- Marty: "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Doc, uh... Are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"
- Doc: "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style? Besides, the stainless steel construction makes the flux dispersal — look out!!!"
- — Doc and Marty during the first test
The DeLorean time machine was Dr. Emmett Brown's most successful invention, a plutonium-powered time machine comprised of a DeLorean DMC-12 sports car that had to reach 88 miles per hour in order to time travel.
On November 5, 1955, Doc was standing on the edge of his toilet, while hanging a clock in his bathroom. But the porcelain was wet, making Doc slip, fall and hit his head on the sink. When Doc came to, he had a vision of the flux capacitor in his head, and drew a crude schematic diagram as well as scrawling some hurried calculations. The capacitor was constructed afterward and completed in 1985.
The first test
Doc Brown revealed his creation to his friend Marty McFly at Twin Pines Mall, in the early morning of October 26, 1985, and for its first test, Doc sent his dog Einstein one minute into the future. The sequence of events that followed were as so; after Doc revved up the engine to 65 m.p.h. while braked, he released the brake sending the car towards Doc and Marty. A faint glow developed at the front of the car and then engulfed the vehicle. The coils lit up, internal circuits glowed, and the flux capacitor fired rapidly. Suddenly the car seemed to explode just before it hit Doc and Marty. Fire trails then scorched the pavement where the vehicle would have passed through, completing the temporal displacement sequence.
- Marty: "Jesus Christ, Doc. You disintegrated Einstein!"
- Doc: "Calm down, Marty, I didn't disintegrate anything. The molecular structure of both Einstein and the car are completely intact!"
- Marty: "Well, where the hell are they?!"
- Doc: "The appropriate question is "When the hell are they?" You see, Einstein has just become the world's first time traveler. I sent him into the future! One minute into the future to be precise. And at exactly 1:21 A.M. and zero seconds we will catch up to him and the time machine."
- — Doc and Marty after the time travel experiment.
For Einstein, the trip was instantaneous, but to Marty and Doc they had to wait exactly one minute to catch up to Einstein in the timeline. In the meantime, Marty asked why a DeLorean was used. Doc explained that it needed some style and implied that the stainless steel construction of the car helped it in temporal displacement. But Doc didn't fully explain why because the watch he was wearing at the time beeped, warning him that the DeLorean's return was only seconds away.
The car suddenly appeared where Doc and Marty were standing and screeched to a halt as a frozen shell. Supercooled from traveling through time, the gullwing door was troublesome for Doc to open while using his hands. Inside the car, Einstein was unharmed, much to the surprise of Marty. Doc then showed Marty the interior and its controls.
- "First, you turn the time circuits on. This read-out tells you where you're going. This one tells you where you are. This one tells you where you were."
- —Doc Brown
While inputting dates on the keypad, Doc used July 4, 1776 (the date the American declaration of Independence was signed) and December 25, 0000 (the date of the birth of Christ) as examples, before inputting "a red-letter date in the history of science, November 5, 1955". From there he left the cockpit of the DeLorean and reminisced about the past, particularly about Old Man Peabody owning the land that is now Twin Pines Mall and his pine tree farm.
- "My, things sure have changed. I can remember when this was all open land as far as the eye can see. Old Man Peabody owned all of this. He had this crazy idea... about breeding pine trees."
- —Doc talking to Marty
Trapped in 1955
Soon after a new pellet of plutonium was inserted into the time machine, the Libyan terrorists who he stole the plutonium from intervened in a Volkswagen Station Wagon and shot Doc dead. Marty ran into the DeLorean to try to escape the Libyans. Marty accidentally turned the time circuits (still set to 1955) on while shifting, and as he avoided being destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade, he sped up to 88 and entered temporal displacement. Suddenly, Marty went from a mall parking lot in 1985, to a field in 1955, and the DeLorean crashed into a scarecrow and then the Peabodys' barn.
- "It looks like an airplane... without wings."
- —Otis Peabody
For a moment, Marty was stunned, and the Peabody family ran from their house to the barn to investigate. Believing that the vehicle was from another world, they screamed in horror as Marty lifted the gullwing door and stepped out, dressed in a radiation suit. Marty was almost shot from the buckshot of Otis Peabody's shotgun, and ran back to the safety of the time machine, floored the accelerator, and smashed through the doors of the barn. After escaping from Peabody's shotgun, the car ran over one of the two pines that Peabody had been growing. This was the first effect of Marty's trip into the past that would alter the future (the "Twin Pines Mall" would become the "Lone Pine Mall").
