The 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 hero car from Back to the Future is the latest vehicle to join the National Historic Vehicle Register. As one of the most famous vehicles in cinema history, it's a natural inclusion on this list of special machines.
The DMC-12 in Back to the Future has a fascinating history. The film's director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis explained the reason for selecting the model in a 2015 oral history for the Golden Globes. "We chose the Delorean basically because it was the only car that existed that had gull-wing doors and would look kind of like a spaceship to someone in the 50s who, all of a sudden, had it drop in their backyard."
When creating a film that prominently features a car, it's necessary to have multiple examples for various shots and stunts. This one was the hero car that appeared whenever seeing all of the time machine's details was necessary.
After filming, the DeLorean went on display at Universal Studios Hollywood. People were able to get very close to take pictures, and some unscrupulous folks took pieces off the car. Years of sitting also caused the vehicle to rot away, though.
In 2012, Back to the Future co-writer Bob Gale saw the iconic machine's poor condition and started an effort to restore the car. Folks with experience building replicas of the film's DeLorean helped bring the authentic one back to perfect condition. It took nearly two years to complete the work. Starting in 2016, the machine went on permanent loan to the Petersen Automotive Museum. It also made an appearance at the recent Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
When Back to the Future premiered in 1985, the DeLorean DMC-12 was already out of production. The automaker went out of business in 1982 after only building around 9,000 units of the car.
According to the National Historic Vehicle Register listing, the DMC-12 has its original 2.85-liter V6 engine, but the powerplant is not currently in running order. The restoration fixed all of the interior gadgets, like the flux capacitor and time circuits display.