Delorean DMC-12 - Back to the Future

DeLorean History

John Z. DeLorean, former head of Pontiac and the creator of the original GTO muscle car, decided to start his own car company in the late 1970's. He set up a production plant in Belfast, Ireland and started rolling out his DeLorean DMC-12 car in 1981. These cars were like nothing the world had ever seen. The body was made of stainless steel, it sat incredibly low to the ground, and the doors opened in a gullwing style.

DeLorean faced financial difficulties after the 3rd year of production, and an FBI sting ruined his reputation and made the DeLorean the butt of all sorts of drug-related jokes. DeLorean was cleared of all the charges against him, as the U.S. government had clearly entrapped him.

The DeLorean DMC-12 grew in popularity in the mid-1980's when the hit sci-fi movie "Back to the Future" was released in theaters. It features a Delorean time machine created by Dr. Emmitt Brown with the help of a flux capacitor. In Back to the Future Part Two, the Delorean time machine could fly and ran on nuclear fusion power with the help of a Mr. Fusion unit.  

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1982 Delorean DMC-12The Back to the Future DeLorean with time travel modificationsA black Delorean DMC-12. This was not an original factory color option.A red Delorean DMC-12. This WAS an original factory color, along with blue (an of course regular stainless steel)If you've got a few hundred hours of spare time, you can buff your DeLorean to this mirror shine as well. As part of an American Express promotion, 2 lucky people were rewarded with a gold-plated DeLorean like this one.
1982 Delorean DMC-12
1982 Delorean DMC-12
The Back to the Future DeLorean with time travel modifications
The Back to the Future DeLorean with time travel modifications
A black Delorean DMC-12. This was not an original factory color option.
A black Delorean DMC-12. This was not an original factory color option.
A red Delorean DMC-12. This WAS an original factory color, along with blue (an of course regular stainless steel)
A red Delorean DMC-12. This WAS an original factory color, along with blue (an of course regular stainless steel)
If you've got a few hundred hours of spare time, you can buff your DeLorean to this mirror shine as well.
If you've got a few hundred hours of spare time, you can buff your DeLorean to this mirror shine as well.
As part of an American Express promotion, 2 lucky people were rewarded with a gold-plated DeLorean like this one.
As part of an American Express promotion, 2 lucky people were rewarded with a gold-plated DeLorean like this one.

Rare Versions of the DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12 remained basically the same car during it's 3 years of production. With the exception of the gas cap flap in the hood of the 1981 model and some minor cosmetic changes, it's hard to tell one DeLorean apart from another. There were, however, some rarer models from the factory.

Although most people know of the stainless steel DeLorean, there have been many DeLorean collectors who have painted their cars blue, red, or black. These models never looked quite right to me, and painting anything on stainless steel is a challenge. 

The rarest version of the DeLorean is the gold-plated American Express promotion giveaway DMC-12. There were only 3 of these cars made, each one plated in 24k gold. They are by far the most valuable of the surviving DeLoreans.

DeLorean Legacy

Although John Z. DeLorean is dead, his namesake company lives on. A business in Texas bought the company name and now builds new DeLoreans using surplus parts that were left over when DeLorean production suddenly halted in 1983. There were enough parts for tens of thousands of cars, but the original run resulted in about 5,000 total cars. These new DeLoreans can be built with options never available on the original, such as satellite navigation and heated seats, and start at around $60,000. A decent used original DeLorean can typically be found for around $25,000 or less.  

DeLorean Mods

There are many communities of DeLorean owners out there, and many of them like to modify their cars in unique ways. There is a Delorean out there with dual motors, with a Cadillac Northstar V8 in the rear (where the original PVR engine would have been located) and a Honda 4-cylinder in the front. There's also one owner who swapped the underpowered PVR for a Mazra dual rotor engine out of an RX-7.

Many DeLorean modders will try to make their car look like one of the versions of the time machine from the Back to the Future movies. ThinkGeek sells a flux capacitor that looks like the one from the movie for a few hundred dollars, and you can also find Mr. Fusion units (which are themselves usually modded Mr. Coffee makers) online. Some of the other necessary mods take serious amounts of fabrication work.  

Clearing Up The Facts About The DeLorean

Here are some facts you might not know about the DeLorean DMC-12:

  • It was not a sports car. It took over 10 seconds to go 0-60 mph
  • It was never used to transport narcotics from Ireland to the United States
  • The stainless steel body won't rust, but the frame still can
  • The gullwing doors actually need LESS clearance between cars in a parking lot than a standard car. Because the hinge is near the middle of the roof, the doors lift upward more than outward. Only about a foot of clearance between the next car is necessary
  • Average fuel economy is about 25 mpg 
  • There is a small window on the doors that can be opened. This was included so drivers would be able to pay tolls
  • The stock speedometer only goes to 85 mph. The DeLorean in Back to the Future had to reach 88 mph in order to travel through time. The car in the movie featured a speedometer out of a Ferrari
  • John Z. DeLorean was planning a new DeLorean in the years before he died

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Ever seen a DeLorean? 8 comments

Meganroyalty 6 years ago

Coming from a Delorean owner such as myself, I think you touched on most of the prime points regarding this car. Good hub!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I haven't seen one in years but remember them as looking futuristic and exciting. Thanks for the update!


DTR0005 profile image

DTR0005 5 years ago from Midwest

I have a quick question. Do you have any idea how body work, in the event of collision damage, would be performed? As there is no paint work, would replacing the damaged part(s) be the only option?


I am DB Cooper profile image

I am DB Cooper 5 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time Author

DTR0005 - Sadly, the answer is usually "yes". Dents cannot be easily tapped out of stainless steel, and you can't just fill in imperfections with bondo and cover it with paint. Small dings can usually be fixed by professionals, but any body panels involved with collision damage will probably need to be replaced. Some of the body panels are very expensive as well. A gas-flap hood can run several thousand dollars.


DTR0005 profile image

DTR0005 5 years ago from Midwest

That is what I suspected. Thanks for your response. I happened on a tow yard/ repair shop in rural Ohio a few years back. And this is no exageration, there were about 8 DeLoreans parked inside this shop. I was in too big a hurry to start asking questions, but it was a "trip."


dukenukemIV 5 years ago

I hate to be "that guy," but the DeLorean in the Back to the Future films had the stock speedometer that only went to 85. The way they gaged their speed was by an additional digital read-out located on the dashboard.


I am DB Cooper profile image

I am DB Cooper 5 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time Author

@ dukenukemIV: I just rewatched it to see if you are correct. I may have been wrong about that speedometer coming out of a Ferrari, but after rewatching the scene in the mall parking lot it's definitely not a stock speedo face. It goes up to 95 mph. The stock speedo (part# 105862) only goes up to 85 mph. After doing some more research, I've found that they just put on a custom speedo face for the movie. The one in the movie has its first marker at 15 mph instead of 5, and all the other markers increased by 10, so the final one is 95 instead of 85. You can see this modified speedometer at about 39 seconds in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHnQ5l-xfKM


kims3003 5 years ago

Very well done hub with great photos. Nice work!

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