Marty pulled the DeLorean onto a highway that ran by the future site of Lyon Estates. He immediately stopped and viewed the undeveloped land stretch far out into the distance, questioning whether or not it was a dream. A meter in the DeLorean indicated that it was out of plutonium, and the car shut down. Marty failed to get it running again and decided to hide the DeLorean behind the Lyon Estates sign, covered by a few shrubs, and walked the two miles to town.
- "It works! Ha ha, it works! I finally invented something that works."
- —Young Doc Brown
After convincing the 1955 Doc that he was indeed from the future, Marty and Doc went back to the site to recover the time machine. Doc opened the door and turned on the flux capacitor which he had envisioned after his fall earlier that day. The DeLorean was driven back to Doc's garage where it was hidden under a tarpaulin until the night of the thunderstorm, November 12.
On the 12th, Doc brought the time machine to Courthouse Square in downtown Hill Valley, and started working on the cable assembly that would harness the impending lightning strike. Arriving late, Marty was briefed by Doc, just as the storm moved in and took down a tree. Marty drove the DeLorean to the starting line at the Bluebird Motel, and inserted a tall connecting hook into the flux capacitor. He then waited for the alarm to go off while Doc reconnected the cable, and decided to reset the controls to arrive 11 minutes earlier than scheduled. With that, the engine suddenly died, and left Marty trying to restart it. Marty finally (and unexpectedly) succeeded in restarting the engine after head-butting the horn in frustration, and took off. The DeLorean reached the cable just as the lightning struck, and Doc made the connection, sending the time machine back to 1985.
In 1985, Red the Bum was awoken by the sonic boom of the DeLorean, followed by the sound of a crash at the Town Theater. Marty jumped out of the icy time machine to check out downtown and to verify that he had gotten back to the future, and back to his normal year of 1985. Returning to the car to save Doc, Marty tried to drive off and the engine died once again. This was the last time in the trilogy that it had done so. The Libyans passed him on the street, and Marty ran back to the mall. There, he saw the first DeLorean make the jump to 1955, with the terrorists' van crashing into a photo booth. Originally believing he was too late, Marty was in grief, then surprise. Doc recovered, and revealed that he was wearing a bulletproof vest, having read the warning letter that Marty had written 30 years earlier.
Doc returned to downtown to start the DeLorean up, and drove Marty back to his home in Lyon Estates. Doc told Marty he would go roughly 30 years into the future, "a nice round number". Doc backed the DeLorean up with enough room to reach 88 mph on the street and vanished in three sonic booms.
While in the future, Doc decided to give the DeLorean a now standard hover conversion. To afford this, he traveled back to 1938, and bought several copies of Action Comics #1. He sold them for $2.5 million in 2015, and flew off in the newly converted DeLorean. At some point, he discovered that Marty's children were destined to accidentally go to prison, which would eventually destroy the McFly family.
To the future
- Marty: "Hey Doc, we better back up. We don't have enough road to get up to 88."
- Doc: "Roads? Where we're going we don't need... roads."
- — Discussion between Doc and Marty in the DeLorean before takeoff
Doc returned to the McFly residence, the morning after he left. Marty had discovered that his life had changed for the better. His visiting girlfriend Jennifer Parker, and he, were interrupted by the sonic boom and wind blast. The newly upgraded DeLorean knocked over some trashcans, and a futuristically-garbed Doc emerged from the vehicle. Doc made use of his upgraded time machine by adding garbage to the Mr. Fusion as fuel. Plutonium was no longer needed after the trip to the future. Doc told Marty and Jennifer of their future family, and the trouble that occurred (or would occur) with their children.
The DeLorean lifted off the ground and its wheels folded providing thrust. The rear louver then propelled it forward down the street, and Doc turned the car around to get the speed needed to make temporal displacement. This entire sequence was witnessed by Biff Tannen in the McFly driveway. The time machine entered October 21, 2015, then descended through the clouds into a busy skyway, nearly in the wrong lane of multilevel traffic. Doc pulled off onto an exit ramp to downtown Hill Valley. He landed the DeLorean in an alleyway, just outside Courthouse Square, then left while Marty completed his mission to save Marty, Jr. After Doc recovered Einstein from a suspended animation kennel, he pulled the DeLorean out into the open, where Old Biff saw it, and eventually put two and two together to realize that they were time travelers.
