People stop them at gas stations. Strangers follow them on the streets, even on freeways.
“They literally will follow me off exits,” said Anaheim Hills resident Richard McMillen. “I’ve caused accidents … someone was just not paying attention.”
“I felt like a celebrity at first, but then I realized it’s the car, not me,” said Justin Trabue from Covina. “They’re waving at the car. I’m just in it, driving it around, making it go.”
They are members of the Orange County DeLorean Club, a hobbyist ensemble of DeLorean car owners who love showing off their iconic 1980s vehicles made famous by their futuristic design and connection to the “Back to the Future” film series.
O.C.’s club has around 20 DeLoreans. Membership is free. The enthusiasts try to meet once a month at various restaurants in the county. They’ll also partner up for events with the Southern California and San Diego DeLorean clubs and make their cars available for charitable or corporate appearances through the club’s website, ocdeloreans.com.
“We’re a fun group,” said club organizer Todd Bustillo of Anaheim Hills. “We want to share our cars with the public. That’s our goal.”
On a recent Saturday, after months of planning, the club hosted a screening of “Back to the Future Part II” and “Back to the Future Part III” at the Mission Tiki Drive-in Theatre in Montclair.
Ten DeLoreans rolled in from all over the Southland, each with a unique story. Some were heavily customized with modern tech, some were made to look like “Back to the Future” time machines (think flux capacitors and extra wiring), and others were painstakingly maintained to appear in their original 1980s glory.
DeLoreans have rear-mounted engines, storage beneath the hood and their doors are gullwings — they open vertically. Perhaps their most unique feature is that they were available in one color: unpainted stainless steel, with the exception of just a handful that were gold.
The DeLorean Motor Co. only made about 9,000 of the cars from its factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Around 6,000 are believed to still exist.
Emmett “Doc” Brown, an eccentric inventor played by Christopher Lloyd in the “Back to the Future” movies, fashioned a time machine out of a DeLorean. His justification? “The way I see it, if you’re gonna a build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
A turn-key car may sell for around $40,000 to $50,000 today.
But upgrades to make it look like Dr. Emmett Brown’s time machine can cost thousands of dollars more.
Dustin Hennick’s purchase of a DeLorean in 2018 was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. The Palm Springs resident loved the “Back to the Future” films and remembers gazing at the movie poster as a kid. Now he’s got the car.
“Here it is, mine, in person,” Hennick said with a smile. He came to the screening looking like he stepped off the futuristic set of “Part II,” holding a hoverboard.
Ronald Ferguson, who lives in Fullerton and Santa Barbara, is a director of the DeLorean Owners Assn., founded in 1983. He loved the cars when they first came out.
“But when it was in the movie, that just reinforced it,” Ferguson said.
“To us in the DeLorean community, we don’t say that ‘Back to the Future’ made the DeLorean famous. We say the DeLorean made ‘Back to the Future’ famous,” said Bustillo.
Trabue, who spearheaded the film screening, knows the exact day he got his DeLorean: Sept. 26, 2018. That night, he drove it around the Puente Hills Mall in Rowland Heights, where scenes from the first “Back to the Future” were filmed.
Three engines later, Trabue’s ride has some 700,000 miles on it.
McMillen, who runs the O.C. club with Bustillo, loves how DeLoreans bring a smile to people’s faces, even if they haven’t seen the movies.
“It symbolizes the ‘80s. It is the ‘80s in a car,” he said.
Placentia resident David Daniels’ DeLorean has never left his family. They knew the car before the movie. His dad, Alan, originally bought one in Bakersfield in 1981 for $26,175. They still have the receipt.
“I don’t know what it’s like to not have one, I guess,” Daniels said. “That’s the best way of saying it. The car is older than I am.”
When Alan, who now lives in Tustin, took his DeLorean to watch “Back to the Future” when the film was first released, he got mobbed once he left the theater.
“He had a DeLorean, ya know?” Daniels said.