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Book Review: DeLorean Time Machine: Doc Brown’s Owners’ Workshop Manual

We’ve all made the ill-advised decision to buy a car from a friend of a friend, or a sketchy garage, and then found out (always too late), that you had bought a real clunker.

More often than not I was frequently found elbow-deep in the hood of my first car. So often in fact that my 21st birthday cake was topped with an edible model of the car’s hood, complete with “my” legs stretched out from underneath, and tools strewn all around me.

If this rings a bell with you, then you’ll know the name Haynes, a British-based firm who have produced hundreds of manuals for vehicles of all kinds since 1965. Instantly filthy with grease, their pages were well-thumbed and stained with tea, coffee, beer, and maybe even some blood, sweat and tears.

Now you can banish those memories by buying fun, spoof manuals for vehicles that only exist on the silver screen. The latest of these, due out in March, is the manual for Doc Brown’s DeLorean Time Machine, the iconic stainless steel, gull-winged car that featured in the Back to the Future movies.

Many people are surprised to learn that the DeLorean DMC-12 was actually a real car, with the first rolling off the factory production line in 1981 in Dunmurry, a suburb of Belfast. Around 9000 were made in a two-year period, and you can learn about its infamous production problems and the scandals swirling around it and its controversial mastermind, John Z. DeLorean, elsewhere (it’s only covered briefly in this book).

The then-defunct car shot to fame a few years later after it was chosen over a refrigerator (and a sponsored Mustang) to feature in the movie, and it has been a pop culture icon ever since.

Some have been pimped-out into a boat, a golf cart, a hovercraft, a monster truck, a limo, a taxi cab, an off-road vehicle, and of course several painstakingly-accurate BTTF versions. There were also two (or was it three?) promotional gold-plated ones produced for an American Express Gold Card promotion.

Only the DeLoreans from the movies, including the fictional flying version (plus hoverboards and the time train), are covered in this manual though, which is written by BTTF screenwriter Bob Gale and collector/restorer Joe Walser with a sense of reverence, fun, and even some rather complicated science and philosophical concepts about time and space.

Taking the form of Doc Brown’s journal and notes as he invents his time machine, meets Marty McFly, travels through time (and then has to go back with Marty to undo the effects of these adventures), it’s crisply and lavishly illustrated – also by Walser.

Often you forget so much of this is fictional, as there are dizzying technical terms alongside concept art, sketches, designs, blueprints and engineering photos. There are also movie stills, on-set Polaroids of the car designs and some behind-the-scenes stories and trivia, though, cleverly, the secret information about the nuclear-powered flux capacitor is blacked out.

After all, if we could all read that, then someone could build their own time machines and go back in history and invent it before Doc Brown did – and what would happen then?

A must for fans of the movies – and for those who love the hidden nuts and bolts of perhaps the most famous car in the world (or certainly in the movies) – this book is ideal, even if it will never end up kicking around a garage floor.

Believe it or not, 2021 may also see the first new DeLoreans back on the freeways. No, really.

The company was bought – blueprints, spares, manuals and all – back in the 1990s, and has been busy with repairs and renovations ever since, as there are around as about 6000 left around the world.

Recent regulation changes mean that the DeLorean could now be seen as a classic car able to go back into limited production, and souped-up for the 21st century, probably as an electric vehicle (EV). But then what happens when these new cars easily hit 88mph?

James Bartlett

 

DeLorean Time Machine: Doc Brown’s Owners’ Workshop Manual
By Bob Gale and Joe Walser
Insight Editions, 2021, 159pp
£20.05
Published Feb 24

 

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