- "Flying DeLorean? Haven't seen one of those in... thirty years"
- —Old Biff
Biff followed Doc and Marty in a taxi cab, and while the DeLorean was parked outside Hilldale, Biff stole it and went back to 1955 to hand the Grays Sports Almanac (that Doc had thrown away) to his younger self, thus altering history. In a matter of minutes, Biff returned the vehicle in the same position; however, he was feeling the effects of changing history. In pain, he left the silver-colored bag and receipt for the almanac, as well as the top of his cane which broke off in the DeLorean when he doubled over. Getting out of view, Biff slumped to the ground and faded from existence behind a parked car. Doc and Marty, unaware that anything had happened, returned to the time machine with Jennifer and headed back for 1985.
An alternate history
- "Imagine that this line represents time. At some point in the past, the timeline skewed into this tangent creating an alternate 1985. Alternate for you, me, Jennifer and Einstein...But reality for everyone else."
- —Doc showing Marty 1985A on a blackboard.
By this time it was too late to prevent the changing of the timeline. Flying at a high altitude, the DeLorean was nearly hit by an airliner in the sky. The time circuits began to malfunction as well, indicating 1885 temporarily. After discovering the truth behind the alternate 1985, Doc and Marty left Einstein in Doc's garage, and Jennifer at her house, where time would alter around them pending a change in the past. They traveled back to November 12, 1955, the date that Biff revealed to have been the day he had gotten the almanac.
Doc parked the time machine behind the same sign that Marty hid it the first time in 1955. Marty notified Doc of his status with Biff, and after some repairs, Doc jumped into the DeLorean to pick him up at Hill Valley High School. As Doc left Lyon Estates, the car had hooked onto some of the pennants on the sign. Doc and Marty followed Biff in his car, and hovered over him, until Marty thought of using the hoverboard to get closer. Marty grabbed the almanac after some fighting, but was faced with being in the middle of a long tunnel from which to escape. At the end of the tunnel, Doc dropped the string of pennants that he had hooked onto earlier, and Marty grabbed the rope in time to prevent himself from getting run over by Biff (who crashed, for the second time in a week, into a manure truck).
Returning to Lyon Estates to destroy the almanac, Doc lowered Marty onto the ground, but deemed it unsafe to land the DeLorean in the storm. Marty successfully burned the almanac in an old bucket, reverting all effects that had been created by 2015 Biff. The celebration was short-lived; lightning struck a tree close to Marty, who warned Doc about getting struck himself. In the next instant, however, lightning struck the DeLorean as feared, spinning it up to 88 mph (thus creating the fire trails in the shape of backward 9's), scrambling the circuits, and sent Doc and the DeLorean back to January 1, 1885
Less than a minute later, a man, representing Western Union, appeared on the rainy street and handed Marty a letter. The letter, from Doc, had been held in their possession for over 70 years, with instructions for delivery to that exact position, at that exact moment, to that exact person — Marty.
Marty ran back downtown, arriving just moments after his other self was going back to the future, and after the temporal displacement, he encountered 1955 Doc, who then fainted.
- Marty: "OK, Doc, just calm down. It's me. It's me! It's Marty!"
- Doc: "No, it can't be you! I just sent you back to the future!"
- Marty: "Yeah, I know. But now I'm back. I'm back from the future."
- — Marty to Doc before Doc exclaims "Great Scott" and faints.
The letter, read the next morning by Doc, stated that the DeLorean was buried in the Delgado Mine, and provided repair instructions on fixing the time circuits with 1955 parts. At the Boot Hill Cemetery, outside the mine, Marty and Doc stumbled onto 1985 Doc's tombstone from 1885. It was now Marty's mission to save Doc in the past, and bring him back to the future as well.
Doc replaced the rotting tires with new whitewall tires and, working from the schematic diagram provided with the repair instructions, replaced all the broken instruments with 1955-era vacuum tubes and other components. He also put gasoline in the tank, since 1985 Doc had to drain all the fluids from the car, including the gas, before putting it into long-term storage.
The Old West
- "Marty, you're not thinking fourth-dimensionally. You'll instantly be transported to 1885 and those Indians won't even be there..."
- —Doc's instructions for Marty at the Pohatchee
1955 Doc and Marty set up at the Pohatchee Drive-In Theatre, far away from town, so that Marty's arrival would not be noticed by residents in 1885. Doc set the time circuits to the day after his 1885 counterpart sent the letter on September 1. Marty hesitated to drive at the screen because of a wall with Indians painted on it; but as Marty reached 88 mph, the 1955 wall was gone, but was replaced with real, 1885, Pohatchee Indians, who chased after the DeLorean, which Marty hid in a bear cave.
