It seemed the wild Delores was destined to be a strange and rather sad footnote in the annals of automotive history, but its starring role in the 1985 film Back to the Future immediately elevated the defunct car to iconic status, henceforth inextricably intertwined with the popular movie trilogy. However, if you aren’t a purist, there is an established catalog of upgrades and engine swaps that can transform your casual cruiser into something that goes as fast as it looks.
A good portion of these cars are enjoyed as curios and fair-weather cruisers, many with odometers that have yet to roll past 50,000 miles. That’s a shame, as despite the distinct lack of gumption, the PRV V-6 is a stout and robust engine, capable of high mileage with just regular serving.
Better still, the sort of body rust you’d see on a typical early ‘80s car is much less of a concern thanks to the stainless steel panels, though the chassis underneath is still susceptible. If you are in the market, we suggest you look for one that has enjoyed both regular exercise and servicing; don’t shy away from cars that have higher mileage, provided there’s a thick sheaf of maintenance records accompanying it.
If you can’t wait, spend some time camped out on online auction sites to snipe the cleanest example (with a manual transmission) you can find. Delores are relatively numerous, despite their short production run, and aren’t very high-dollar, so they populate the docket of many an auction house, including Bring a Trailer.
For all of Motorized’s exclusive stories, photos, videos, and technical deep dives on the all the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs, head to www.motortrend.com. As far as I know the body panels won't corrode, but things like subframes and under body stuff like that will.
Best to apply a liberal amount of undercoating and perhaps even wax treatment if you plan on driving in the winter. As far as I know the body panels won't corrode, but things like subframes and under body stuff like that will.
An unskilled workforce coupled with corporate financial difficulties led to the car's less than ideal build quality. All that in conjunction with a lackluster US Economy and mixed reception from the automotive press spelled disaster for DMC.
In an effort to save his company in late 1982 John Delores was arrested (eventually acquitted of all charges in 1984) in connection with a $24 million dollar drug smuggling deal. Had it not been for the “Back to the Future” (TTF) films of the mid and late 80s the Delores sports car might have completely faded into automotive obscurity.
These films skyrocketed the Delores to its near-iconic rock star status giving it a sort of cult following. If you drive an Aston Martin, Ferrari or Lamborghini, people generally turn up their noses at you (even other owners).
Most figure those cars are owned by some rich jerk who feels like announcing to the world “They've arrived.” With a Delores, little kids and 40-year-olds alike light up like Christmas trees around this car.
After the first year or two, or however long you own a Delores for, the constant attention can get downright annoying. There comes a point when you hear “Hey where's the Flux Capacitor” for the nine millionth time and you want to shoot that person.
If you're out with your Delores and someone makes a bonehead TTF reference, act confused and tell them you never saw the movie. It's a great tactic and I would highly recommend this to any Delores owner as a way of getting out of a negative conversation.
Since the last original Delores rolled off the assembly line 36 years ago, the myths and misconceptions that surround this car continue to flourish. First, John Delores never smuggled an ounce of Cocaine and never went to jail, He was acquitted of all charges in 1984.
Because PRV stands for Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo, I think it's a common misconception three different engines were available for the car, but this wasn't the case. Several test mules with turbo conversions did wind up in public hands after the company's demise.
But the turbo project itself never completed final testing and no production models were ever produced. With total production around 9100 cars, it's estimated that 6000 Delores still exist today.
Recently, mint condition Delores at auction have sold as high as $60,000. 2015 was a year synonymous with the fictional time travel date of the TTF films.
When the original Delores Motor Company and it's European subsidiary DMC finally folded, a literal treasure trove of parts remained. This cache of parts was eventually bought up by Consolidated International (which later became Odd Lots), and shipped to a warehouse in Ohio.
Consolidated had an ample supply of almost everything (except left front fenders). A few years later in mid-1997, Stephen Wynne (who had already been servicing the Delores for some time) started a new Delores Motor Company and would eventually buy the remains of the original parts supply from Consolidate international.
There is now more than enough mechanical parts (and suppliers) to keep the Delores going for the foreseeable future. Stainless steel may seem like an odd choice for an automotive body panel.
To be fair the original idea with this was similar to GM's Saturn line. Considering the hassle of going to a body shop with a regular car, replacing a damaged panel could be a real time saver.
DMC shut down within three years of production so the practicality of this method was never realized. Nowadays many of the repair shops that specialize in Delores have become quite good at fixing dents in the body.
The front and rear fascia's (bumper covers) of the Delores are made of Polyurethane and are the only factory painted portion of the car. The actual black “bumper” portion of the fascia is the unfinished polyurethane.
Early heat shields were made of friable asbestos that crumbled very easily if bumped into (had the consistency of cardboard). Most owners removed their heat shields after bumping into them a few times because the engine bay looked like it had a broken piece of cardboard hanging in it.
