After nearly 23 years since the final installment of the Back to the Future trilogy was on the silver screen, the museum-quality restoration of the original “A” car DeLorean is now complete. Visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood can view the DeLorean in all of its time machine glory, now on display at the NBCUniversal Experience.
The history behind the “A” car and how it got here is quite an interesting story. Back in the fall/winter of 1984, a special effects company named Filmtrix was hired to build three DeLorean time machines for the film Back to the Future. Each DeLorean time machine was designated to perform different functions for filmmaking. Special effects supervisor Kevin Pike gave each car a name. There was the “A” car, which was the most detailed "hero" car for first unit shots with the actors. The second car was named the “B” car, and was meant for stunt driving, second unit work, on location work and was rigged to have flames in the wheel wells. The last one was the “C” car, which was a studio process vehicle which was cut up for shots inside the car and close ups of interior details.
For the two sequels, each of the original DeLorean time machines were used in similar fashions, along with a new fleet of DeLoreans. After filming was completed on Back to the Future Part III, the “A” car continued to be used in several productions such as The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy with Kirk Cameron, the 1990 Earth Day Special with Christopher Lloyd, the live action wrap-arounds in CBS' Back to the Future animated series, and the pre-show sequences in Back to the Future...The Ride. The “A” car is the most filmed DeLorean in Back to the Future franchise history.
After the "A" car's use in front of the camera, it ended up becoming a theme park attraction. For more than twenty years, the vehicle was left on display for park visitors to view. Many fans over the years were able to have their photograph taken with the car. By the time Back to the Future...The Ride opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1993, the car was used as part of the grand opening celebrations with a special skit for the press on Universal's back lot in front of the Hill Valley clocktower. In the late '90s and early '00s, the car went through a minor overhaul. All during the early part of the 21th Century, the car was used almost exclusively as a theme park attraction and was driven around the park with a loud speaker playing Huey Lewis and the News' two smash hits from the film.
On September 8, 2011, Nike unveiled a limited-edition replica of the Air Mag shoes as seen in Back to the Future Part II to be sold in a charity auction for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. As part of the promotion, Nike hired Christopher Lloyd to reprise his role as 'Doc Brown' and filmed a new short film with a new replica DeLorean time machine. Executive producer Frank Marshall helmed the direction of the new film, which Nike premiered on both coasts in order to unveil the new shoes. As part of the grand event on the west coast, the original “A” car was brought out and parked next to the courthouse set from Back to the Future. Sources close to the restoration claim that it was at this very moment which allowed the restoration to be approved and move forward. The contrast between the original car being used as an outside park attraction and the new replica from the short film (which was also parked outside the Los Angeles premiere of the film) immediately proved that an accurate, professional restoration could be performed.
Co-creator, co-producer and co-writer Bob Gale—using his passion for the film series—spearheaded a project with Universal Studios to get the “A” car restored. The restoration ended up being managed by Joe Walser and Terry Matalas from TemporalFX built the DeLorean used in Nike's film. On Feb. 26, 2012, Gale issued a public notice via BTTF.com announcing that a team called "Time Machine Restoration" had been assembled under his direction to restore the car.
Several veteran members of the Back to the Future fan community and seasoned Hollywood professionals contributed to the project over the course of a year. The Time Machine Restoration team broadcasted through social media on Facebook.com with a page that as of today has more than 22k "likes." Many fans wanted to be a part of the restoration, and openly donated money to the cause. A number of limited-edition patches made in honor of the DeLorean time machine were created by the team, and were distributed exlusively through BTTF.com for the duration of the project. All proceeds from the patch sales were reported to help with costs of extensive restoration. The body, interior carpeting and trim, all had to be gone over along with all the time machine props and gadgets.
As for the actual work done to the time machine, Joe Walser reports that as much original materials which were located or could still be used is on the car. The team had to occasionally replace hardware, but since the car is no longer going to be used on the road or in any other filming, they were able to use original hardware more frequently than if the car was going to be placed back into “action.” A lot of time was devoted to actually making the “B” car flux bands fit on the “A” car. Walser reports that the front flux bands are new recreations, but both rear flux bands are the originals from the 1985 Filmtrix created “B” car which were still on site at Universal Studios Hollywood. Some items were long gone, but as in the body shop business, LKQ (like, kind, quality) was the leading force in finding replacements. Much original vintage surplus that could be found was used to recreate some of the components for the DeLorean time machine, following the original pattern created by the crew at Filmtrix back in 1984.
Walser also reported there are more original parts on the car than has been on the car in years. Several people responded to Bob Gale’s request about finding original parts or pieces that were removed over the years. The body panels are original, and countless hours were spent getting them to look good again. Many of the original gauges and interior props are original, but the internal mechanics inside them had to be reworked for the long-term display at the studio. The vehicle doesn’t have neon on it, but that was done at the request of the studio. The original guts of the flux capacitor were utilized to bring the flux capacitor back to life.
As of Friday, February 15, the newly-restored DeLorean is now located inside a display at Universal Studios Hollywood in the NBCUniversal Experience and is now available for viewing daily by park visitors. There will be a more formal public celebration at Universal Studios Hollywood in honor of the project being complete in the near future.
“Restoring the screen-used "A" hero Delorean time machine was a true labor of love for all directly involved," TMR project lead Joe Walser tells BTTF.com. "It had to be, because it was an incredibly difficult project and a lot was asked of several very hard working team members. The thing is, as hard as it is to build a good time machine replica, even one of our incredibly accurate replicas, it's relatively easy compared to restoring the screen-used, hero "A" Delorean time machine because every single piece HAD to be as accurate as it possibly could be. When you're building a replica, you can decide how forgiving you want to be - but to do it right, to truly nail it... to hold every piece to the highest level of accuracy achievable - well, that's the real trick, and it took the best team in the world an incredible amount of time and effort to pull it off. It simply had to be what it was - a labor of love.”
published: Monday February 18th 2013