The DeLorean DMC-12 has turned film buffs into car fans
It was 1985. You had just walked out of the cinema having paid a handful of pesos to watch the best movie of all time. One featuring time travel, terrorists, poop humor, a rocking cover of “Johnny B. Goode,” and that hottie Lea Thompson. But the undisputed star of the show, besides Michael J. Fox’s surprisingly authentic guitar skills, was the DeLorean DMC-12. Even in the pop-futuristic ’80s, where every other car had pop-up headlights and a “Turbo” or “Laser” badge on the bootlid, this car looked like something from another planet.
After spending an entire day slumped in that theater seat, watching that awesome machine hit 88mph over and over again, you ran home to bug dad to buy one. After all, you did need a new car, right? But in pre-People Power 1985, the only cars remaining on the market were those dinky Lasers left over after Ford pulled out of the country and those newfangled “Nissan” thingamajigs. No dice.
Even for buyers outside the Philippines, the DeLorean was a unicorn. The company had built just 9,000 of them before going belly up just a year after production commenced. The story behind John DeLorean’s troubled start-up was a convoluted and colorful one involving Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, a suitcase full of cocaine and a bunch of unemployed Irishmen.
The car itself was a chimera, featuring Italian-designed brushed steel bodywork, a British Lotus fiberglass-and-steel chassis, a rear-mounted French Renault engine from a Swedish Volvo sedan, and questionable Irish build quality. With an asthmatic, smog-choked V6, it wasn’t particularly fast, sauntering to 60mph in 10 seconds and taking nearly half a minute to hit Doc Brown’s 88mph time-travel marker. Visibility was poor due to the thick pillars and rear engine cover, and thanks to federal bumper height regulations—which forced DeLorean to raise the front end and screw with the weight balance—handling wasn’t terribly brilliant either.
Despite being conceived as an “affordable” sports car—the “12” in DMC -12 suggesting a $12,000 price tag—it cost more than a Porsche 911 (which was both faster and better-built). Even the humble Nissan 280ZX, with or without the “Turbo” badge, was faster. And much cheaper. But while most 280ZXs are now rotting away in junkyards, over two-thirds of all DMC-12s ever built are still running. And for good reason. There is no movie car more arresting or more iconic than the DeLorean. The steel panels may be near-impossible to maintain, but that Giugiaro-penned shape is timeless. Even 30 years later, every time a Back To The Future movie comes on TV, you feel compelled to drop whatever you’re doing to watch it. Just to catch a glimpse of that car.
After all, even three decades after the EDSA Revolution, there is probably no other way you will ever see a DeLorean on Philippine roads.
CAR MODEL: DeLorean DMC-12
YEARS MANUFACTURED: 1981-1982
ENGINE: 2.85-liter SOHC V6
POWER AND TORQUE: 130hp and 208Nm
LEGACY: Arguably the most popular Hollywood movie car after the Batmobile.