1983 DeLorean DMC-12 (Canadian Edition) – WHEELS.ca
A production designer and illustrator in the film industry since 1987, Michael Borthwick relied on his vehicles to keep him working during the extremely early and very late hours typical of the industry. Alternating between a sports car and more practical vehicles, he’s been known to drive everything from an Envoy, an Acadia to a Firebird.
Although he currently relies on a Chevrolet Camaro SS as his daily driver, it’s the cars he drives sparingly that get the most attention. Besides a vintage Corvette, Borthwick owns a 1983 DeLorean DMC-12 (Canadian Edition) which he salvaged in 2005. It appeared on set if a director wants to use it in a music video or a fashion shoot with a retro theme. His car has also been part of the official DeLorean Owners of Canada (ODOC) convoy that has participated in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto for the past decade. According to Borthwick, his DeLorean has even won trophies at auto shows just by showing up.
While the DeLorean is a huge draw for film professionals or science fiction fans, Borthwick had different reasons for its purchase. He tells us what he loves most about his vehicle.
“I guess I was around 45 when I decided I wanted an older car that I could restore, something that would preserve some history,” Borthwick said.
“I started looking and kept seeing variations of the same theme – Mustangs, Corvettes, Chevelles – and wanted something completely different. I looked at a Lotus because I love old movies” James Bond”, but I heard that they were a bit problematic and that you had to have a lot of mechanical experience. Then I remembered the DeLorean. After two years of looking for one, I found in the Autotrader of this little place in Vaughan (which has gone out of business).
“I was the second owner of the car. I found out later that it is what is called a Canadian spec car. Of the 9,200 DeLoreans made, only 88 were made specifically for Canada. Some think they are pretty much the same car, but the good thing is that they are made later in production, where a lot of bugs have been ironed out.
“I am a member of ODOC and we are very active in locating these super rare DeLoreans. Kind of like finding lost Canadians, isn’t it? We found about 50 of them worldwide.
When asked about any modifications or restoration work he has carried out on his vehicle, Borthwick confesses that he has kept it as close to the original as possible.
“I tried to really keep it in stock,” Borthwick said. “There’s absolutely nothing you can see that wasn’t what it would have been in 1983. I even have an old working cassette radio and the latest set of Goodyears to match – the tires are different sizes ! The front tires on a DeLorean are smaller than the rear tires, which is fun. It was in very good condition when I got it. The original owner told me he drives it like a boat, meaning only in the summer and only on weekends.
“There were a few dents in the stainless steel that weren’t too noticeable, but I wanted them fixed. Also – funny enough – when the cars were shipped here (from Ireland where they were made) the suspension was too high. They figured a full tank of gas plus a little gravity would push the front and rear of the car, but the shocks were too strong, so the DeLorean sat about two or three inches higher than spec. techniques. Even though technically this wasn’t how a DeLorean should come from the factory, I wanted to lower the car to its intended height. This was before Wells Auto was there, so I had to take it to Chicago to get it fixed, which was a pain, and obviously it was in good enough shape for the nine hour drive.
“You can’t avoid having a DeLorean and people not telling you about ‘Back to the Future,'” Borthwick said. “Mine is just the stock DeLorean – it doesn’t have all the fancy flux capacitors and all, but it’s the biggest conversation starter. You can’t go anywhere like filling it up with gas without people noticing the fact that they’ve never seen one before, that an uncle’s friend’s cousin had one, or they’re shouting “Hey, Marty”.
“As the owner of a classic car, you’re just its custodian and the idea is to keep it looking as good as possible until you have to pass it on to the next person. I wish I had more because DeLorean prices have gone crazy. It’s now over $70,000 depending on how well the car has been maintained. It outperformed my RRSPs! I’ve also never seen seller’s remorse like this: people who’ve sold their car are looking for another one or asking where theirs is years later.
This article has been edited for more space and clarity. Want to be featured in Why I Love My Vehicle? email us at [email protected]
Renee S.Suen is a Toronto-based lifestyle writer/photographer and freelance contributor to The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rssuen
TO LOOK CLOSER: 1983 DeLorean DMC-12 (Canadian Edition)
“What really drew me to the car was how unique it is,” Borthwick said. “The whole story, including the many patents found in this car, from the folding mirrors to the gullwing doors, to the torsion bars that lifted the gullwing doors.
“I knew the performance wasn’t what it hoped to be. It came out at a time when there were all kinds of US government regulations on fuel consumption and they didn’t really figure out how to compensate for the cubic inches for fuel injection so the car is a little underpowered . It didn’t really matter to me because when it’s going, it’s going, but it’s not going very fast. But once you hit it at a decent speed, it handles just fine. So if you’re trying to race someone, you’re not doing the right thing.
“Since I got the car, I’ve been struck by the reaction people have had,” Borthwick said. “They have the biggest smiles, mostly because they’ve never seen it before or didn’t expect to see one. People always confuse it with a Bricklin. Then there are some funny things that people believe about the car – one person even told me that it was originally built out of Teflon and all the paint had fallen off.
“The small community we have in our ODOC group has been surprising and amazing. It was originally the Ontario DeLorean Owners Club, but it exploded. We decided to go national and now we have about 200-300 people who are fans or own cars (Ontario is by far the largest group) It’s just an amazing little sense of community that we’ve developed through the cars.
“Even without the movie, the DeLorean has become a symbol of the 1980s,” Borthwick said of the mid-’80s sports car. symbol of the time. It’s the first car with folding mirrors, and they all look the same. When the ODOC meets, it takes us a little time to figure out who’s who. It’s quite funny actually; you need to know what to look for. Besides three different types of hoods, these are the subtle changes someone has made to their car or license plate.