Year
1985

“Back to the Future” released, features 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

On this day in 1985, the blockbuster action-comedy “Back to the Future”–in which John DeLorean’s iconic concept car is memorably transformed into a time-travel device–is released in theaters across the United States. 

“Back to the Future,” directed by Robert Zemeckis, starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, a teenager who travels back 30 years using a time machine built by the zany scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Doc’s mind-blowing creation consists of a DeLorean DMC-12 sports car outfitted with a nuclear reactor. Once the car reaches a speed of 88 miles per hour, the plutonium-powered reactor achieves the “1.21 gigawatts” of power necessary to travel through time. Marty arrives in 1955 only to stumble in the way of his own parents (Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson) and keep them from meeting for the first time, thus putting his own life in jeopardy.

A veteran of the Packard Motor Company and General Motors, John DeLorean founded the DeLorean Motor Company in Detroit in 1975 to pursue his vision of a futuristic sports car. DeLorean eventually set up a factory in Dunmurry, near Belfast in Northern Ireland. There, he built his iconic concept car: the DMC-12, known simply as the DeLorean. An angular vehicle with gull-wing doors, the DeLorean had an unpainted stainless-steel body and a rear-mounted engine. To accommodate taller drivers (like its designer, who was over six feet tall), the car had a roomy interior compared to most sports cars.

Although it was built in Northern Ireland, the DeLorean was intended predominantly for an American audience, so it was built with the driver’s seat on the left-hand side. The company built about 9,000 of the cars before it ran out of money and halted production in 1982; only 6,500 of those are still in existence. Despite its short lifespan, the DeLorean remains an object of great interest to car collectors and enthusiasts, no doubt largely due to the smashing success of “Back to the Future” and its two sequels, released in 1989 and 1990. John DeLorean died in March of 2005, at the age of 80.

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