The Delorean DMC12, a timeless classic but will the driving experience take Steve back in time or to the future?
People tell you never to meet your heroes and for most petrol heads cars are the heroes, whether that’s the one on the poster you had as a child or that famous racing car and in a lot of cases those cars stay within our dreams or memories. However, I’m fortunate as parked before me is a Delorean DMC-12 with the sun reflecting off the stainless steel bodywork and I am preparing myself to drive a car that I have loved since the age of ten. I think many of you will be able to relate to this love affair especially if you have watched the Back to the Future trilogy, but will the car drive anywhere close to how it was perceived in those three fantastic films? Well I intend to find out.
I am both excited and nervous as I pull the door handle and the gullwing door gracefully lifts up to reveal a surprising spacious cabin, and not surprisingly I have the Back to the Future music running around inside my head. John Delorean designed the car so that he would fit comfortably inside the vehicle and this was no small feat as he was 6ft 4” tall and as such I have more than enough room being 5ft 8” tall. As I slip into the grey leather seat I find it remarkably comfortable and then I familiarise myself with my surroundings, as before me is three spoke sporty steering wheel and beyond it is the instrument cluster. At this point I have a slight chuckle to myself as the speedometer only reads up to 85MPH which certainly would have made it more complicated for Doc Emmett Brown to get the Delorean accurately to 88MPH. I feel very lucky as this Delorean has the manual gearbox which I feel suits the cars credentials better and was a no cost option when new. The automatic gearbox was a $650 option.
As I go to close the gullwing door via the pull strap I find more energy and strength is required compared to a conventional car door, which is partly due to the Delorean’s cryogentically preset torsion bar design which was pioneered by the aerospace manufacture Grumman. Once the door is closed I find that the grab handle has a tendency to hook itself around the handbrake as it is situated on the outer side of the seat as opposed to being in the large centre console. The cabin oozes with 1980s charm both from the boxy lines through to the plastics which would feel cheap by modern car standards.
Now the fun really begins as I turn the key and the 2.8 V6 130bhp petrol engine bursts into life and rests as a steady thrum on tick over behind me. Once I’m all set I accelerate down the runway of North Weald airfield and I can’t help but have a big smile on my face as I go into the first corner. Despite the Delorean being rear engined I found the steering surprisingly heavy, which I suspect is due to the wide tyres and heavy body but it meant I felt more connected to the car. I felt the suspension slightly soft but I suspect this preferred for the US market where the Delorean was designed to sell well as a GT car and also due to the weight of the body. I think if the Delorean had been fitted with firmer springs and dampers it would have allowed the Lotus designed chassis full capabilities to shine through, as can be seen on the car that helped the Delorean come into being - the Lotus Espite.
The Motorists Guide view:
Despite a lot of the Delorean's drawbacks, I found it a nice car to drive but felt it could have done with more power from the V6 Renault engine as well as improved suspension both of which would have probably helped boost sales of the Delorean when new. I was impressed with the build quality on this particular car I drove which is a contradiction to how the press portrayed this car when new but this is helped by the maintenance by the owner. I felt the interior had worn well and didn’t look over 30 years old. The brakes on the Delorean were more than adequate and I felt they stopped the car in a very reasonable distance. For me the best part of the Delorean is how it looks and still appears futuristic now as it did at its launch in 1981. Would I own one? Most definitely and you can too as prices are still reasonable and guaranteed to rise which makes the Delorean DMC-12 a safe investment.