Journal: The Back To The Future DeLorean Now Lives At The Petersen Museum

The Back To The Future DeLorean Now Lives At The Petersen Museum

By Benjamin Shahrabani
April 25, 2016

Great Scott! The Petersen Museum recently took me back in time when it hosted the unveiling of the Delorean that spirited Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) from 1985 to 1955 in Back to the Future the movie.

After years of deteriorating outside at Universal Studios Hollywood, the time machine was lovingly rehabilitated after lobbying by movie co-writer and producer Bob Gale, who was appalled at its condition when he saw it displayed for the first time after many years at a Nike publicity event for the Back to the Future sneaker in 2011.

The restored “Hero A” car is actually just one of three cars used during filming, but it was the one used in shots with the actors themselves, while cars “B” and “C” were used predominantly for stunt work and close-up interior shots.

On the panel to tell us how everything came about were Gale, moderator Scott Mantz of Access Hollywood, Universal Studios Hollywood creative director John Murdy, DeLorean restoration lead Joe Walser, and Outtatime director Steve Concotelli.

While constructing the original movie car took about ten-weeks as Gale remembers, the restoration led by Joe Walser of Temporal FX took far longer. Over an almost two-year period, the team painstakingly dismantled and documented everything on the weather-beaten car, and would come to rely on the Delorean enthusiast community for assistance to put the car back to a better than new condition. At the same time, the team decided that they would “upgrade” the car with actual working hardware wherever possible, as in the original movie the Delorean’s flashing lights, digital readouts,  and beeping sounds were added in by special effects house Industrial Light & Magic in post-production. “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” said Doc Brown, as played to perfection by Christopher Lloyd—why not, indeed?

While audiences probably can’t imagine the movie without the DeLorean, it almost didn’t happen. In the original script, “the time machine was originally built out of a refrigerator that Doc Brown hauled around in the back of his pickup truck”.

Luckily, during pre-production, a better solution stuck. Gale said that co-writer and director of the movie Robert Zemeckis asked, “Wouldn’t it be better for Doc to build it into a car?” Then he asked, “What if the car was a DeLorean?” While the DeLorean DMC-12 had already been in and out of production before shooting commenced on the first Back to the Future film, company founder John DeLorean was about to go on trial for allegedly trafficking cocaine. Gale said that he and Zemeckis felt that making the time machine a DeLorean would make it hipper and add, “an edgy pop culture element to the film”.

But it still could have been another car. Gale added later that Back to the Future made extensive use of product placement, and that Universal Studio’s product placement department, eager to defray costs, was offered $75,000—when a day’s filming cost $40,000—if the production would nix the gullwing Delorean, and replace it with a Ford Mustang.

Gale said he immediately responded, turning down the offer: “Doc doesn’t drive a fucking Mustang”.

Many fans have spent years lusting over, building, and recreating their own Back to the Future time machine replicas. Why? Studio creative director Murdy, who helped oversee the restoration, surmises that both the DeLorean and the movie stand the test of time because, “…it was the Wizard of Oz for my generation, the perfect movie you could watch over and over again”.

And now the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, California will become the permanent home for this cinematic icon, where it will be on display at the third floor “Hollywood Collection” with other cinematic icons. Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Photos supplied by The Petersen and courtesy of Joe Walser, taken by Josh Turchetta and Steve Concotelli & Back To The Future Movie.

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Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers
8 years ago

As a Mustang owner, I am glad that product placement idea was rejected. Think of all the poor 4-eyed Fox-Bodies that would have been sacrificed as “tribute cars” instead of going to their rightful place on a dragstrip or racetrack.

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