10 Things You Need To Know About The Back To The Future DeLorean Time Machine - SUV VEHICLE

10 Things You Need To Know About The Back To The Future DeLorean Time Machine

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John DeLorean was the youngest executive in General Motors’ history and the man who developed the Pontiac GTO and Firebird models. In the early 1970s, he left GM to form his own company with hopes of producing a radical sports car with stainless steel body panels and gull-wing doors.




Financing issues and production delays pushed this dream until 1981, when the DMC DeLorean, sometimes called the DeLorean DMC-12, was finally produced. While definitely cool looking, the DeLorean was tragically underpowered and had serious quality control issues, which is a nice way of saying it was a piece of junk.

Also, with an MSRP of $25,000, or $88,860 in 2024 dollars, it was way overpriced. After producing just 8,795 cars in two years, the DeLorean Motor Company went belly up. The DeLorean could have been lost to history and forgotten as the Bricklin SV-1, but then something happened in 1985 that would immortalize it forever.

Staring as the time machine in the Back to the Future movies, the DeLorean DMC 12 became a pop culture icon and one of the most recognizable symbols of the 1980s. While people feel familiar with this car, there is so much more to know about the DeLorean Time Machine.


In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, including Car and Driver, Box Office Mojo, and Esquire.

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10 Six DeLoreans Were Used In The Films

Back To The Future Fleet

The Universal Studios special effects department built three main DeLorean time machine cars for use in filming Back to the Future and its sequels. The first was the “A Car,” also known as the “Hero Car,” and was the most detailed for use in exterior shots. The “B Car” A.K.A. the “Stunt Car” was used for, well, stunts, and the “C Car”, which didn’t have a special name, was torn apart, so a camera could fit in it for interior shots.


Fate Of The Back To The Future Cars:

  • Hero Car – On display at the Peterson Automotive Museum
  • Stunt Car – Destroyed at the end of Back to the Future Part III
  • C Car – Owned by a Japanese company
  • Oxnard Car – In storage awaiting restoration
  • Desert Car #1 – Owned by a different Japanese company
  • Desert Car #2 – In private hands
  • Fiberglass replica – Destroyed

The main cars were used in all three movies, but an additional three DeLorean Time Machine cars were constructed for the sequels. The “Oxnard Car” as well as “Desert Car #1” and “Desert Car #2” were used primarily in the filming of Back to the Future Part III, which took place in the Wild West. Additionally, a fiberglass replica was built for flying scenes in Back to the Future Part II, but it wasn’t a functioning vehicle, made lightweight so it could be hoisted by cranes.


9 The DeLorean DMC 12 Had Other Starring Roles

A True Car Star

Top rear view of DeLorean DMC-12 Time Machine Replica
DukeNukeIt/Wikimedia Commons

After rising to fame in the Back to the Future films, the DeLorean became, not just a cultural icon, but a genuine star. Since it was representative of the excesses and cheesiness of the 1980s, it cemented a spot as the de facto symbol of the decade. It is often used as a retro prop to convey a sense of nostalgia, like in the Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer, but also got some work in the 80s outside of the Back to the Future franchise.

Notable DeLorean Film Credits:

  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Donnie Darko
  • Ready Player One
  • Sausage Party
  • Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace


Action film, Malibu Express, starring Sybil Danning, with a weird cameo from Regis Philbin, actually beat Doc Brown and Marty McFly to the DeLorean. Back to the Future was released on July 3, 1985, but Malibu Express preceded it by a few months, coming out in March of ’85. The first DeLorean on-screen appearance, however, belongs to Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, released in 1983, in which the legendary ride flew past Sheriff Buford T. Justice as a background vehicle.

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8 The Speedometer Was Fake

DeLoreans Weren’t Very Fast

In the Back to the Future movies, the DeLorean Time Machine has to hit 88 MPH to rip a hole in the space/time continuum, but that’s something the car probably wasn’t capable of. DeLoreans came equipped with 150-horsepower. 2.85-liter V-6 engines and had a curb weight of 2,718 pounds, which, in car math, equals slow. The claimed top speed was 130 MPH, but nobody was able to demonstrate that, and 117 MPH was the fastest one ever went. While it could technically get to 88 MPH, it would take it a long time to get there.


