By the time Emmett “Doc” Brown crafted a time machine out of a DeLorean DMC-12 in 1985’s Back to the Future, the DeLorean Motor Company was already bankrupt for three years. Despite its early demise and short production run, the DMC-12, with its stainless exterior and gull-wing doors, was extraordinarily popular, especially with celebrity enthusiasts, resulting in long waiting lists for ownership. Sadly, time circuits, flux capacitors or even Mr. Fusion were not available options, as the DMC had but two: manual or automatic transmission and interior color (grey or black). So, what happens if you want to buy one now? Where can you find a DeLorean for sale? Is the Back to the Future car even a smart purchase? Will there ever be a new one? This is the guide to buying your first DeLorean.
Where to buy a DeLorean and what will it cost?
The internet is a great place to get started. But remember this, from 1981 to 1983, there were little more than 9,000 DMC-12s made and only about 6,500 still exist. So it will probably take a little time and some travel till you find the perfect DeLorean for purchase. First place to look is the world’s online marketplace—eBay. Among the hundreds of thousands of cars on eBay Motors, there are presently 6 DeLoreans ranging from the high $20 thousands to the low $40 thousands. Even fewer can be found on the original DeLorean.com website, where a scant four are listed for sale. DeLorean prices here range from the low $30 thousands to over $60,000. There are a few dealers that specialize in the DeLorean, such as Gulf Coast Motorworks, as well as five specific DMC dealer locations across the country.
What should I look for?
Aside from the obvious—maintenance records, lack of body rot, not coughing blue smoke out the exhaust—what else should you look for? Probably the most important factor will be the vehicle mileage. While a DMC-12 with 1,000 original miles would seem to be a no-brainer, consider that the conditions it has been stored in. Have rodents had access? If yes, carefully check the wiring. Additionally, a vehicle with that few miles probably never had the proper engine break-in that occurs over the first 5,000 to 7,500 miles and the various seals will likely need replacement after sitting for 30 plus years. So do your due diligence here. That said, your sweet spot will likely be a vehicle with anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 original miles. Plenty of time to break in the key components and should have good service records. No matter what mileage vehicle you find, though, always enlist the aid of a very qualified mechanic to carefully inspect the vehicle.
Could it be a daily driver?
Assuming you can afford the upfront price, most likely. While visually dramatic, the often poorly built DMC-12 would never be the fastest on the road. The 2.8 liter V-6, with its somewhat meager performance, isn’t a gas guzzler. In fact, according to Fuelly.com, the average DMC-12 gets between 20 and 27 average mpg. What about maintenance you say? Well, even though the company went bankrupt over thirty years ago, they went bankrupt with over one thousand finished vehicles and tons of replacement parts, meaning that maintaining your DeLorean will be as easy as visiting DeLorean.com.
Will there be problems?
Clearly any vehicle over 30 years old will likely face significant issues, and the DMC-12 is no different. On a normal painted car, minor dents and dings can be sanded, filled with Bondo, and refinished easily. However, the stainless steel exterior doesn’t lend itself to this process, meaning that body panel replacement is used instead of repair. Undercarriage rust and rot, particularly in the front suspension, was a nagging issue. And if you happen to purchase an early model, the original alternator wasn’t strong enough to keep the battery charged under full accessory load. Fortunately, later models came with a higher output alternator, eliminating this annoyance.
A new DeLorean?
Ironically, enthusiasts have been able to buy an essentially new DeLorean since 2008 for about $65,000. We say “essentially” as they are built from approximately 80% genuine DeLorean parts from the 1980s that were acquired when British entrepreneur Stephen Wynn purchased the failing DMC. The remaining parts are either new or New Old Stock. And with the late 2015 passage of the Low Volume Vehicle Manufacturing Act, it is likely that DeLorean will begin producing approximately 300 DMC-12 replicas that should be available sometime in 2017. Keep the fingers crossed, though, as DMC is still searching for a suitable engine solution to comply with the rules of the Low Volume Vehicle Act and there isn’t a definitive timeline for the cars to go into production.