Great Scott! Back to the Future in SA? This local petrolhead owns a DeLorean


South Africa is filled with unique and beautiful cars. Some might be as rare as chicken's teeth, while others are easier to spot.

One such rear gem is a DMC DeLorean. You know, that car from 'Back to the Future' fame? Yes, that's the one. Well, one of our readers, Bill Sampson, was kind enough to share images of his car with us, as well as the story of how he came about acquiring one.

And for that, we have to go back in time as our reader-friend divulges us with the details.

The DeLorean

Built between 1981 and 1983, the DeLorean is perhaps one of the all-time famous cars. Over its two-and-a-half-year production run, a couple of thousand units were produced. No, not in the tenths of thousands. We're talking not even 10 000! Though the actual figure is disputable, numbers of between 6000 and 9000 have been thrown around.

1981 DMC DeLorian

1981 DMC DeLorian. Image: Bill Sampson

The car was a bit of a mix and match affair, to be honest. The engine, a 2.85-litre V6, was sourced from the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo alliance of the time. The chassis was from Lotus, and the five-speed manual and three-speed automatic gearboxes were from a Renault 5 and Borg Warner, respectively.

According to Sampson, as far as he knows, not even half of the produced units were sold. The remaining units, he says, were either destroyed or stripped down and the parts were sent to the various service shops at the time. When he bought his car 15 years ago, there were two warehouses in Texas filled to the brim with spare parts.

1981 DMC DeLorian

1981 DMC DeLorian. Image: Bill Sampson

Importing a DeLorean

In 2005, Sampson was in America. During his visit, he came across the DMC DeLorean. Sampson says that the car was gathering dust in a warehouse, and it convinced him to put plans in motion to acquire it.

He said: "I found her in the USA - a true barn find - with just over 500 miles (805km) on the clock. I think she might have been a dealer's demo car because the passenger footwell and carpets were covered in the original factory plastics.

"But standing all those years had to effect that many of the items, such as the rubber, spark plugs, and cylinders, had to be replaced. It took a while to get her running again, but when we did I left her idling for an hour."

Sampson says that in 2005, he paid $18 000 (R119 700, est.) for his DeLorean. FYI, back then, the Rand to Dollar exchange rate was R6.63! The car made its first journey to the shipping port in America, where it was loaded into a 20-foot shipping container ($3000). When it arrived in Durban, a further R10 000 was needed to pay for the necessary taxes and services before it could be transported to Gauteng.

Not forgetting, Sampson also needed an import permit for the Department of Trade and Industry and an LoA from the SABS.

1981 DMC DeLorian

1981 DMC DeLorian. Image: Bill Sampson

A left-hand love affair

Sampson's Delorian is a 1981 model and, he says, it drives like the 1980s. Power steering is non-existent at parking speeds, but on the highway, she runs like a charm, Bill says. Road holding is also good, thanks to the Lotus-sourced chassis.

What does take some getting used to, Sampson notes, is the small window winder. And the aircon has to work overtime to keep you cool.

"With all my other cars, she might go out twice a year. Her mileage now is under 2000 miles (3220km), meaning I've acquired 1500 miles (2414km) on the odometer over the last 15 years. The 2.8-litre motor (97kW/207Nm) is very underpowered and lazy, typical of the USA 80s era to save fuel. But the new exhaust improved that a bit."

Sampson concludes: "People either know it or don't, and some even confuse it with a Lotus. But once the doors open, then the penny drops!" 

1981 DMC DeLorian
1981 DMC DeLorian. Image: Bill Sampson
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