DeLorean Power And Performance

Engine

2.85-liter V-6

Horsepower

150 horsepower

Torque

153 pound-feet

Transmission

Five-speed manual

0-60 Time

10.5 seconds

Quarter-mile

17.9 seconds @ 76.5 MPH

Top Speed

117 MPH

(Performance stats sourced from Car and Driver)


The biggest issue, as far as the movie goes, is that DeLoreans didn’t have a speedometer that went past 85 MPH. In order to show the Time Machine hitting 88, a fake speedometer had to be installed in the film’s cars. Presumably, they could have just rewritten the script to make it 85, but the replacement speedometer was a cool digital gauge, which definitely looked better on screen than a sad analog version. With a 17.9 second quarter-mile time at only 76.5 MPH, it would take the DeLorean time and distance to reach 88 MPH, which wasn’t represented in the movies.

7 There Were Gold DeLoreans

Rare Variants

3/4 front view of Gold-Plated DeLorean DMC-12
Tobias Haase/Wikimedia Commons

Though the DeLorean had a very limited production run, there are several variants of the vehicle. Obviously, the six used in Back to the Future rides count, as they were made from real DeLoreans, but the numerous reproductions cranked out since are not official. There is a wooden mock-up prototype, built in 1975, and approximately 28 pilot cars from 1978, most of which were destroyed. In 1979, the “Visioneering Car” was built from scratch for $750,000 because no production vehicles were available to show off.


DeLorean Variants

  • Wooden Mock-Up – 1 unit
  • Prototypes – 2 units
  • Pilot Cars – 28 units
  • Visioneering Car – 1 unit
  • Legend Turbo Cars – 4 units
  • Gold-Plated Cars – 5 units

The coolest of them all, however, are the gold-plated DMC 12s. DeLorean entered into a promotional deal with American Express to sell 100 gold-plated vehicles to the bank’s gold-card members for $85,000 each, which was a hell of a lot of money in the early 1980s. Only two actually sold, so it was a spectacular flop, much like the DeLorean itself. A third car was built, which was raffled off and somehow there are two more, though not much is known about their origins or current whereabouts.

6 The DeLorean Inspired The Tesla Cybertruck

Elon Musk Is A Fan

Tesla Cybertruck action shot on a test track
Tesla


Tesla and Space-X CEO Elon Musk is a visionary and genius, but a lot of his ideas come from silly movies. The Ludicrous Mode package as well as the Plaid performance trim on his Tesla EVs came from the Star Wars parody movie, Space Balls. For the CyberTruck, which finally hit the streets in 2024, Musk drew heavily from the DeLorean DMC 12, and probably not just the real vehicle, but also the Time Machine from the Back to the Future movies.

Movies That Inspired Tesla Easter Eggs:

  • Back to the Future
  • Monty Python’s Holy Grail
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • The Matrix
  • Spaceballs
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Spinal Tap

Seeing as how the CyberTruck is clad in stainless steel body panels, just like the DeLorean, that’s the first and most obvious connection. The sharp angles as well as overall body shape are also a nod to the DeLorean, and the truck bed looks like it could definitely house a Flux Capacitor, which Musk is almost certainly working on. At the end of the first movie, Doc Brown had converted the DeLorean time machine to run on garbage or renewable energy sources, and the CyberTruck is an EV, so they are both environmentally friendly.


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5 There’s No Such Thing As A Flux Capacitor

The Weird Science Of Back To The Future

For a fun family comedy, which is now even being featured in a Musical on Boadway, Back to the Future actually got the science of time travel right, conforming to the prevailing theories on the subject. When it comes to the rest of the movie, however, there was some definite poetic license applied. That is to say, there is some pretty bad science and the first offense is the amount of power it takes to make a time leap. In the film, Doc Brown explains that “one point twenty-one jigowatts” is required, which is presumably 1.21 billion watts, but it is actually gigawatts with a hard G.

DeLorean Time Machine Features:

  • Flux Capacitor
  • Mr. Fusion
  • Time Circuits
  • Fusion Chamber
  • Wormhole Emitters


Maybe the biggest piece of junk science is the Flux capacitor, mostly because many people think that is a real thing. In the DeLorean, the Flux Capacitor is the Y-shaped thing that lights up when 88 MPH is achieved and makes time travel possible. There is no explanation in the movie about how this contraption actually works and there is no real-life counterpart to it. It’s a fictitious thing, and it sounds sufficiently scientific, so many people assume it’s a real thing.

4 The Time Machine Was Way Off In Predicting The Future

Ain’t No Hoverboards, Yo


There is a certain faction of casual fans who have a problem with the title Back to the Future, because in the first film, Marty McFly goes to the past, not the future. The thing is, he is sent to the past, but has to get back to his present, which is the future from where he is, so it makes sense. In Part II he does go to the future, so it’s fine, but the real gripe should be how completely wrong the films were in predicting that future.

