Strip away the rocket boosters, time travel and nostalgia, and what you’re left with is one pretty average automobile…

Pretty much everyone loves the DeLorean DMC-12. It’s great looking, super-fast, handles well, and it’s a bona-fide movie star. What’s more, it’s made of stainless steel and the guy who started the company, John Z. DeLorean, was a coke-hustling ‘80s auto exec… right?

Wrong, actually. In fact, everything you just read is wrong. And here’s why…

Image via Exotic Classics

Let’s be honest, if you’re like most people, your first experience of the DeLorean DMC-12 will likely have been watching it transport Doc and Marty back to the ’50s, or even *gasp!* the dizzying future of October 21, 2015. And it looked great. All you had to do was load it up with some garbage, kick the engine into gear, hit 88 miles-per-hour and boom! You could not only be anywhere, but anywhen too!

But why a DeLorean? Surely they could’ve used a Ford Pinto, or your auntie’s clapped out old Toyota, and it would’ve done the same job, wouldn’t it? Doc Brown disagrees. “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Touché, although the DeLorean wasn’t exactly pinup material. The ride stance on an un-modified DMC-12 is so tall, and with so much wheel gap, that it looks like it’s about to take off – and that’s even without those huge gull-wing doors open.

What’s more, although the car looks as if the engine is underneath that huge bonnet, it’s actually in the rear, like a Porsche 911. Unlike a 911, however, the DeLorean is powered by a V6, which has a much higher center of gravity than the Porsche’s flat-six, meaning it doesn’t perform anywhere near as well as its German counterpart.

Image via Exotic Classics

Ironically (or perhaps fittingly), given the DeLorean’s association with time travel, the car’s appearance is actually rather outdated, and was so even at the time of its release. The DMC-12 chassis design was executed by the legendary Italian master Giorgetto Giugiaro, who began work on it a full seven years before the car’s 1981 debut, back when “wedge-shaped” supercars were all the rage. By the time it hit the market it was up against the svelte curves of Porsche’s 911, 924 and 928, and the shark-like overbite of the Ferrari 308. And by those standards it looks like a washtub.

And as for those stainless steel panels? Well, that’s about as deep as they ran. Underneath, the DMC-12 uses a fiberglass monocoque chassis, so those exterior looks really were only skin deep.

Image via Exotic Classics

But it’s a sports car, right? That makes it sexy? Well, if you mean that it doesn’t have much room inside and it’s relatively small, then yes, it’s a sports car. If you mean that it’s fast and handles well, then no, the Delorean is most certainly not a sports car. Fitted with an automatic transmission as standard, the car would take a lethargic 10.5 seconds to reach sixty mph (~97 km/h). And, as previously mentioned, the engine’s placement in the rear (not to mention its type) as well as its absurd stance ensured factory models had pretty poor handling.

Allegedly, the prototypes of the DMC-12 are said to have handled quite well, and many owners have since fitted shorter, stiffer coils to the Delorean to lower its stance and improve its handling (as seen below). What happened between the design and production phases, however, remains a mystery.

Image via Car Domain

Nostalgia aside, when considered as a whole, the DeLorean seems to lose its prestige pretty quickly. But what about John Delorean, the company’s founder and namesake? He was still a rock ‘n’ roll drug runner, wasn’t he? That makes the car cool? Well, it’s true he was charged with cocaine trafficking in 1982 and was videotaped with a suitcase full of 55 pounds of Colombian snow. However, he was later found not guilty due to police and federal entrapment, and was set free. It goes without saying that his career in the auto industry was ruined by that point, and Delorean was well and truly bankrupt and out of business.

In many ways the DMC-12’s name is the perfect metaphor for it. While DMC presumably stands for “Delorean Motor Company,” the 12 would traditionally allude to a monstrous twelve-cylinder engine lurking inside the car, ready to unleash all manner of power on the road. But there is no twelve-cylinder in the DMC-12, just a crappy, Peugeot-Renault-sourced V6…

Style, sure, the DMC-12’s got a bit of that. But substance? Not really.

Words by Yoav Gilad for

Check out a more modern (and better looking) take on the time-travelling DeLorean right here

  • Photography: IGN
Words by Staff