The Complete and Unadulterated Chronology of the DeLorean from the Back To The Future Trilogy

"The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?" - "Doc" Emmet L. Brown

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Chronologically speaking, the DeLorean in the Back To The Future movies must be considered the world's second time machine. The locomotive at the end of Back To The Future Part III was built by Doctor Emmet Brown sometime in the 19th century, while the DeLorean was manufactured in 1982. This is an annoying kind of nitpick, but time travel is like that sometimes. In fact, a lot of the time, by definition.

The DeLorean made its first time journey at 1:20am on Saturday October 26th, 1985. Before its eventual destruction at 11am the following day, by collision with a locomotive, the DeLorean made a total of thirteen time journeys, and approximately 70 years and 330 days had elapsed according to its personal time scale.

The central component of the time vehicle, the "thing which makes time travel possible", is the flux capacitor. It is a nondescript square panel in the back of the DeLorean in which there are three light-filled wires. In order to travel through time, two things are necessary; one, that a burst of 1.21 gigawatts of electrical energy be delivered into the flux capacitor, and two, that the DeLorean is travelling at exactly 88 miles per hour at this moment. These figures do not vary according to the amount of time being traversed, or the direction of time travel. It is, however, unspecified what period of time the 1.21GW must be sustained for. The duration of a bolt of lightning is sufficient. Originally a plutonium-fuelled nuclear reaction was used to generate this energy. Lightning also does the job. A miniature fusion reactor was later installed, eliminating the requirement for plutonium.

The following is an account of the journeys the DeLorean took. Between the arrival point of the previous journey and the start of the next one, it may be assumed that the DeLorean remained rooted in the normal passage of time.

Other offscreen jumps have certainly taken place. In the second movie, while in 2015, the Doc refers to having been forward in time one week already to witness the repercussions of Marty's son's crime. Later on in the movie, Doc produces a briefcase full of American currency from many different eras - this could not have been put together without many additional time journeys which also presumably took place while the Doc was briefly offscreen.

Interesting trivia

  • Altogether the DeLorean crossed nearly 571 years in time jumps: 321 years back in time, and 250 years forward.
  • Two of the thirteen time jumps were made accidentally. Three were powered by plutonium reactions, two by lightning, the remainder by Mr. Fusion.
  • A total of five individuals took part in the DeLorean's time journeys. In chronological order from the DeLorean's point of view: Einstein the dog (1 journey), Marty McFly (7 journeys), Doc Brown (6 journeys), Jennifer (2 journeys), Biff Tannen (2 journeys).
  • As far as we know, in its entire existence the DeLorean never travelled faster than the critical 88mph. In all cases, it started decelerating immediately after arriving at its destination time. (This leads to the interesting question of what would happen if the DeLorean was speeding out of control at a higher speed than 88mph - perhaps loaded on a high-speed bullet-train, or free-falling out of an aircraft. Presumably one would have to find a way to slow it down sufficiently to use the time circuits! An interesting twist!)
  • On Saturday 12th November, 1955, between 12:00pm and 6:38pm, there were four versions of the same DeLorean in Hill Valley. In chronological order from the DeLorean's point of view:
    1. The instance when Marty was marooned in 1955 during the original movie
    2. Biff Tannen's visit from 2015 when he gave his past self the sports almanac, in BTTF2
    3. Doc and Marty's attempt to take the almanac back from young Biff, again in part 2
    4. The DeLorean that Doc buried in the mine in 1885, in the third part of the trilogy.
  • The precise location of the DeLorean is known almost throughout the entire trilogy. If, however, it was ever decided to make a fourth movie (which BTTF screen writer Bob Gale has gone on record saying will not happen - it wouldn't be the same without Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly), and the DeLorean had to appear, then there are two unknowns in its history which could be exploited.
    1. During the Doc's solo trip to 2015. Given the monetary resources he produces in Part 2, we know he visited many different eras while he was offscreen, so any amount of adventures could have taken place during this time. And after all, he refers on his return to youth-restoring procedures that he has undergone, so these adventures could have taken him anything up to 20 years.
    2. While the DeLorean is buried in the mine. It remains supposedly undiscovered for almost 71 years, but again, provided it is returned to its hiding place intact, there is room for all kinds of temporal shenanigans. With the possibility of accidental discovery by a third party, these journeys needn't even involve the existing cast.

Sources: the IMDb, the movies themselves, the official fan site at, and most importantly Keith Gow's awesome BTTF Chronology at Go read it. Seriously.
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