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McFly!!! We drive the DeLorean for Back to the Future day

Today is Back to the Future day, and there's only one time-travelling movie car we could drive to celebrate - a DeLorean DMC-12

"Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Those were Doc Brown’s famous words as he took off in his iconic time-travelling DeLorean at the end of the 1985 classic movie Back to the Future. As the wheels retracted into the car's body and the silver machine flew off into the distance, viewers were left hanging as to what the future would bring.

Well, welcome to the future – as we’ve reached the date Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells) arrive on at the start of the Back to the Future II: Wednesday 21 October 2015.

You’re forgiven for asking where your self-lacing trainers are or why we’re not all cruising around on hoverboards. And it’s fair to say the Doc’s prophecy about us not needing roads hasn’t quite come true, either.

• For a chance to win a signed copy of the DeLorean book click here

It turns out 2015 isn’t quite as futuristic as Back to the Future creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale envisaged when they produced and directed the films.

Still it’s not all bad. Without roads, we wouldn’t be able to take the DeLorean for a spin and live out a childhood dream to become Marty McFly for the day.

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Fewer than 300 DeLorean DMC-12s survive in the UK and not all of them are fit to drive, but Auto Express tracked down a perfect example owned by DeLorean Owners’ Club historian Chris Parnham.

Chris has owned 16 DeLoreans in his time and restored four of them. His current model is one of just a handful of official right-hand-drive models in existence.

From the exterior, though, it’s classic Back to the Future – aside from the nuclear fusion waste food processor strapped to the back.

“If you’re going to build a time machine, why not do it with some style?” said Doc Brown in the film, and it’s hard to argue with his choice. From the gullwing doors to the stainless steel finish, the DeLorean looks like no other car. And it’s testament to the design that even now it feels futuristic – 30 years since it first hit the road.

Owner Chris, from Allestree, Derby, agrees, and told us it’s the best thing about owning such an icon: “I love them and I love other people’s reactions to them,” he said. “I’ve never had a negative comment. 

“I like to drive it on roads – the expressions on people’s faces are priceless. You don’t see many, so when people do see one they’re very interested. People don’t pull out on you, either; they want to see what it is!”

We experience this ourselves when recreating the official Back to the Future film poster for our main picture. We’re in a secluded park, but everyone passing by – from children to adults – wants to know more. Chris is happy to oblige and show them round the DeLorean.

He added: “It turns heads because people say they have never seen one on the road and they’ve got so much history. You couldn’t invent a story like it.”

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What of that story? The DeLorean Motor Company tale is filled with glitz, glamour, intrigue and ultimate disaster. It starts in Northern Ireland where a factory was set up in 1978 after a £100million Government grant – it brought together 3,000 people from the troubled north and south of Ireland to work in harmony.

Over the next four years, around 9,000 DeLorean DMC-12s were made, with most being exported across the Atlantic. Yet the fairytale soon started to unravel, and by late 1982, the company went bankrupt – just before right-hand-drive cars were due to be created for the UK.

A deal had been in place to save the company, but founder John DeLorean torpedoed the package when he was arrested on drug trafficking charges. Even though he was later found not guilty, it was too late.

Despite such a short production run, the car’s lived on through the Back to the Future series. “Young people don’t know about the problems, they know about the films,” Chris explained. “The average age of our club is 28 years old because of Back to the Future.”

We were keen to drive the DeLorean, too, so we powered up the flux capacitor and climbed aboard in our Nike trainers, double denim and red “life preserver”.

While the exterior is still fairly modern, the same isn’t true of the mechanicals. The steering is heavy and the brakes questionable – but that’s the charm of a classic. The rear-mounted V6 sounds great even at low revs, and those huge gullwing doors make getting out an event.

Like any classic, DeLoreans need looking after, and with so many owners getting involved due to the film, Chris says it needs older enthusiasts like himself to offer advice. “The engines are very robust,” he added. “The only way to ruin one of these is to let it overheat. 

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“You can get brake pads from Halfords. They don’t cost a fortune to maintain and everything is available.” 

Sadly, we only got to spend a day with the DeLorean, and as we circled churches hunting for a lightning storm to generate the necessary 1.21 gigawatts to go back in time, Doc Brown’s words suddenly hit us: “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some serious…”

DeLorean DMC-12: key specs 

Price: £30,000-plusEngine: 2.85-litre Renault V6Power: 150bhpTransmission: Auto, rear-wheel drive0-60mph: 8.0 secs (est)Economy: 20mpg

What else were we promised in Back to the Future II?

In Back to the Future Part II, we got a glimpse of what 2015 would be like. So how much of it has come true?

  • • Hoverboard: Lead character Marty McFly was a hit on a skateboard in the original, and for Part II he moved on to a hoverboard (above). Nothing like this is on sale yet, but Lexus has been trialling similar technology.
  • • Self-lacing shoes: Marty also had shoes that tied themselves in the movie version of 2015. Sadly, we’re not quite there yet, although Nike announced it was making a special-edition set of replica trainers.
  • • Flying cars: When Marty and Doc Brown arrive in 2015, they have to duck out of the way of flying cars. These are still some way away, but with autonomous cars on trial in the UK, it’s a step in the right direction.
  • • Petrol station robots: We might not have robots that fill up our cars, but Shell’s new Fill Up and Go app means you can stay in your car to pay for fuel, while wireless electric car charging is as robotic as we get.
  • • Hovercam: Back to the Future got this one right. Drone technology is a growing market, and you can buy a drone that links to a wristband and will follow you around. One out of five isn’t bad.

WIN the new book exploring the DeLorean legend

Here's your chance to win a signed copy of a new book that tells the story of how the DeLorean DMC-12 was built. DeLorean: Celebrating the Impossible has taken authors Chris Parnham and Andrew Withers 15 years to research, and contains an impressive array of pictures.

Chris said: “It’s not about the scandal; it’s about the engineers and designers who built the car. They’ve never been documented.”

For a chance to win a signed copy of the DeLorean book click here...

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