Marty avoided the Indians, and the U.S. Cavalry that was chasing them, but discovered that an Indian had shot an arrow into the engine of the DeLorean. Upon removing the arrow, Marty accidentally tears a hole in the fuel line of the car. He pays it no mind as he is chased out of the cave by the bear living there at the time, and fell down the hill and landed on the property of his Irish ancestors. The DeLorean was recovered by Doc, but there was no gasoline available in 1885 to replace the fuel that had leaked out. Marty wasn't concerned as he stated Mr. Fusion could refuel the DeLorean. Doc said that was impossible as the engine always ran on gasoline and Mr. Fusion only powered the flux capacitor and the flight circuits. Doc then plotted means of powering the car, including having his horses try to reach 88 mph out in the desert, they only made 20-30 mph.
Doc received a strong alcohol concoction from the town bartender, Chester, that he hoped would have a similar effect to gasoline, but instead, blew the fuel injection manifold out. This left only one available option: pushing the DeLorean up to 88, which came in the form of a locomotive. Doc and Marty's plan was to hijack, or borrow, the locomotive, and take it to an unused spur that ran to Shonash Ravine, where it would push the car before running off the end of the track. On the night of September 6, Doc placed the car onto the track. There, it awaited the locomotive.
Their plan was successfully enacted on September 7, and though Marty was sent back to 1985, Doc and Clara Clayton remained in the past. The DeLorean reached temporal displacement just before hitting the buffer at the edge of the ravine; however the train crashed through and landed into the ravine in a large explosion.
Back in 1985, the DeLorean traveled along the railroad tracks for about a mile until it came to rest on the track outside Hilldale. Immediately, Marty was stunned to see a modern locomotive barreling towards him, and escaped from the DeLorean just before it was destroyed by the train. After it had passed by, Marty gazed at the time circuits and flux capacitor in shock just as they flickered on and then off for the last time.
- "...Well Doc, it's destroyed... Just like you wanted..."
- —Marty standing at the remains of the DeLorean
Marty and Jennifer, who had remained on her porch, both went through the wreckage. Then, peculiarly, the railroad crossing's bells sounded and its gates went down. No trains were to be seen. Just then, the Jules Verne Train appeared, and blew Marty and Jennifer back several feet. This was Doc's way to return without the aid of the DeLorean. After introducing Marty and Jennifer to the two new members of the family, Jules and Verne, Doc handed Marty a gift — the photograph of them standing in front of the clock — and gave some words of advice before leaving to times unknown.
- "Your future hasn't been written yet! No one's has! Your future is whatever you make of it. So make it a GOOD one!"
- —Doc to Marty and Jennifer
- Marty: "Where ya going Doc? Back to the future?"
- Doc: "No, already been there!"
- — Doc and Marty during the final scene of Back to the Future Part III
Rebirth of the DeLorean
Six months after the destruction of the DeLorean, another DeLorean time machine, nearly identical to the one used previously by Marty and Doc, appeared outside of Doc's garage. Upon following Einstein's clues to the source of the time machine, Marty drove it back to 1931, where he found Doc in jail for allegedly blowing up a speakeasy. Doc told Marty that the DeLorean he had been driving was a temporal duplicate, created when the DeLorean was struck by lightning; the original going seventy years back to 1885, and the other version seventy years forward to 2025. Doc went forward in time with the Jules Verne Train, recovered the second DeLorean, fixed it up, and began traveling again. Doc also installed a program that would activate upon Doc not returning to the vehicle within a certain length of time. This automatic retrieval feature allowed the DeLorean to return to a set time and location of Doc's choosing.
Around 1991, Doc Brown and his family returned to Hill Valley in the Train and settled down in the present. Marty had, by now, been attending Hill Valley College, and he visited the Brown family regularly. The DeLorean was rebuilt with added features, including a new audio receptive series of time circuits, submersible capabilities, a pincer, and having the ability to fold into a compact suitcase-sized box (which still weighed as much as the car at 2,796 pounds). The greatest improvement to the DeLorean was the addition of spatial displacement, which allowed the car to travel not only through time, but through space as well.
Soon after, Doc built additional DeLoreans for use by the Institute of Future Technology, with the original being placed on display right outside the building.
One version of the DeLorean was stolen by Edna Strickland who took it back to 1876 to light Beauregard Tannen's half-finished saloon on fire, accidentally burning down Hill Valley and the DeLorean in the process. When Doc and Marty arrive at her residence in the newly created 1931B, the vehicle is a rusted hulk of metal on Edna's property.
Behind the scenes
- In the animated series, the DeLorean is supposedly rebuilt, regardless of what Doc said about the dangers of time traveling.