The result from all that unchecked heat was premature alternator failure and a warped rear fascia. Aside from the eye-catching stainless steel finish, the other obvious exterior feature of the Delores is its Gulling Doors.
At a second glance, it'd make you think the car is a death trap if it wound up on its roof. The Delores uses a hydraulic assisted torsion bar setup that was developed in partnership with Grumman.
The idea of a mechanical counterbalancing system meant that the doors could be opened easily without power to the vehicle. The final door design employs a small center 'tollbooth” style window that gives the entire car a sleek appearance.
The bulk of the body is actually a fiberglass tub with stainless panels bolted to it. We've already discussed the Stainless body panels and the fiberglass under body to which they are bolted.
Mainly the normal stuff, leather seats, carpeting, an off the shelf 1981 Craig radio and wood. In order to save money during the initial build, John Delores decided to use wood in the rear deck lid, fuse box, and battery compartment area.
This was one of the things that made people raise their eyebrows when they first started looking at this supposed ultra-modern sports car. The Delores Frame is made of a mild steel coated in epoxy.
The irony of a stainless steel car with a rotten frame is uncanny. On a brighter note, today there are Delores service centers located throughout the US and Europe.
The current Delores Motor Company based in Humble, Texas has franchise locations in four US states and one in Europe. In more recent years, Delores Industries based in Talmadge, Ohio has become one of the leading suppliers of high-quality aftermarket parts, including the stainless steel replacement frame.
In the modern era of Delores ownership, service is one of the highlights for any owner whereas there truly is an excellent support system for the car. But compare that to a 1982 Corvette that had a zero to sixty time of 9.7 seconds and the Delores wasn't far off from it's intended mark.
At first, the non-power steering setup seems a bit cheap, but it does provide substantial feedback from the road. However, manual steering can get a little annoying when you're trying to make maneuvers in tight places such as a parking lot.
The 5-speed manual feels a little clunky due to its long pivot style linkage from the center console to the rear transaxle. Early manuals suffered a 5th gear lock not issue.
Keep in mind this is practically a one-way ticket to make the conversion (and a really expensive one if you want to go back). Again, on a screen accurate build, the time circuit switch partially blocks your access to the shifter (think of the scene where Marty accidentally flips on the time circuits escaping from the Libyans) making it almost impossible to drive.
Don't even get me started on the time circuit displays piled up on the dashboard partially blocking the windshield. Since day one, there have been people attempting to “hot rod” their Delores which led to many dismal and incomplete conversions.
The 3.0 version of the Delores's 2.9 PRV was widely used in many American cars of the late 80s and early 90s making it a readily available junkyard motor. Yes folks, Stainless steel wasn't the only interesting metal you could get a Delores finished in.
As part of a promotion with American Express, DMC offered gold-plated Delores for sale to the public. One of these cars sat in a bank in Texas for many years before being shipped to the Petersen Museum in California.
When the first two were made, spare gold panels had to be produced in case anything happened to either of the other two cars. When the company fell into receivership, it was decided to build one last car using the spare set of gold panels.
Oh, and there were two other gold cars made later by guys in their garage or something, but no one cares about that, due to them being replicas. Many of the dealer painted Delores are still around today, although most owners have decided to bring these cars back to a stainless finish.
The one advantage to a potential buyer is most painted Delores have a significantly reduced asking price. The Peugeot Renault Volvo alliance of the 70s had originally envisioned a V8 for their high-end sports cars.
Early versions of this motor were plagued with problems, including an inadequate oiling system that led to premature camshaft failures. The 90-degree design originally intended as a V8 meant that V6 would have an odd fire setup and be unstable at idle.
Other cost-cutting, included paper gaskets at the bottom of the cylinder liners where Volvo specified steel in the exact same location in their engine. This British manufacturer of electrical components would be the European equivalent of AC Del co.
Unlike Del co, Lucas' components are known to catch fire, regularly. As with other things, the use of improved electrical relays and newer style fuses have helped drastically increase safety.
A series of chassis grounds that run in both the front and rear of the car can be a source of major headaches for Delores owners. From overcharging alternators blowing up batteries (which are behind the passenger seat) to cars dying in the middle of traffic.
Most of these fans make it a point of meeting up at the Delores Car show (DCS) that takes place every two years. At DCS Delores fans get a chance to show off their rides and participate in TTF themed activities.
Guests also get a chance to speak with former factory workers and corporate executives from the original DMC in a Q&A setting. Even Bob Gale, the movie producer responsible for Back to the Future has been known to be a frequent attendee of DCS along with actor Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown).
After the demise of the original Delores Motor Company in the 1980s the cars themselves became somewhat of an automotive oddity. Today mothballed cars are being hauled out, refreshed and put up for sale.
This coupled with a network of authorized repair centers using new and improved parts means it's not uncommon to find a Delores ready to roll with low mileage. Today a solid road ready Delores that you can go out and have fun with is going to cost somewhere around $40K.