Quick Spin – Checking Out The Smoking Tire's DeLorean DMC-12

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It’s an uncanny feeling of a circle closing. The very first Hooniverse piece I wrote was a post about a DeLorean DMC-12 residing not far from where I live on the west coast of Finland. Now, after a couple years and a few hundred Hooniverse posts, I was on the west coast of the United States, looking at another DeLorean.

But like two cars ending up on the opposite sides of the planet, they had grown far from each other. The other one, the first DMC-12 I had ever laid eyes on let alone touched or sat in, was a considerably more tired example with black leather and automatic along with the original 133-horsepower setup. The car I saw last week was the flawless pride and joy of Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire fame: a manual car with a light interior, a late build car with only a couple thousand miles on the clock. And the powertrain had been updated to brisker standards, the perceived sluggishness far gone. “This is the best car in the world”, Matt said. I didn’t doubt him.

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Circling around the car, with the thoughts of “This is it, this is actually it” repeating in my mind, I admired the DMC-12. It was quite exactly the kind of specimen I would want my ideal DeLorean to be. Matt told me how the suspension gap in the front had been banished and how the 85mph speedometer had been replaced with a more apt 140mph one. The attention to detail with the car’s DMC refurbishment had been to turn it into as good a car as an Euro-spec DeLorean could have been, and more. As it stood in his shop, I couldn’t imagine how it could be any better.

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The engine bay I had peered in Vaasa, Finland, had been a mystery box, a Woot Bag of Crap so to speak: the engine in Matt’s car had been looked after and given a proper once-over after the days of sitting dormant had been ended. For almost the entirety of its life, the DMC-12 had laid unused, making it a barn find of sorts. And if you were going to put it back on the road – if roads are what you need, after all – you might just as well give it a healthy amount of extra horsepower over the standard August 1982 guise. It was clearly restored to please someone who would get annoyed at the little things being off in most DeLoreans you see anywhere.

Still, it had those characteristic traits a DeLorean will always have, like the dials pointing in whatever directions when the car’s switched off, or the sealed-beam headlights being just a little askew. Certainly not as much as in the Finnish DeLorean, that had had some aftermarket headlight washers forcefully jammed in its face.

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Idling in the shop, the DeLorean certainly sounded aggressive and kind of cammy. I remarked, how it must be the best these engines could get, as the original appearance of the PRV V6 was not far removed from a boat anchor. Of course, it was the only DeLorean I had heard running, as the three cars I had seen so far had been static display pieces, the two most recent ones being shown at the Classic Motorshow in Lahti this spring. And correct me if I’m wrong, but the BTTF film cars were most likely overdubbed with some Porsche 928 snarl – when they ran. As Matt commented on the movie cars he had seen, they had been kind of rough around the edges, making the enthusiast-built movie car replicas overly well made in comparison.

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I asked, whether it would be possible to go for a little spin around the block in the DMC. Matt said it was absolutely fine, and took the helm. I sat in the passenger seat, glancing upwards to grasp the gullwing door pull. It’s quite a special feeling, sitting in the low-slung, wide DeLorean, looking up to see the door above you.

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We left my girlfriend behind, hoping she would get a ride in the car later on. Matt turned right a couple times, slowed down under the bridge, in the relative darkness away from the beaming 9:30 AM sun. And then, a not-too-slight sliver of smoke appeared in the cabin. Nasty-smelling, white smoke. “Is that my car on fire?”

It was his car, and it was on fire. Matt pulled to a halt just a short distance from where we had left, and immediately shut off the engine. A look in the engine bay revealed nothing out of sorts, as the smoke outside the car was coming from the inside of the rear fender, from the power antenna hole. Inside the car, some molten, charred wires behind the driver’s seat were found after some sherlocking. I found the battery behind the passenger seat, and with a little fiddling, the cover came off, enabling the battery terminals to be disconnected. That would lessen the risk of the car meeting a hasty demise, and gave the harnesses a better change of partial survival. All because of I had asked for a short ride in what in my eyes was the most perfect DeLorean I could imagine, I thought.

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After a few quick calls, Matt had arranged a flatbed ride for the stricken DMC. We walked back to the shop, telling my quizzical-looking girlfriend that the car kind of caught fire, and that in essence this was as much of a DeLorean experience that we would get at this time. Matt was surprisingly cool for a guy whose finally-finished project car had just suffered an unexpected electrical malady of the hotter kind, and appeared just as amiable as he had been when we had pulled up in front of his shop with the RAM 3500. Before leaving in his black Chevy Volt, he asked what we were going to do next, as the day had only really just begun. “Uh… We’re going to Target.”

[Images: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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