A converted version of the much-maligned DeLorean sports car that has been rebuilt for the purposes of time travel in the Back to the Future films.
The DeLorean time machine was designed and built by Dr. Emmet L. Brown in Hill Valley, CA. A modified DeLorean DMC-12, Doc Brown found the stainless steel construction and stylistic cues of the car to be perfect for his use as a time machine.
On Nov. 5, 1955, Doc Brown was hanging a clock in the downstairs bathroom of his home at 1640 Riverside Dr. The tile was wet and Brown slipped, hitting his head on the edge of the sink. Upon awakening, Brown saw an image in his head of the Flux Capacitor; “what makes time travel possible.” Doc Brown would spend the next 30 years and almost his entire family fortune building and designing the DeLorean time machine.
The time machine held at its core the Flux Capacitor, the technology that makes time travel possible. The Flux Capacitor was connected to the Time Circuits, which allowed the user to input their destination in time using a number pad mounted on the dashboard. A large readout on the center console displayed the destination time, present time and last time departed.
Although the onboard systems of the DeLorean were powered by electricity and the internal combustion engine ran on ordinary gasoline, in order to produce time displacement approximately 1.21 gigawatts of electricity were required. To achieve this reaction, Doc Brown utilized plutonium to produce a contained nuclear reaction within the time vehicle. After traveling to 2015, Doc Brown had the car undergo a hover conversion procedure, which allowed the time machine to fly. He also had it equipped with a Mr. Fusion unit, which allowed the Flux Capacitor and Time Circuit systems to function via cold fusion, produced by ordinary trash.
Once the vehicle accelerated to 88 mph, temporal displacement would occur. A time portal would be generated in front of the vehicle, through which the car would travel. The user perceives time travel as instantaneous and the only evidence left behind is a set of flaming tire tracks extending for about 20 ft. from the point of temporal displacement.
Temporal Experiment #1 consisted of Doc Brown, controlling the DeLorean remotely, sending Einstein one minute into the future. Temporal displacement occurred at exactly 1:20 a.m.
Upon the time machine’s return, it was coated in a layer of ice and emitted heavy amounts of carbon dioxide. The clock tied around Einstein’s neck, previously synchronized with Doc Brown’s control clock, was now one minute behind. After replacing the slug of plutonium, Doc Brown prepared to travel himself. Before he could begin the experiment, however, the group was ambushed by Libyan terrorists Doc had used to obtain the radioactive material. Doc was apparently killed and McFly unintentionally traveled back to 1955 during his escape.
The DeLorean would later be hidden in the Delgado Mine for 70 years after Doc Brown was trapped in 1885 Hill Valley. The Doctor Emmet Brown from 1955, along with Marty McFly, succeeded in repairing the time machine using contemporary equipment and sent Marty back to the Old West to rescue the Doc. Marty would eventually return to 1985, but the DeLorean was swiftly destroyed by an oncoming train, ultimately fulfilling Doc Brown’s regrettable final wish, after he realized that tampering with time was too serious for anyone.
The original design for the time machine housed the equipment inside an old refrigerator, which Doc Brown would transport in the back of a pickup truck. The original climax of Back to the Future required Doc and Marty to drive to the Nevada test site during a nuclear explosion to capture the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity required for temporal displacement. This scenario proved too costly to film, however, and the time machine was re-designed to increase its mobility.
The DeLorean DMC-12 was chosen as the car of choice simply because of the joke in the barn when Marty travels back to 1955. Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale wanted a car that could be mistaken for a spaceship and the DeLorean’s gull-wing doors fit the ticket.
Production artists Andrew Probert and Ron Cobb were tasked with designing the specific look of the DeLorean. Zemeckis wanted it to look like Doc Brown had built it in his garage, so steps were taken to use genuine pieces from hardware stores and the like to modify the car. Cobb was responsible for adding the coils that wrapped around the rear bumper, while the iconic cooling vents were justified as fulfilling the same purpose as cooling towers in a nuclear power station.
For scenes in Back to the Future, Part II where the DeLorean was capable of flight, a scale model was used. The DeLorean time machine was designed and built by Dr. Emmet L. Brown in Hill Valley, CA.
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