- In the first script of Back to the Future the time machine was shaped like a refrigerator. The idea was scrapped, for fear of kids climbing into and becoming trapped in refrigerators. Because an abandoned refrigerator can become an inescapable trap for a small child, laws in most nations require that the door be removed when such an item is disposed of.
- Coincidentally, the final version of the time machine was composed of stainless steel, from which many refrigerators are made of.
- At the end of Back to the Future, the alarm clock that the 1955 Doc had placed on the dashboard of the DeLorean could be seen. But in the beginning of Back to the Future Part II, it is no longer on the dashboard of the DeLorean.
- In 1989, to tie-in with the theatrical release of Back to the Future Part II, Funrise, Inc. released as part of their Micro Action Super Cars series a three-vehicle pack, consisting of the DeLorean Car (Modified Engine), the Back to the Future Police Car and the Back to the Future Taxicab. The rear of the packaging featured three cutout Collector Cards which, in the cases of the Police Car and the Taxicab, gave a little more information about the vehicles than was mentioned in either the movie or the novelization.
- At the start of the 1990 behind-the-scenes TV show The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy, host Kirk Cameron arrived in an Old West town in the DeLorean.
- The DeLorean uses a manual transmission.
Construction of the DeLorean for the films
The base of the DeLorean's nuclear reactor was constructed from a hubcap of a Dodge Polara. The engine sounds came from a Porsche but the engine was never replaced with a Porsche engine and kept stock. Aircraft parts and blinking lights were added for additional effects.
Since all American models of the actual DMC-12 had speedometers that only read up to 85 miles per hour, a modified instrument cluster was installed, with a speedometer that reached 95. (A law from the administration of President Jimmy Carter prescribed that automobile speedometers could not read more than 85 m.p.h. with the intent that if people could not read speeds higher than that, that they wouldn't drive faster than that.)
In popular culture
In the game Borderlands there is an achievement on the Xbox 360 version entitled "1.21 Gigawatts" which is a clear reference to the amount of electricity needed for the time travel.
Similarly to Sonic CD, there is a trophy for the PS3 exclusive game Ratchet and Clank (Future): a Crack in Time called 88 MPH, though the action for doing so is by preventing a time travel rather than travelling through time.
In Grand Theft Auto V, there are several power stations which have the label "Danger: 1.21 GW", also referring to the amount of electricity needed.
In Grand Theft Auto Online: Doomsday Heist, a weaponized version of the Delorean named the, "Deluxo" was introducted and like the Time Machine, it can fly and hover but it also comes equipped with machine guns and homing missiles. However, the Deluxo doesn't have the time machine equipment like the movie.
The DeLorean Time Machine appears in Ready Player One as the vehicle of the protagonist Parzival in the OASIS. Parzival uses the DeLorean to win the race that is the first challenge and then speeds through the battlefield in the car during the final battle. The DeLorean is destroyed by MechaGodzilla during the final battle.
- Back to the Future trilogy
- Back to the Future: The Story
- Back to the Future: The Ride
- Back to the Future (video game)
- Back to the Future Part II & III
- Super Back to the Future Part II
- The Earth Day Special (Non-canonical appearance)
- Back to the Future: The Animated Series (Note: It does not appear in the episode "A Friend In Deed", however, it is mentioned by Marty and Verne.)
- Back to the Future comic series
- Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure
- Back to the Future: The Card Game
- The Simpsons Ride (Non-canonical appearance)
- Star Trek/Legion of Super Heroes #5 (Non-canonical appearance)
- Back to the Future: The Game
- A Million Ways to Die in the West (Non-canonical appearance)
- Deer in the Headlights (Music video for artist Owl City) (Non-canonical appearance)
- LEGO Dimensions (Non-canonical appearance)
- Ready Player One (film) (Non-canonical appearance)
- Back to the Future (IDW Publishing)
- Does Not Commute
Notes and references
- In Back to the Future: The Game it is stated that the unforeseen jump created a carbon copy that was sent to an unknown time period. The car with Doc lost its ability to fly, whereas the other one retained the trait.
- See Official Back to the Future FAQ, Question Number 1.20, for the filmmakers' explanation why Doc would not have used the gasoline from the DeLorean that had brought Doc to 1885.
- Back to the Future: The Game - Episode 1: It's About Time
- See , As far as the rumors that one of the cars was fitted with a Porsche engine, Walser said that all the cars retained their original PRV V-6s; only the sounds of the De Lorean engines were replaced with those from Porsche engines.