Back To The Future Day: a roundup of all the DeLorean-themed madness

Published: 21 October 2015

► 21 Oct 2015 is ‘Back To The Future day’
► Belfast students create an electric DMC-12…
► …and Stanford University an autonomous one

Great Scott! Today, 21 October 2015, is ‘Back to the Future day’ – the date Doc Brown and Marty McFly program into their time-travelling DeLorean in the original 1985 blockbuster, and arrive at in its 1989 sequel.

Which means the whole world has gone DeLorean crazy, with the ill-fated DMC-12 garnering possibly the most column inches in a day since the whole affair shuddered to a debt-ridden halt in the early 1980s.

Stanford University’s autonomous, self-donuting DeLorean

While flying cars, self-lacing trainers and reliable hoverboards haven’t become a reality just yet, an autonomous DeLorean has. 

Stanford University professor Chris Gerdes, a team of mechanical engineering students and technical partners Renovo motors have transformed a 1981 DMC-12 into a test bed for autonomous driving software. And, rather spectacularly, taught it to drift. The project’s aim – apart from making lots of tyre smoke – is to explore scenarios in which future autonomous cars might need to override ESP systems when swerving to avoid an accident, for example.

Why a DeLorean? ‘It’s a car that says science project,’ says Gerdes. And the project’s name? MARTY – or Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control.

Watch MARTY in action in the video below.

Queen’s University Belfast’s electric DeLorean

Meanwhile, Queen’s University Belfast has marked the occasion by converting a DMC-12 to pure electric power. An eighteen-month build project, it’s the work of a team of electrical engineering and computer science students and was displayed today for the first time at the Ulster Museum.

Neatly/poignantly, it’s thought to be the first DeLorean to be (re)built in Northern Ireland since production was halted at the firm’s Belfast factory in 1983. Utilising the original car’s Renault gearbox, the EV DMC-12 is powered by a 270hp electric motor. Top speed is estimated at 120mph.

‘Projects like the Queen’s Electric DeLorean are crucial in equipping young engineers with the knowledge and expertise to build the electric vehicles of the future,’ says Project leader Dr David Laverty. ‘This project was about modifying a car into an electric vehicle, but we wanted to do it in style. The DeLorean was the obvious choice because of its strong connection to Belfast and its starring role in the Back to the Future movies.’

Back to the Future DeLorean

McFly!! Doc Brown’s fictional DeLorean estimated to cost £60,000 to insure

Elsewhere in time-travelling DMC-12 news, car insurance specialist 1st Central has today announced a tongue-in-cheek insurance quote for the film trilogy’s fictional time machine: £60,000.

Apart from taking into account the age and profession of the owner, reasons quoted for the pricey premium include the car’s unusual fuel source (the car’s Mr Fusion reactor runs on rubbish, of course), its ‘time travel capabilities’ and the fact that it regularly travels at speeds of 88mph.

‘Professor Brown from Back to the Future is a mature man with a classic car, so is likely to cherish his vehicle and would normally have a low pay-out,’ says 1st Central. ‘However his DeLorean is a group 20 vehicle, the highest classification on the insurance scale and the unconventional fuel system utilising household rubbish has raised some eyebrows with the underwriters. Marty and the Professor will also find their time travel causing frequent issues with their annual insurance policy dates, resulting in a lot of cover required, they would have  real problems trying to buy back dated cover. Based on this and the fact that the DeLorean had to reach speeds of 88mph in order to time travel today, Professor Brown is looking at an insurance rate of £60,000 a year.’

That’s nothing, though; Bruce Wayne would apparently have to shell out £750k a year for his Batmobile, although 1st Central helpfully points out that he would be able to potentially reduce his premium by up to £250k by a self-insurance agreement with the UK treasury. Good to know.

Read CAR’s reflection on the part-absurd, part-tragic story of the DeLorean DMC-12 and the enigmatic man behind it here.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer

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