If you’re a gearhead like us, chances are you probably enjoy Back to the Future. It took time-travel, sci-fi, and mixed it with cars, which is everything we love, all in one. The DeLorean DMC-12 is one of the most iconic cars ever made, thanks to the film.
Director Robert Zemeckis made an instant cult classic with Back to the Future – but the DeLorean DMC-12 really stole the show. It had character, it was unique, and everyone wanted one. There was only one problem – it was hard to get your hands on one! The DMC-12 is a rare collector’s item, despite it being a bit junky. It’s the nostalgia that makes us all want one, no doubt – not the fact that it can hardly even go over 85 mph.
The DMC-12 became iconic because of Back to the Future, and the movie wouldn’t have been the same without it (though it WAS almost made without it). Here are 20 facts about the car that you might’ve never known.
20 The DMC-12 Is The Company’s Only Car
The DeLorean DMC-12 was immortalized and solidified as part of Americana after showing up in Back to the Future. Before that, it was just an average car that no one really cared about. But then it was a time machine! The first prototype was unveiled in 1975, production began in 1981, and by 1982, the DeLorean Motor Company had ceased operating. The company didn’t have enough time to make different cars.
19 Back To The Future Originally Didn’t Have The Car In It
Nowadays, the idea of Back to the Future without the DeLorean DMC-12 is blasphemous. We simply can’t imagine it. But according to Movie Fanfare, an early script of the film had the time machine as a refrigerator! Eventually, it was decided that it would be more useful if the time machine was mobile, but even then, the DeLorean was not always the car of choice.
18 There Are Only 6,000 Of Them In Existence
When you take replicas into account, there are many more – but original, certified DMC-12s? They’re a bit of a rarity.
In the two years that the DMC-12 was produced, the company only managed to manufacture around 6,000 of them, which is why they’re such collector’s items today. It was originally called the DMC-12, by the way, because of its intended price tag of $12,000, but it ended up retailing for $25,000.
17 An Early Script Had A Mustang Instead Of A DeLorean
Yes, another early script didn’t use a refrigerator, but rather a Ford Mustang as the car of choice for the Flux Capacitor. The Mustang was very popular back then, but the producers ended up wanting a more obscure car that they could promote, seeing as that Ford really didn’t need any help selling their Mustangs. We’re glad the production crew went with the DMC-12, because a Mustang would have been too pedestrian.
Screenwriter Bob Gale said in an interview, “Does Doc Brown look like the kind of guy who would drive a Ford Mustang? I’m sorry, no.”
16 John DeLorean Planned To Make A Turbocharged Version
Can you imagine a DMC-12 that was actually fast and sporty? That would be a sight, and it would probably increase the popularity of the car even more. John DeLorean, however, originally planned to produce a version with a turbocharged engine, so it wouldn’t take almost 10 seconds to reach 60 mph.
Prototypes of the turbocharged version managed 0-60 in under 6 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 15 seconds. Unfortunately, the idea was scrapped as DMC declared bankruptcy before the serial production of these new cars.
15 It’s Very Slow
Contrary to what Back to the Future would have you believe, the DMC-12 wasn’t much of a sports car. It was built with a 2.85-liter V6 engine based on the Renault 2.7-liter hatchback engine. Originally, John DeLorean intended the car to use a Wankel engine from Citroen, but that never happened. The DMC-12 only had 130 horsepower, and it took a whopping 8.8 seconds to reach 60 mph.
14 It Wasn’t Made Very Well
Even though it was an American car, it was assembled in Ireland. Not that Ireland is known for producing poor cars, but at the time there was a high unemployment rate in Ireland, a minimal car industry, and the workers were undertrained and inexperienced. That led to some pretty shoddy cars getting manufactured, and the DMC-12 left many customers wanting and unhappy.
By the time the problems were fixed though, it was too late: DMC was doomed.
13 Companies Can Make You A Perfect DMC-12 Replica
You can own your own Flux Capacitor, but it might cost you a pretty penny. Former radio host Adam Kontras runs a six-figure Back to the Future time machine business that builds perfect replicas of the cars and either rents them out or sells them outright (source: FastCompany.com). Kontras’ company will either build you perfect replicas, or they will tune a good condition DMC-12 into a perfect condition one.
12 It Wasn’t Painted
There’s a reason the DMC-12 looked so unique and steely, and it’s not a glamorous reason. It’s because the car wasn’t painted! It rolled off the factory floor with brushed stainless steel panels, which gave it a futuristic look, but looks pretty odd nowadays.
Many DeLorean owners painted their cars black, gold, or other colors before selling them to customers, but those ones aren’t as sought after as the original, excellent-condition DMC-12s with the original lack of paint.
