“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t immediately recognize Dr. Emmett Brown’s iconic time travel machine, rump bristling with circuitry and Mr. Fusion, gull wing doors flung skyward.

But without its starring turn in the Back to the Future series, would the DeLorean DMC 12 have been just another obscure footnote – familiar only to car nuts and historians?


One thing’s for certain. Of all the vehicles I’ve test driven over the years, rarely has one attracted the level of attention as John DeLorean’s stainless steel sports car.

The DeLorean DMC-12 (DMC for DeLorean Motor Company, 12 for its originally projected price of $12,000) is the embodiment of a long-held, but short-lived dream, the ill-fated fruit of one man’s ambition.

It was the brainchild of John Z. DeLorean – controversial, hip playboy executive who left General Motors in the late 1970s to build the ultimate sports car. The Northern Ireland–based DeLorean Motor Company produced just over 8,000 cars between 1981 and 1982, when the company folded amidst allegations of drug money funding. Although drug charges against John DeLorean were later dropped, it was too late for DMC, which had been plagued by production problems and claims of inflated performance figures.

But the DeLorean remains a pop culture icon thanks to its starring role as the time machine in the movie Back to the Future and a symbol of the flamboyant lifestyle of its creator.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 6,000 surviving DMC-12s today, and recently, a Texas based company acquired the rights to build more, using parts left over from the original plant (http://www.delorean.com).

I was lucky to score an afternoon with one, thanks to the generosity of a Peterborough resident Michael Whetung, who bought it on impulse after stumbling across it in an autoTRADER.ca.

One of two cars sent by DMC to Kapuskasing for cold-weather testing, it was stranded when the company went into receivership, and later sold at auction.

Almost two decades later, there were only 22,000 miles on its odometer.

The Italdesign body isn’t what you’d call conventionally pretty. Angular, wedge-shaped, with a rakish fastback and louvered rear window, it uses every design cue of its era. Its most famous visual elements are of course, the signature gull-wing doors and brushed stainless steel body panels. It rides on a Lotus-designed frame and suspension.

Ducking my head and dropping into the seat, I tug on the leather strap to lower the gull-wing door. The seats are well cushioned and upholstered in leather that’s finely cracked and burnished with the patina of age.

Driving position is somewhat reclined – since the seat has minimal adjustment fore and aft, and being short, I found myself stretching for the pedals. At only 44 inches tall, this is not a car that accommodates an upright seating position!

The headliner is indented to allow more head clearance – sort of an interior variation of the Gurney bubble.

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