Visions of the future – DeLorean x Tesla

Cars Culture

The DeLorean and the Tesla Model X are both otherworldly machines designed to show what the future of cars could be. But which one best lives up to its potential?

The DeLorean is one of the most recognisable cars of all time.

That angular design, the square headlights, those gullwing doors, the brushed stainless steel panels and a starring role in the Back to the Future movie trilogy have anchored the 1980s machine firmly in the public consciousness.

It’s a car which has a history worthy of its own film script. The twisting saga involves a successful automotive figurehead who decided to go it alone. Against the might of established manufacturers, John DeLorean secured celebrity money and British government backing to build his rear-engined sportscar near Belfast, using a French V6, chassis engineering from Colin Chapman and bodywork design by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

The DeLorean arrived in production form in 1981. It turned out to be very expensive and not particularly sporty and, when John DeLorean found himself caught up in a drugs smuggling sting, his DMC company went bust. After a measly two years in production, that was it for his beloved and eponymous creation. (The stock of completed cars continued to be registered and sold the following year, which is why 1983 models exist.)

It’s a car I’ve been waiting to drive for a long, long time, so I didn’t hang around when the opportunity popped up to blast around some beautiful Irish coast roads for Influx. Very beautiful but very wet Irish country roads, that is. (Are there any other kinds?)

But the DeLorean was up against some stiff competition. Yes, we also brought along the Tesla Model X. This is another machine from an automotive David battling against the established global Goliaths, with a Lotus connection and its own cult following. The Model X is all-electric, all-wheel-drive and so fast you’d swear it runs on magic dust and rainbows. It looks like Rory Best but moves like Jacob Stockdale. It has a catalogue of incredible features. And, of course, there are those doors.

We drove both cars back-to-back along the west coast of Ireland and, despite the torrential rain, we ended up besotted with the stunning scenery. The bad weather gave us time to properly evaluate both cars, too.

Whereas the DeLorean is clearly an analogue machine from the 1980s (complete with cassette player, which you’ll have to explain to post-Millennials), the Model X feels like a smartphone on wheels. It’s a technological masterclass – but it never quite lets you forget that, either. It’s a little bit like the IT department designed the car but couldn’t figure out how to code for “soul”. It’s also fearfully expensive – the top model is nearly Aston Martin money. Or, to put it another way, a double helping of Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne or Audi SQ7. That’s quite a price tag.

Still, despite liberally sampling the insane acceleration of the Model X (in a responsible way, of course), we were never worried about battery range. The DeLorean, on the other hand, proved to be allergic to petrol. We had to keep stopping to fill up and then all that petrol simply disappeared, vomited up through the engine. The sightlines on the DeLorean were terrible too, and it’s a very wide car. I used to drive a red lorry with flashing blue lights and “fire service” written on the side down tiny country lanes – but that was like a lazy Sunday motorway cruise compared to placing the left-hand-drive DeLorean on public roads.

More of my thoughts about both cars can be found in the latest Influx film, Visions of the Future. It’s available now. So what are you waiting for? Make like a tree…and go watch it.

(There’s also reference to those old Casio calculator watches. You’re welcome, 80s kids.)

photography, Dan Bathie