On Flying Cars and DeLoreans: Back to the Future - Today and Tomorrow

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Automotive News

Andrew Kaufman is an automotive journalist and content manager from Los Angeles, CA. He received his English Degree from Colorado College and has written about a variety of topics throughout his career.

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, Automotive News - February 8, 2012

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the 1985 summer blockbuster "Back to the Future," (as well as a brief flareup over the specific date in the future that Doc Brown sets his time machine), we thought it'd be appropriate to take a look at two of the films most memorable automotive oddities: The DeLorean and the Flying Car. While we may technically be living in the "Future" that Hollywood imagined a quarter century ago, some of the nifty toys that we assumed we'd all be playing with still haven't materialized yet, while others we had back then have gone the way of the DoDo bird. It all goes to show you that the art of predicting the future of the automobile is not an exact science.

Developed by Amercian engineer and industrialist John Z. Delorean, the original DeLorean DMC-12 was only available between 1981-82 and was the only vehicle produced by the short lived DeLorean Motor Company. While the company filed for bankruptcy in 1982 (amidst allegations that Delorean tried to raise money for the company through drug trafficking), the sleek, brushsteeled and "Gull Winged" sports car that bears its name was forever memorialized as the "Flux-Capacitor" equipped Time Machine that transported Marty McFly back to 1955 (or to the years 2015 and 1885 in the second and third installments respectively). Chosen for its unique and stylish (at the time) frame and its striking similarity to an alien spacecraft, the DeLorean was the perfect car to represent the "Future" of automotive design at the time. But although its unique design helped separate it from the other sports cars of its day, it wasn't nearly as revolutionary as its fictional counterpart and eventually succumbed to the tough business realities of the automotive industry. But don't feel too bad for the winged wonder. While the DeLorean may only be a footnote in the history of futuristic concept car design, its appearance in the Back to the Future trilogy ensured its "Iconic" status as one of the coolest methods of time travel ever conceived. Summed up in the immortal words of Doc Brown, "If you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

And while the DeLorean made its name on the streets and backroads of Hill Valley, it wasn't until the final scene of the first movie that its true potential really "took off." After returning from the future to warn Marty about his family's impending disaster and filling the Delorean's newly installed Mr. Fusion with as much trash as he could find, he then proceeds to display his latest modification (one that has been a dream of science fiction fans, futurists and the general public for over 50 years): The Flying Car.

Although it's probably the main futuristic technological breakthrough featured in Back to the Future 2 (besides Hoverboards of course), the idea of a Flying Car was nothing new, even in 1985. Having made appearances in science fiction tales as early as the beginning of the 20th century, the Flying Car has become somewhat of a running joke of late - as well as a symbol of promised technologies that never actually materialized. But lately it seems as if the dream of the Flying Car is getting closer and closer to being a reality.

Developed by MIT-trained aeronautical engineers, the Terrafugia Transition® Roadable Aircraft has helped to reignite the public's interest in a practical Flying Car. While it certainly doesn't have the design flare of the DeLorean, with the first commercial shipments expected in 2011, the Transition® represents the closest the automotive industry has come to a consumer car that can also take to the skies. Here's a video that shows just what it can do:

For the low, low price of $194,000 you can be one of the first to live the "Future" in your new flying car. But unless your office has a runway attached to the parking lot, you aren't going to be able to use this nifty piece of machinery to commute. I guess you can't have everything.

As only-dreamed-of technologies become reality (and then become commonplace in our lives), its hard to overstate the importance that popular fiction and entertainment can have on the perception and development of new technologies. And while some supposed Futuristic technologies may end up broken down on the road to progress, others keep working towards the goal of having our future live up to the promises of the past. And whether the future is 1985, 2015 or 2085, technology will always be running to catch up with the speed of the human imagination.

, Automotive News

Andrew Kaufman is an automotive journalist and content manager from Los Angeles, CA. He received his English Degree from Colorado College and has written about a variety of topics throughout his career.

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