Marty McFly wearing Nike Mag sneakers, that outlandish guitar solo, the hoverboard, and the Back to the Future car are icons of today. However, if certain events didn’t occur the way they did before the film was shot, instead of a DeLorean car, we would have seen a fridge at the back of a truck as our time machine. In the discussion below, we'll cover how the DeLorean became an 80s pop icon and the details that make it memorable.
Before everybody associated the DMC-12 as the Back to the Future car in the 1980s, John Zachary DeLorean was on a mission to turn his dreams into a reality. In 1973, DeLorean left a six-figure job not liking the bureaucracy in the upper echelons of the company. He was one of the youngest leaders in General Motors and previously led GM’s car and truck operations.
On October 24, 1975, DeLorean founded the DeLorean Motor Company to challenge GM and the rest of the automotive industry, having secured $200 million in funding. He decided to enter the sportscar market due to the potential higher profit margins he could make in that sector.
It was an ambitious endeavor, but analysts like Harvey Heinbach from Merrill Lynch were very optimistic about DeLorean’s success. Nevertheless, several mistakes were made during their pilot project, spelling its failure.
The DMC 12 was designed by famed Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The car was given futuristic details including a brushed stainless steel finish. In addition, it was outfitted with gull-wing doors, where the vehicle was hinged at the roof, allowing the door to swing upward. These were the highlights that would later attract the attention of the writers and directors of the Back to the Future movie.
However, the manufacturers later made a few drastic changes to the vehicle’s design. For instance, they moved the engine to the rear instead of the original mid-engine configuration. Further, after alterations, the car now weighed 500 pounds heavier than initially designed. This weight issue and the engine’s rear-end position affected the car’s handling.
Post-production, the car carried a $25,000 price tag, which was significantly pricier compared to its established competitors, such as the Porsche 911, Chevrolet Corvette, Lotus Esprit, and the Ferrari 308. Further, the first wave of DeLorean car units was plagued with quality issues. It was slower with a torpid acceleration, reaching only 60 mph in nine seconds. With a higher price tag, the DeLorean was simply out of reach for the average car owner. For this reason, the company’s factory closed its doors producing only 9,000 cars.
To make matters worse, John DeLorean was arrested by the FBI for cocaine trafficking. Why would he do that? It was alleged that he was making a last-ditch effort to get more funding for his company. FBI informant, James Hoffman, brought him in as a financier as part of a scheme to sell 220 lbs of cocaine. The trials would put DeLorean’s face on TV on multiple occasions. He was later acquitted as the jury determined him a victim of government entrapment.
From Failure to 80s Pop Icon
While things didn’t seem well for the would-be Back to the Future car, some events stirred in the background that appeared to sway fate into its favor. Back to the Future director and screenwriter Robert Zemeckis was wrestling with the part in the drafts where the time machine was loaded at the back of a pickup truck. It was unwieldy and somehow didn’t make sense to him.
Zemeckis had the idea to make the time machine into a car, a DeLorean specifically, which was perfect for the movie since the DeLorean was dubbed "the car of the future."
There was some pushback against this idea from the Universal Studios producers. On top of that, Ford offered to pay $75,000 for the time machine to be a Ford Mustang instead. However, the film’s co-writer, Bob Gale, rejected the idea since he envisioned that Dr. Brown would be out of character driving a Mustang. Eventually, the DeLorean was selected as the car for the Back to the Future movie.
After filming and eventual showing, the rest was history. In 1985, Back to the Future became the highest-earning film of that year. It was able to outrank other iconic films such as The Breakfast Club and Rambo. John DeLorean was acquitted a year before, proving that the FBI’s efforts were an entrapment.
Relive the Time Traveling Vibe
Of course, the MARK I Back to the Future car had a few modifications on set, which were not part of the original DeLorean car’s design. Designed by Andrew Probert and Michael Scheffe; Kevin Pike and his team at Filmtrix added time circuits, time-traveling components, conduits, and wiring to add a more futuristic appeal to the machine. A flux capacitor was also added to the car, which allowed it to time travel when the vehicle hit 88 miles per hour.
The DMC 12 brings a lot of nostalgia. Fans and movie buffs can appreciate the success story behind this vehicle and its manufacturers, making it the iconic figure we know today. Relive your favorite time-traveling moments in your next event. Rent a DeLorean at Dr. Brown Enterprises today!
Dr. Emmett Brown, the brilliant and eccentric chief scientist of Dr. Brown Enterprises, is a visionary pioneer in the field of temporal physics, fearlessly pushing the boundaries of scientific exploration to unravel the secrets of time travel and open the doors to unimaginable possibilities