To further celebrate Back to the Future day, here is a far longer version of an article I wrote for the NZ Herald’s DRIVEN section a few months ago. It is about a rather special car that lives in New Zealand and its remarkably tenacious owner!
So do you want to go for a ride? With those nine short words Mat Bedogni reduces my inner 12-year-old to a quivering, incomprehensible mass of giggly excitement and nervous energy.
My 30-years-older-than-that exterior holds it together a bit better, managing to nod and stammer out “uh-huh” through a smile so wide that I genuinely fear for the structural rigidity of my cheek bones.
The cause of all this barely-contained glee? An iconic piece of movie and automotive history. A legend. A DeLorean.
Now your bog standard DeLorean DMC-12 is an absolute legend in its own right, what with its short life peppered by the highs of celebrity and international government investment and the massive lows of bankruptcy amid accusations of dodgy financials and drug dealing.
But, of course, the DeLorean legend was sealed in 1985 when director Robert Zemeckis cast it in the role of the time machine in his movie ‘Back to the Future’. The movie was wildly successful and as a result the DeLorean was forever linked to it in the hearts and minds of anyone young enough to be completely and utterly swept away by the movie and its celebration of this weird and futuristic-looking car from the early 80s. Along with myself, one of those youngsters was Mat Bedogni, the owner this particular DeLorean.
How do I know that? Because Mat’s DeLorean is an as-close-as-you-will-ever-see-in-your-life replica of the time machine. And it is quite magnificent.
“People give the DeLorean a hard time because everyone says it is slow,” says Mat as he accelerates up the suburban street we currently look wonderfully and wildly out of place on. “But it’s really not that slow at all!”
The acceleration is, admittedly far brisker than I was expecting, but I simply don’t care. I am fascinated by the frankly staggering amount of detail jammed into every corner of the DMC-12’s cabin. Everything from the fully-functional time travel display, to the alarm clock 1955 Doc gives Marty to start his run to the clock tower with, to the magnificent Flux Capacitor between the two seats. It is all utterly exact. And that is not just my imagination passing it off as fact – it literally is fact. Mat has spent hundreds of hours researching the screen car down to the very last detail.
“There would easily be over 800 hours of my hours, just tinkering, sanding and shaping and all of that, probably another easy 400 to 600 research on the internet,” says Mat. “And three trips to America to source parts – I’ve got photos of my suitcase and I’m surprised the TSA never pulled me aside and handcuffed me. It looked like I had bombs in my suitcase, with all the wiring and everything!”
Yes, that’s right; wiring. Those hundreds of hours went right down to the minutest of details, including the type, colour and arrangement of the wiring visible on the car, the type of screws used and even the direction the cable ties are facing.
“I had an electrician friend say to me ‘You’ve put those cable ties on wrong, you can see all of the heads!’ and I was like ‘Yes, well thats what it is like in the movie!’,” laughs Mat.
“When your going the level of detail right down to the type of screws being used to hold something down – I think ‘insanity’ is probably a good term for it – it was a challenge for me to do it to the utmost level it was possible to be done at. And when you do actually achieve that, the satisfaction is excellent!”
Mat happily admits that his DeLorean was probably far too good to do a conversion on and he had tried for some time to find another one to use, but without any luck. But fear not all you obsessive concourse condition types, as well as being as close to the real movie car as humanly possible, the whole thing has been done without drilling any holes in the gorgeous stainless steel body. In fact, the only place anything has been drilled is a few holes in the fibreglass pontoons that run either side of the engine.
The fact that the whole process is completely reversible (just in case an original DeLorean becomes more valuable than the time machine version) makes the level of detail even more incredible.
“You’ve got to have the screen accuracy look, you’ve got to have it work and then you’ve gotta have the safety factor. So there was a lot of thinking to put it together. The movie car was never waterproofed, so I had to do that and still keep it screen accurate. Those sort of challenges have been really good.
“I guess you could say the most satisfying thing for me is actually seeing people’s reactions and making their day. You have got no idea how many times it happens – even just on the drive to the gas station. You’ll see someone walking along looking like they’re having the worst day and then they look up and see the car and you see big grin! It’s a really good feeling.”
And it is a feeling that Mat is only too happy to share. Earlier this year he started the business Hero Car Hire in order to hire the DeLorean (plus his array of other mouthwatering metal, including K.I.T.T. from the ‘Knight Rider’ TV series, a Ferrari 458 Speciale, a Dodge Viper and a Ford GT among others) out for events, marketing campaigns, weddings, photo shoots or just to go for a ride in.
Just be careful with those cheek bones, mine still ache…