How the DeLorean Works

DeLorean Features
Back to the Future made the DeLorean famous, but flux capacitors are not included in your average DMC-12.
Back to the Future made the DeLorean famous, but flux capacitors are not included in your average DMC-12.
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The two features on the DeLorean that immediately stand out are the brushed stainless-steel panels that cover the body of the car and its gull-wing doors. The DeLorean's body is a fiberglass construction -- the steel panels are attached with powerful adhesive to the body. Since all DeLoreans have these stainless-steel panels, they all look alike. DeLorean offered a few options that allowed customers to make some personalization possible, but paint jobs were not on the list. Nevertheless, some early DeLorean owners took it upon themselves to have their car painted -- a difficult task considering the stainless steel.

The famous DeLorean gull wing doors
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It's the doors that really capture people's attention. The DeLorean's gull-wing doors open upward rather than outward. When fully extended, the doors look like the wings of a gliding bird -- thus the name. While the doors feature a gas strut attachment, this is not what opens the doors. In fact, the gas strut, which looks like a pneumatic pump, is meant to slow down the door's ascent so that it won't bounce at the end of its extension.

The mechanism that actually pushes the door open is a torsion bar. Made by Grumman Aerospace, these twisted stainless-steel bars act like a spring. DeLorean attached each door's axis to a torsion bar, which is designed so that when the door is closed, the torsion bar is in a tensed condition. Unlatching the door allows the torsion bar to move from a stressed position to a relaxed one, opening the door in the process.

Original DeLoreans have a fuel-injected V-6 engine produced by Peugeot-Renault-Volvo. The estimated horsepower for this engine is about 130 hp. The engine sits in the rear of the vehicle, making the back significantly heavier than the front. Some drivers feel this made the car more difficult to drive, calling it "tail-happy." Despite its sports car status, critics panned the car's performance -- it could accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 10.5 seconds, significantly slower than other sports cars on the market.

The DeLorean's gas mileage is a matter of conjecture, though through various reports it seems that 18 to 20 miles per gallon (mpg, or 29 to 32 kilometers per liter) is a fair estimate. The DeLorean company claimed the cars could top 130 mph (209 kilometers per hour), though "Road & Track" magazine claimed they could only get the car up to 105 mph (196 kilometers per hour). It seems that in almost every respect -- affordability, speed and acceleration in particular -- the DeLorean came up short of its competitors.

In the next section, we'll look at how some passionate film fans have made DeLorean restoration a viable industry, and how a Texas-based company is bringing production back online.