Streets? Where we go we don’t need roads.
This Back to the Future superfan’s handmade DeLorean time machine may look just like the one from the movie, but it still needs roads.
And it recently destroyed a place considered one of the most famous in the world: Broadway.
The DeLorean – whose owner, Peter Varrica, a 34-year-old from Rhode Island, recreated down to the smallest detail to exactly match its on-screen inspiration, had during the gala performance of “Back to” a red carpet in front of the Winter Garden Theater “The Future: The Musical” in July.
With its shimmering stainless steel casing, opening double doors and flowing flux capacitor, the time machine became the centerpiece of the photocall for the film’s cast and crew in attendance. These included Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and executive producer Steven Spielberg.
“The first person that came out was Spielberg, and I was like, ‘What?!'” Varrica told NBC this week, just days before Back to the Future Day on October 21st. “He comes up to my car and leans against it taking photos. That was my greatest sacred moment.”
That moment and the moments that followed gave the stars of Back to the Future a trip down memory lane.
Marty McFly and Doc Brown were reunited with a replica of the DeLorean from the first film in the legendary trilogy series. Fox and Lloyd posed for photos in front of the car with the actors who portrayed their characters in the musical, Casey Likes as Marty and Roger Bart as Doc.
“I enjoyed being a part of all of this with the musical,” Varrica said. “When I saw Michael J. Fox leaning against my car and Christopher Lloyd next to him, I thought, ‘I’ve done it, nothing can beat that.'”
To Broadway in a time machine
It wasn’t the first time Fox and Lloyd had seen Varrica’s DeLorean, as the car was also featured in the 2021 Discovery+ miniseries Expedition: Back to the Future. But two factors led Varrica and his time machine to travel to Broadway: proximity and plutonium.
The DeLorean community is small, with only about 9,000 of the cars produced between 1981 and 1983. The DeLorean Time Machine community is even smaller, with many of the die-hard Back to the Future fans having built their own familiar with each other – and there are more than you might think, with the Facebook group “DeLorean Time Machine Builders Group” has almost 3,000 members.
However, the relationship between the builders can sometimes resemble a rivalry between Marty and Biff due to the competition that results from the endless search for rare military aircraft parts used to recreate the time machine from the film.
“There is so much drama in the world of time machines,” Varrica said.
But there are also Marty and Doc-like friendships. People around the world are united by their love of a movie, their title for a 40-year-old car, and their desire to make it a time machine that—even when it reaches 88 miles per hour—doesn’t actually travel through time.
When the musical “Back to the Future” moved from London to New York, Varrica said the DeLorean owner, whose car was used in the production’s promotions across the pond, recommended him and his car. Since the musical is based on the script from the first film, unlike Mr. Fusion, Varrica’s time machine had the requisite plutonium chamber that allowed DeLorean to travel through time (if you know the movie, this all makes perfect sense).
“They’re so specific, they just want the plutonium chamber, they don’t want anything to do with Mr. Fusion,” Varrica said. “Just because plutonium is a little more important in this musical than it is in the movie.”
Before the red carpet opening, DeLorean traveled from Varrica to Manhattan to make promotional appearances for the musical on “Good Morning America” and “The View” as well as at the New York International Auto Show. For each event, he said he trailered the DeLorean to a hotel in Yonkers and drove the time machine from there to each event.
“I avoid all bridge tolls because I have the ‘OutaTime’ license plate,” Varrica said of the California restroom signs that match those of Doc Brown’s time machine in the film. “I’m sure anyone who has the real ‘OutaTime’ plate in California is going to get a lot of tolls, probably from all over the world.”
Even with a plutonium chamber and free tolls, driving a DeLorean time machine through Times Square isn’t quite as easy as driving through an empty JC Penny parking lot at Twin Pines Mall. There are a lot of lights, a lot of traffic and a lot of people. People who have never seen a time machine on the move. People who have questions.
Is this the real car from the movie?! How long did it take to make?! Where is Doc Brown?!
“Going to New York City kind of sucks if you bring a car, but with the time machine, people are going crazy, which is good and bad,” Varrica said. “Sometimes you just get surrounded at the traffic lights and people are taking photos and asking questions. I worry about the car all the time because you can’t move, and it’s an ’81 DeLorean, and I worry about it overheating because these things don’t run cool.”