Back To The Future Wrong Tech:

  • Flying cars
  • Hoverboards
  • Zappers
  • Self-tying Nikes
  • Instant pizza

Back to the Future Part II is set in the year 2015, which was nine years ago. In that fictitious future, there were flying cars, hoverboards, and self-tying shoes. The movie also failed to predict smartphones and the Internet, which are two of the biggest pieces of tech in actual 2015. Also, 2015 America doesn’t look radically different than 1980s America, but in the film, it’s like some Blade Runner-esque post-apocalypse dystopian future.


3 Michael J. Fox Wasn’t The Original DeLorean Pilot

Casting Quirks

Marty McFly is one of Michael J. Fox’s most iconic roles, and it seems impossible to imagine anyone but him behind the wheel of the DeLorean Time Machine in Back to the Future, but he wasn’t the first choice. In fact, he wasn’t the first Marty McFly, because production actually started with a different actor in the role. Eric Stoltz from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Mask was initially cast and filming had begun with him. Director Robert Zemeckis wasn’t feeling his groove and he was replaced by Fox.

Greatest Roles For Michael J. Fox

  • Arthur – Class of 1984
  • Alex P. Keaton – Faliy Ties
  • Marty McFly – Back to the Future
  • Scott Howard – Teen Wolf
  • Max Eriksson – Casualties of War
  • Mike Flaherty – Spin City


Michael J. Fox was actually the first choice for the role, but because of his commitment to the show Family Ties, he couldn’t do it. Actors like Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, and Robert Downey Jr. were all considered, but Stoltz got the initial call. For the role of Doc Brown, actors as diverse as Robin Williams, John Lithgow, and Gene Hackman were offered the part before Christopher Lloyd was finally cast. The stewards of the DeLorean Time Machine could have been much different and a whole lot weirder.

2 The Time Machine Was Almost A Mustang

Michael J. Fox In A Fox Body

3/4 front view of 1985 Ford Mustang GT
Mecum


As weird as it feels to have anyone other than Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, it is equally as off-putting to think of him going back to the future in anything but a DeLorean DMC 12. Yet, it was almost a different car entirely. In one of the earliest examples of product placement, the Ford Motor Company offered producers $75,000 to make the Time Machine vehicle a Mustang. Co-creator and producer, Bob Gale, “politely” declined the offer, as Esquire reported, thinking that the Blue Oval ride wasn’t quite right.

“Doc Brown doesn’t drive a [explitive] Mustang” – Bob Gale

Since the movie was released in 1985, and shot in 1984, the Mustang offered for filming was definitely a Fox Body. As cool and appropriate as the DeLorean was for the Time Machine, a Fox Body Mustang wouldn’t have sucked. In fact, a GT hatchback would have easily accommodated the fusion chamber, flux capacitor as well as all the time travel equipment, and it would have been just as cool. A Chrysler K car couldn’t have pulled it off, but a Fox Body Mustang would have been awesome.


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1 The DeLorean Was Almost A Refrigerator

Time Machine With A Crisper Drawer

Rear view of DeLorean DMC-12 Time Machine Replicas
Terabass/Wikimedia Commons

Had the first draft of the Back to the Future script been filmed, there wouldn’t have been a DeLorean in the movie at all. In the original story, the time machine was a souped-up refrigerator. Technically, the time machine was a laser device in a room, but in the end, when Marty wanted to return to the 1980s, it was attached to a refrigerator. Obviously, an ice box can’t hit 88 MPH, so in order to activate the time-traveling device, Marty had to climb inside the fridge and get blown up by an atomic bomb test.


Franchise Power And Performance

Movie

Budget

Box Office

Back to the Future

$19 million

$388.8 million

Back to the Future Part II

$40 million

$332.5 million

Back to the Future Part III

$40 million

$245.1 million

(Performance stats sourced from Box Office Mojo)

If that sounds horrible, that’s because it is, but thankfully, Steven Speilberg stepped in, pointing out that the original concept would encourage children to hide in refrigerators. Director Robert Zemeckis then suggested a DeLorean, which would be like a UFO to people in the 50s. The atomic blast scenario stayed, but the studio refused to finance the sequence, so it was changed to the iconic clock tower scene in which the DeLorean gets a jolt of lightning as it speeds to 88 MPH and sends Marty back to the future.

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