“There was a guy who lived up the street from me who had one,” Geoff Ombao remembers of his boyhood. “And every time he drove by, it was like watching Santa Claus driving the ice cream truck.”
Santa’s ice cream truck, in this instance, was a DeLorean DMC-12, a stainless steel, gullwinged car that–thanks to the Back to the Future film franchise–would be forever associated with time travel in the popular imagination. For Ombao, however, the car’s appeal lies in the marque’s short-lived, tumultuous history.
On pace to become the youngest head ever at General Motors after kickstarting the muscle car era, John DeLorean elected to leave behind the security of Detroit and strike out on his own. For years, he had nurtured dreams of building a new kind of car and, after finally settling on Northern Ireland as his base of manufacturing operations, he set about making this fantasy a reality.
The result was underwhelming, both in performance and in sales. In fact, the DMC-12 might have faded into history as a mere footnote had Robert Zemeckis not cast it as a time machine in "Back to the Future" (1985), a film which made an international superstar of Michael J. Fox and cemented the DeLorean’s place in popular culture. This celebrity also helped to overshadow John DeLorean’s legal troubles, which involved charges of drug running (he was eventually acquitted) in an attempt to finance his failing enterprise.
For Ombao, who is now enrolled as a automotive design student at Art Center in Pasadena, the DMC-12 is thus more than simply a piece of automotive trivia. It is proof that, often, it is the outliers who leave the most lasting legacy.