HomeCar CultureFootnote to footlights: The DeLorean is a star yet again

Footnote to footlights: The DeLorean is a star yet again

DMC-12 attracts crowds in London and Washington


Would the DeLorean DMC-12 be anything but a footnote in automotive history had it not played a key role in the 1985 movie, Back to the Future?

Sure, the car was different, what with its stainless-steel gullwing coachwork designed by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, its re-engineering by Colin Chapman, and, of course, its founder, former Pontiac executive and father of the GTO John DeLorean, and his subsequent prosecution (persecution?) on drug charges, of which he was acquitted.

Sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood movie, right?  Well, there was the 2019 debut of Framing John DeLorean, even staring Alec Baldwin in the title role.

But only around 6,500 of the cars were produced, and the question remains, would the DeLorean be anything beyond a footnote had one of them not been turned into a time machine in Back to the Future?

Igniting the question at this time were two appearances, and apparently very popular at that, by a DeLorean. 

The first occurred in London, where Back to the Future: The Musical debuted at the Adelphi Theater.

According to The New York Times, the audience “couldn’t stop cheering. They cheered a preshow announcement asking everyone to turn off their cellphones, “since they weren’t invented in 1985,” the year the original movie was released. They cheered when Marty McFly, the show’s main character (played by Olly Dobson), skateboarded onstage in an orange body warmer. And they cheered, again, when he started singing, surrounded by break dancers and women in aerobics getup to complete the 1980s vibe.

But, the report noted, “But the loudest applause came about 20 minutes in. After three loud bangs and a flash of light, a DeLorean car seemed to magically appear in the middle of the stage, lights bouncing off its steel bodywork and gull-wing doors.

“The audience went wild.”

Though perhaps the reception for the other recent DeLorean appearance wasn’t quite as wild, it was well attended and continues to attract attention as part of the Hagerty Drivers Foundation latest Cars at the Capital showing on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Cars at the Capital takes vehicles from the National Historic Vehicle Register and puts them in a glass enclosure for a weeklong display each September. There will be four such cars displayed this month, with the DeLorean showcased — quite literally — until September 11.

And now… Back to the, well, not to the Future, perhaps, but at least to the musical production thereof:

“The only moment of the show when the actors seemed to upstage the DeLorean came right at the end,” the Times reported. “The cast all came onstage for a final song and dance number, and each player took their moment to claim an ovation. But the car didn’t get one of its own. Despite all the technical wizardry, the one thing it can’t do is bow.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. The car is a piece of garbage as a car. 9- 15k will buy you one in drivable shape. Body repairs are expensive, the car has zero power and is good for one purpose – an attraction. It has eye appeal. Put it in front of say a bar and you are guaranteed to get a crowd. The doors famously fail. The handling is awful. Many owners have painted their cars due to the impossibility of keeping the very thin lawyer of “stainless steel” which overlays the fiber glass, in decent shape.

    People respond to its looks. Few have ever driven one. Try taking one on an Interstate at 70mph for say just 1/2 hr. You will never be so happy to get out of car

      • 1981 (especially) in mint condition go for 40k – 80k. One has been for sale forever at 199k .

        But see also – this is just for Long Island NY- first cars I found 12 – 20k They generally remain on the market for a minimum of 4 -6 weeks then are pulled off. Notice the low mileage on the segment of the market where ASKING prices of 12k – 20k are not met.

        I have a 1968 Cougar XR7, all stock, all original, mint, 107k. I have been offered as much as 30% over top book price by TWO dealers. It is extremely rare because it is mint and all original and gets driven regularly. You can pick up a 68 Cougar XR7 that needs some work for 10 – 18k easily. I have been offered many times that amount BUT just because my car can fetch way, way above book value doesn’t mean every Cougar can.

        1981 DeLorean Dmc12 Silver
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        1981 Delorean DMC12 Original and complete . Engine turns over but does not start. Original keys
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        The cars in great working. 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 that features a stainless-steel exterior over
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        1981 DeLorean DMC-12 Coupe Original
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        Very good condition for its age with a low 30,641 miles. this car has been garage kept with the exception of one month this past … more
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        This 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 was built during the first year of DeLorean production and features
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        • Everyone single one of those listings is a scam. Many of these cars sold months or years ago, and certainly not at the prices listed – cars now regularly sell over $50K. This is clearly a scam site. I’m sorry you’re so angry about the cars, but what you’re saying is plain wrong. There’s always one person who proclaims the cars to be “junk” and yet turns out to know little about them. This time, it’s you.

  2. Very ignorant opinion on the car. The car drives extremely comfortably at 70 plus MPH as a matter of fact, it squats down at around 50 and is a pleasure to drive as it holds like glue, thank you Lotus. The doors themselves have never failed, the door lock solenoids did in the 80’s but were resolved then too. A driver DeLorean is more in the neighborhood of $20-25k and a Concours car closer to $100k. The stainless steel is not thin by any stretch, the car is actually nicely put together and very much in tune with its contemporaries of the time in terms of build quality. Yes, I own one, a very nice one that clearly represents what a well taken care of vehicle has to offer.

  3. Greenie says “Put it in front of say a bar and you are guaranteed to get a crowd”.
    As long as the crowd includes a couple t-shirted gals to chat with & gaze at.. Where is a DeLorean for even 25K in Pa.

  4. Five for sale here on Classic Cars between $40,000 and $57,000. Ed can make a fortune if he can buy them for 9-15k!!

    Saw 3 in a row at the Dream Cruise and later saw one outfitted as a back to the future car.

  5. Exactly 9080 cars were built. The 6,500 estimate is from 20 years ago, but it may well still be correct.

    The number of painted cars is quite small, mainly dealer painted back in the day (there were absolutely no factory painted cars). Sure, the original cars had a number of problems, but all these have solutions, and in many cases many solutions. A sorted car is very reliable and easy to drive (even better with the numerous suspension upgrades). Yes, panel repairs are tricky, but far from impossible and doable by many people.

    The car itself is easy to work on, even for someone who’s never worked on cars before. Parts availability is excellent.

    As for 70mph, cars handle well at that speed. Well, apart from the idiots in your blind spot.

    As always, there’s one guy in every conversation that calls them “junk”, but has questionable knowledge.


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