiac Fiero was introduced years after DeLorean stopped making DMC-12s, and Ferraris and Lamborghinis at the time were a different kind of beast in every way. So, it’s safe to say that DeLorean produced a car without an equivalent on the market back then!
11 There Was A Right-Hand-Drive Version
Today, car manufacturers make right-hand-drive versions for almost every car–even exotics. That wasn’t the case in the '80s! Not many exotic cars were offered with right-hand drive, and production numbers were extremely low. DeLorean didn’t make an exception to the rule with only 16 factory-built DMC-12s.
It's so rare you have a better chance of seeing a Lamborghini Reventon than a right-hand-drive DeLorean.
All of the 16 right-hand-drive cars came as standard left-hand-drive cars but were converted to suit the UK, Australia, and Indian markets. Only three were converted from the factory; the rest are products of Wooler-Hodec company, which carried out the project.
10 They Were Planning A Sporty, Turbocharged Version
Equipped with the 2.85-liter 130 bhp engine, the DeLorean wasn't a missile. Being close to the 10-second 0-60 time, the car received criticism for being just a show car, and John DeLorean wanted to change that! His company signed a contract with Legend Industries for producing as many as 5,000 turbocharged DMC-12s! There were two versions–with a single and a twin-turbo setup. Prototypes were running under 15 second at the quarter mile and did 0-60 in under 6 seconds! These were impressive numbers, and it seemed like a proper answer to the critics. Unfortunately, DMC declared bankruptcy before the serial production of the cars, and the project was over.
9 There's A DeLorean Convention
Being such a popular car with so many fans around the globe, it’s hardly a surprise that there's a convention, a car show, and an owner’s club for the DMC-12. The first DeLorean convention was held in 1998 in Cincinnati.
Since then, the show has taken place every two years in a different part of the USA, from Vegas to Florida. This year, it’s going to be in St. Charles, Illinois in the middle of August. The show is home to all the DeLorean fans and features talks, presentations, a driving tour, an exhibition, vendor sales, and some VIP guests!
8 The Movie Could've Been Filmed Without A Car
Looking from the distance of time, it’s clear that the DeLorean was the right choice for the time machine in Back to the Future. But in some of the early versions of the script, there were other ideas! In the first version of the script, Doc and McFly are using a laser device in Doc’s house.
Later, that idea was scratched, and the time machine was a device attached to the fridge! It was a strange idea, and even stranger was the fact that the fridge had to be taken to an atomic bomb test site. This was also scratched, and the team decided to use a car for good.
7 ...Or With Another Car!
Nowadays, the movie industry is full of product placements of any kind. Cellphones, cars, clothes, even beverages are shown because of deals between companies and studios! When developing Back to The Future, director Robert Zemeckis chose the DMC-12, not because of a deal but because it suited his vision for the movie. The gull-wing doors, stainless steel body, and futuristic looks were just perfect for the role of Time Machine.
However, Ford Motor Company offered the studio a Mustang instead of the DeLorean.
The offer was refused. As said in an interview years later by screenwriter Bob Gale, “Does Doc Brown look like the kind of guy who would drive a Ford Mustang? I’m sorry, no.” And we are thankful for this decision. A Mustang is legendary enough.
6 A Tribute
Time travel has been in the human mind ever since the first clock. There have been thousands of books and movies about traveling in time. Back to the Future isn't the first movie, and it surely got some ideas from here and then. The 1960s movie The Time Machine has been an inspiration for Back to The Future, so they’ve inserted a little tribute to the movie. DeLorean’s displays are colored in red, yellow, and green–the same as in the time machine from the old movie. Furthermore, the opening scenes in both movies are similar, just to ensure this isn't a coincidence!
5 The Time Machine In The Movie Is Nuclear-Powered
Back to the Future enthusiasts know this for sure! As said in the movies, the Time Machine uses 1.21 gigawatts of electrical power. That kind of power is enough for 100 million LED light bulbs. Yes, 100 million! For sure, you can’t get that kind energy from any combustion engine in the world! For the movies, they created something called “Mr. Fusion home energy reactor.” The name is a parody of a popular-at-the-time brand for coffee machines, and the device works with plutonium. It’s used only for time travel, sadly for the performance figures of the car. Mr. Fusion home energy reactor is an important element for every replica existing, and it’s one of the distinctive features of the DMC-12.
4 The Original Car From The Movie Was Fully Restored
As part of the movie industry, the original DMC-12 was kept for more than 30 years at Universal Studios. It was exhibited outdoors, so fans can admire it and take pictures. Surely, it’s been a long time, and the car has been taken to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles for it to be next to many more iconic automobiles.
A few years ago, the time machine was fully restored! Every body panel was taken off, broken ones were replaced, and many more things were changed.
Actually, restoring the car took longer than building it! More than 20 people and more than a year were needed for the restoration, and now, the car is in perfect condition as it was back in 1981. Good job!
3 There's A LEGO Version Of The Car
As part of the project LEGO Cuusoo (that’s Japanese for “wish”), the Danish company made a DeLorean Time Machine kit. It includes Doc and McFly’s characters and parts for all three version of the DMC-12–original, hoover-covered, and the railroad one! The interesting thing about the project is that the design was fan made and endorsed by other fans. Popular enough designs are sent to LEGO, and if approved, they actually go into production! The Time Machine made it to production, and every fan can go to a retail store or order online his own LEGO DMC-12 kit.
2 The Creator Of DMC Had Some Legal Issues
Starting your own automotive company isn't an easy task even if you're in the branch. Starting your own automotive company for producing exotic, futuristic cars is even harder! It took quite a time for John DeLorean to get his project to take off, and problems continued. With sales far from what he expected, the company struggled with finance and declared bankruptcy after a brief existence.
In 1982, John DeLorean was arrested on drug-trafficking charges. Rumors at the time said that he was raising money for his struggling company!
In the end, Mr. DeLorean was found not guilty, but that didn’t help the company. It failed, leaving a lot of spare parts in warehouses and one legendary time machine in folklore.
1 They're Building A New One!
OK, maybe not exactly “a new one...” DMC is planning to build an updated, 2019 version of the original DMC-12. It'll keep the iconic design, the gull-wing doors, and everything we love about the car! There are going to be some changes, of course, starting with the engine. It'll use a new, modern one, producing about three times more power than the original. That’s about 400 bhp, so this time, maybe it'll be as quick as it looks. The interior is also going to be refreshed and prices are expected to be around $100,000. Fancy a new DeLorean? It sounds good enough, and only time will tell if this time, the project will work. Maybe the DMC-12 is really a Time Machine?