There’s far more to the DeLorean, however, than its Hollywood-endowed ability to disappear into a temporal wormhole on reaching 141.6km/h, or 88 miles per hour.
The DeLorean was built only from 1981-83 before the controversial company filed for bankruptcy, its troubles exacerbated by the December 1982 arrest of fast-talking founder John Zachary DeLorean on cocaine trafficking charges.
DeLorean left a legacy of fewer than 9000 examples of a machine that, while never delivering on the promise of its styling, redefines what it means to be an “exotic” car.
The two-door was conceived in Detroit, designed by maestro Giorgetto Giugiaro in Italy, based on a chassis from Lotus of England, powered by a V6 built in France — and assembled in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, with British government funding of £100 million-plus.
Commercial pilot-in-training John Frisina has owned his 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 since 2011, when he bought it online from the US for a trifling $15,000 and spent about $10,000 in shipping, insurance, local compliance and registration.
Frisina was born in 1985, the year of Back to the Future.
“That’s a part of it, growing up watching that fantastic movie,” he says, “but I just loved 1980s machines, like my father’s 1987 Mercedes-Benz 300E, which to me was just the best car in the world.
“The 1980s seemed to be big phones, big cars, lots of excess and a really cool time.”
About 10 years ago on a business trip in Canberra, a colleague told Frisina that he had bought a DeLorean. “He showed me his car and I had all these questions: was it expensive, are they hard to own, what about spare parts? I had always wanted to get a cool car before I turned 30.”
The car Frisina found in the US was naturally left-hand drive — DeLorean built only three right-hand drive prototypes — and had a well-documented service history.
“When my car arrived I was feeling pretty lucky, because it was in better condition than my friend’s and another I’d seen,” Frisina says.
“You can’t expect much. They weren’t known for the quality of their performance, they were known for their presence. They’ve got that in spades.”
The DeLorean Motor Company is alive and well, thanks to a company in Texas buying the parts inventory, tooling and name in 1995. Parts are also plentiful for the V6, a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo joint effort.
Frisina estimates there are as many as 100 DeLoreans in Australia and he has orchestrated various gatherings of local owners. He flew to Uluru in 2015 to meet a trio of German adventurers on a DeLorean World Tour.
He also took part in an Australian film, Blue World Order (2017), featuring a 10-strong DeLorean chase scene.
“This car has taken my life in a different direction,” Frisina says. “I’ve met friends I would never have met otherwise and had all sorts of experiences. I really feel richer for owning it.
“Nobody leers at you, like they might with other cars. And the funny thing is, I get people rocking up in Ferraris and Lamborghinis and they’re giving me the thumbs up.”