11 It Was The Third Car Ever With Gullwing Doors
One of the most unique features of the DMC-12, which added to its futuristic qualities, was its gullwing doors. Lamborghini has its scissor doors, Rolls-Royce has suicide doors, and DeLorean wanted something different. But they weren’t the only ones.
The Mercedes 300SL from the 1950s (pictured), and the Bricklin SV-1 (from the ‘70s—and it looks very reminiscent of the DMC-12) both had gullwing doors before the DMC-12 ever came around.
10 It Had Little Competition (Rear-Engine RWD)
There was only one other car on the market at the time that shared the DMC-12’s unique engine configuration: rear-wheel-drive and rear-engined. Unfortunately for the DMC-12, that one competitive car was enough, because it was the iconic Porsche 911. The 911 has been called the best car ever built by High Snobiety, Forbes, and Business Insider, among others.
The DMC-12? Not so much. It’s unique, sure, but it will never be able to compete with the 911.
9 There Are 16 Custom-Built Right-Hand-Drive DMC-12s
If you want a European version of the DMC-12, there are a few very rare right-hand-drive versions of the car available. They sell for a lot, because only 16 factory-built DMC-12s were ever installed with right-hand-drive.
More of them have been reconfigured and converted since then to suit the UK, Australian, and Indian markets. Only three of the original right-hand-drive DMC-12s were converted in the factory, while the other 13 were produced by the Wooler-Hodec Company.
8 Its Speedometer Didn’t Even Reach 88 MPH
In the film, Marty McFly has to reach 88 mph to be transported, but it’s funny to learn that the original DMC-12 only went up to 85 mph on its speedometer!
President Jimmy Carter had signed a law in 1979 that mandated cars only go to 85 mph, in an effort to curb speeding. The production crew on the film had to build a custom speedometer that went up to 95 mph, with a digital readout on top of the driver’s side dashboard for accuracy.
7 The Original DMC-12 Is In An LA Museum
Universal Studios have kept the original DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future for over 30 years. They fully restored it and exhibited it at car shows, and then finally moved it to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where it sits alongside other hugely famous cars from films.
The car’s restoration took more than 20 people to accomplish, as they rebuilt it by taking off every body panel, replacing them, and restoring it to its near-perfect 1981 glory.
6 Its Popularity Is Thanks To Back To The Future
If it wasn’t for the 1985 film, Back to the Future, the DMC-12 would have wallowed in obscurity. It wasn’t a great car, it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t well made, and it was produced for only a limited time. It had no reason to be a popular car, and it wasn’t exactly a collector’s item at the time.
But after Back to the Future, it became a huge collector’s item, and it’s now featured in all sorts of other shows and movies. Its rich history and popularity can solely rest at the feet of Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
5 It Was Produced For Only Two Years
As mentioned, the DMC-12 was only manufactured from 1981 to 1982. After that, the company went out of business, mainly because John DeLorean was facing legal problems at the time. It was practically a collector’s item by the time it came out in 1981.
According to the DeLorean Museum, the car’s short life was due to John’s arrest (of which he was found not guilty), but it was too late for him to reopen the factory by that point.
4 You Can Rent One For Special Events
Besides Adam Kontras’ replicas, you can rent a real DMC-12 from the DeLorean Motor Company itself. Other people have opened businesses with DMC’s blessing to rent out their DMC-12s for events and parties, primarily through Turo.com. So there’s a reason that you still see DMC-12s all over the place, despite its rarity—because it’s not very hard to get a hold of one, at least for a limited time!
3 They Might Be Making A New One
A couple years ago, 2019 looked like the year that the DeLorean Motor Company would finally revitalize their DMC-12. It doesn’t look like this will be the year, but maybe next year. CEO Stephen Wynne has already produced 300 units of the new car, while he awaits federal approval to rebuild.
According to Polygon.com, the 2019 version of the car will keep the same iconic design, the gullwing doors, but with a massively upgraded engine. We sort of wished it looked something like this, honestly.
2 The Time Machine Is Nuclear Powered In The Film
Back to the Future fans know that the time machine used in the film uses 1.21 gigawatts of electrical power, which is enough to light up 100 LED light bulbs. No single combustion engine in existence could get that kind of power, so they created “Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor” for the film, which was a satirical name for a popular brand of coffee machines at the time.
The device works with plutonium, which is the same element that makes nuclear power so strong.
1 The DMC-12s Display Is A Callback To “The Time Machine”
Science fiction is always calling back other science fiction films and alluding to them with Easter eggs. Back to the Future was no different.
The 1960s had a huge wave of scientific exploration, and The Time Machine was one of the most popular sci-fi films of the era. The DMC-12’s interior displays are colored red, yellow, and green, which are the same colors used in The Time Machine. The opening scenes of the movies are also similar, in case the allusion wasn’t obvious enough.
References: turo.com, thenewswheel.com, fastcompany.com, polygon.com