But they run, and there are hundreds of hours of work and tens of thousands of dollars poured into the machines-turned-time machines.
Back to the Future
Varrica knew every line from Back to the Future at the age of six.
His passion for film – and the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios – sparked a lifelong dream of owning a time machine. That dream came true in 2016 when he and his father purchased a running DeLorean for $25,000.
Building into a time machine required 300 to 400 hours of assembly work over the next few years, as well as $25,000 in parts and $20,000 in repairs, according to Varrica.
“There are so many extra holes drilled into my time machine through trial and error,” he said. “I replaced almost everything a second time. I had two different timing circuits, two different flux capacitors. But it’s not just about the time machine stuff, I also have my fifth fuel pump, my fifth alternator for the car itself. So the car just kills itself.”
Varrica gives it new life. As did his construction colleagues, one of whom sat in the passenger seat during the drive to Broadway.
Long before Steve Layden traveled to the opening of the musical, he had the idea of buying his own DeLorean and turning it into a time machine for his wife. She was eight months pregnant at the time and the couple also had two young children.
He bought the car in 2016 for $37,000 and then charged $40,000 in parts to two credit cards, giving him 18 months to pay it back without interest.
“I took on all this credit card debt without knowing if I could pay it off,” Layden said.
He then spent 800 to 900 hours over the course of a year building it in his garage and constructing parts in his kitchen, where the island’s countertop was constantly covered with spools of wire, a soldering iron, a heat gun and other tools and parts.
“There’s no turning back once you start cutting into a car and drilling into the stainless steel panels,” said Layden, a Philadelphia resident who works in sales for a telecommunications company. “Once that happened, there was no going back.”
And finally, not only did he pay off the debt, but he also took a trip to Broadway.
“We’re just nerds who have a time machine from a movie, and we’re working with all these people who made the movie,” Layden said. “We looked at each other and said, ‘How are we doing here?’”
Building Doc Brown’s time machine
Despite the operating costs, the cars built by Layden and Varrica could still be sold at a profit – and that doesn’t include the income already earned from paid appearances at comic cons, weddings, corporate events, private parties and Broadway musicals.
On average, a well-maintained DeLorean sells for more than $50,000 in the current market. A fully rebuilt and running DeLorean time machine can cost around $200,000.
Finding the exact parts to create a screen-accurate replica requires tireless research, countless phone calls and an endless search. Famous internal parts like the timer circuit are made by custom made movie prop makers. Other components added to the DeLorean in the film were military aircraft parts that you can’t necessarily buy on Amazon. And many time machine builders care, if not obsess, about the authenticity of every part attached to their DeLorean, even if the casual Back to the Future fan admiring the car would never notice the difference.
“I always say, ‘If you’re going to ruin a DeLorean, at least do it right,'” Varrica said.
To find each part, Varrica said he would call various aircraft suppliers with a list of national warehouse numbers of the parts needed. When some suppliers learned that the part was a time machine, they hung up. Others made the sale.
Varrica said he is most proud, not of the flux capacitor or timing circuit that fans pay most attention to, but of a small Hydraflow hose behind the driver’s door because it is so rare that few DeLorean time machines have it .
The search for the rare parts that would make the time machine identical to the one in the film continues constantly.
“People always ask how long it took to build,” Varrica said. “I always tell them it’s still not finished because I’m still upgrading every time I find the super rare parts.”
Varrica is now a full-time mechanical engineer and driver. He quit his job as a mail carrier after completing enough events on the DeLorean to pay the bills, and now he also gets paid to make complex parts of the DeLorean and even build full-time machines for customers, recently In Arizona, two races competed simultaneously over a two-week period with 10-hour days.
“I feel like I don’t have a job,” he said. “But I make more money than at the post office.”
And he’s on Broadway.
Back to the red carpet
Varrica hit the red carpet, stood alongside the cast and attended a post-show gala. He then took the winner of an auction, who paid thousands of dollars to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation, to ride the time machine through Manhattan on a stormy and humid night.
“There is no air conditioning in the time machine, so it couldn’t have been very comfortable,” Varrica said.
His time machine also lacks another important luxury that Doc Brown had to offer: the ability to fly.
“Some time machines have hover conversion wheels that make it appear as if the car is flying,” Varrica said. “But I don’t think we’ll ever be able to make them fly.”
So wherever they go, they need roads.