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Back To The Future: The DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean_DMC-12_with_doors_openI’m writing this on 20th October 2015, which means that tomorrow is Back To The Future day. For those of you who managed to miss out on watching Back To The Future II and don’t quite get what’s the big deal about tomorrow, the date 21st October 2015 is the date to which the time-travelling De Lorean hops forward to.

In honour of the occasion, it’s time to take a little look at the car that this movie series pushed into the limelight: the DeLorean. To be more specific, the DeLorean DMC-12.

The Back To The Future movie series is about the only place you’re really likely to see the DeLorean DMC-12. The company wasn’t a success, in spite of the sort of “product placement” that many manufacturers would pay vast amounts of money for. It didn’t flop simply because it was a small and obscure company – similar product placement of an obscure brand in a sci-fi movie during the mid-1980s worked for Reece’s Pieces in the E.T. movie. It flopped for a number of reasons, including a massive slump in the US car market, the fact that the main DeLorean factory was located in Belfast, Northern Ireland smack-dab in the middle of the notorious Troubles and the arrest of the company’s head, John DeLorean, for drug trafficking.

It’s a pity that the DeLorean didn’t get more widespread, because this two-door sports coupé had a lot going for it, really. The body styling was innovative and futuristic (which was why it was chosen for the starring role in the movie).  It featured a fair amount of fibreglass, a very streamlined rocket-like shape and those über-cool gullwing doors, which also graced the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.  Another innovative styling feature of the DeLorean DMC-12 was the decision to leave the metal unpainted but to let the brushed stainless steel speak for itself. Rumour has it that a small, select group of DeLoreans were plated with gold. I hope that last one is a rumour, as it sounds extremely tacky and gag-worthily ostentatious.

The engine – which was mounted in the rear like an old-fashioned VW  Beetle – was a 2.9-L V6 PRV job, with PRV standing for Peugeot , Renault  and Volvo.  The initial plan was to have a centrally mounted Wankel engine, but this sounds like a mechanic’s nightmare, so it’s just as well that this idea never made it past the drawing board or the DMC (DeLorean Motor Company) might have flopped a whole lot sooner. The transmission came in two types: a five-speed manual or a three-speed automatic. It could do the 0–60 mph sprint (American equivalent of the 0–100 km/h time) in 8.8 seconds for the manual and 10.5 seconds for the automatic version.  The suspension was a four-wheel independent job (double wishbones at the front, multi-link in the rear) that worked alongside coil springs, and telescopic shock absorbers.  Power-assisted disk brakes completed the performance and handling package.

The DeLorean came reasonably well equipped with bells and whistles for a mid-1980s vehicle, featuring a cassette player, a clock built into the gearshift knob, leather seats, air conditioning, electric windows and power (central) locking.  Most DeLoreans were left-hand drive jobs but a few right-hand drives were produced for the UK and Australian market.  They never took off.

There were a few teething problems with the radio antenna, which had rotten reception with its first location on the front roof, and with the battery, which went flat horribly easily.

The DMC company folded in 1983 after having made about 8000–9000 units since production began in 1981, including the right-hand drive models.

A few years ago (in 2013), there were a few rumours out there that the DeLorean was going to make a comeback as an electric vehicle with the iconic body style, including the brushed stainless steel with no paint and the gull-wing doors.  Although a prototype has been put around a test track and there was a bit of a buzz about it, this project also seems to have fizzled.  Or do I speak too soon?  A news report from Belfast, Northern Ireland, yesterday hints that an all-electric high-tech version made by the engineering department of Queen’s University Belfast is going to be unveiled tomorrow for Back To The Future Day (OK, make a few adjustments for time-zone differences!).

Today, DeLoreans are mostly found in the United States in the hands of enthusiasts. You are unlikely to see one on Australian roads. If, however, you have been lucky enough to spot a real one, tell the world!




  1. David says:

    Back to the future is here now:

    But Model X is ludicrously fast, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in as quick as 3.2 seconds, and is clean and quiet.
    Also the latest regular firmware upgrade (over 3G) gave all Teslas in Australia incredible AutoSteer capability.

    Use link below to order with a discount before 31st October.

    October 29th, 2015 at 10:06 am

  2. Andrew says:

    I have seen a couple of DMCs on the streets in the South Eastern suburbs of Adelaide in the last few months.

    October 29th, 2015 at 10:45 am