Couple uses 'Back to the Future' DeLorean to fight Parkinson's
By Katie Scarvey
In ‘Back to the Future,’ Marty McFly says to Doc Brown: “Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?”
Doc replies: “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
And style — in the form of their very own DeLorean time machine — is what Oliver and Terry Holler have brought to their fundraising efforts for Parkinson’s disease over the past 10 years.
Oliver and Terry came through Salisbury last Saturday to visit longtime friends Beth and Andy Hall.
Oliver and Beth grew up together in Marion, N.C., and it’s not a stretch to say they were childhood sweethearts. Oliver says he and Beth left notes for one another in a tree in their neighborhood.
But that’s the past, however sweet it is, and this story is about “Back to the Future,” after all.
Oliver and Terry — prompted by Oliver’s cancer diagnosis in 2000 — got to work on their bucket list and bought a 1982 model DeLorean sports car back in 2001.
They loved “Back to the Future,” which was the biggest box office movie of the year in 1985, the year Oliver graduated from high school. The film — and the flashy car that is undoubtedly a star in it — made an impression on him he never forgot.
The goal was to turn the DeLorean into a dead ringer for the time machine in the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Soon, they began traveling with it to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which funds Parkinson’s research. Fox, the charismatic “Back to the Future” star, was diagnosed in 1991 with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system..
For those who might not be up on their 1980s automotive history, the DeLorean DMC-12 is a sports car produced by John DeLorean’s Delorean Motor Company in 1981-82. Manufactured in Ireland, the car features stainless steel panels over fiberglass and, perhaps most distinctively, sexy gull-wing doors. (DeLorean himself received some unwanted notoriety through being charged with cocaine trafficking in 1982, supposedly to help salvage his struggling company.)
Fewer than 10,000 of the cars were made, and perhaps 6,000 survive. Seven of them were used in “Back to the Future,” Oliver says, but only three are intact, and none of those are street legal, he said.
Oliver and Terry watched the movie hundreds of times, studying the time machine to figure out what they needed to know to customize their car.
Both Terry and Oliver have theatre backgrounds, which helped. For the past 10 years they have run the Ghosts and Legends Theatre at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. The two met in 1992 on the set of the musical “Gilligan’s Island” in Chicago.
“Our skill sets lend themselves to fabricating everything you see here,” Oliver said.
“I like to make stuff,” he added. “It wasn’t hard to build.”
It took them a little less than a year to do the full conversion. They did a lot of scavenging at junkyards and scrap metal places to find the parts they needed.
Oliver and Terry are still tweaking the car a bit. They recently added some strobe lights on the flux dispersal coils.
The interior features, of course, the “flux capacitor.” In front, on the dash, is a digital readout where you can punch in the date and the year you want to travel back to. On the back of the car is a “nuclear reactor” fabricated by Oliver and Terry.
So, er, theoretically, at the right level of acceleration, the light coming from the flux capacitor begins pulsing until it becomes a steady stream. In the world of the movie, the car then vanishes in a flash of blue light and poof, you’ve gone back in time.
Oliver and Terry can never be low-profile in this car.
Even if they’re cruising well under the 88 miles per hour mark that would activate the flux capacitor, they sometimes see flashing blue lights, and not the ones that signal time travel
It’s not that they’re breaking any laws. Their car is perfectly legal. But they’ve come to realize they’re going to get pulled over on some sort of pretext. And that’s because highway patrol officers — like everybody else — want to get a closer look at the DeLorean time machine.
“Nine times out of 10 they make up a good story of why they pulled us over,” Oliver says. “We take it light-heartedly.”
One of the most interesting places the car has taken Oliver and Terry has been South America.
An Argentinian clothing company named Garbarino got in touch with the Hollers about using their car in an ad campaign, so they flew the car down to shoot five commercials, which featured actor Christopher Lloyd, Doc Brown in the movies.
The commercials (“el futuro esta en Garbarino”) were such a huge hit there that the company got back in touch with Oliver and Terry and asked if they’d return with the time machine for a tour around the country.
They also worked with Lloyd in a music video by O’Neal McKnight for a song called “Check Your Coat.”
All told, they’ve taken their time machine to four different countries and 48 of the 50 states. The odometer read 88,000 miles when they bought the car; it’s now ticked past 300,000.
Along the way, they’ve raised more than $100,000 for Team Fox through their appearances.
In the near future, they hope to check Alaska and Hawaii off their list and take an extended tour of Canada. Then, perhaps, Europe.
“We meet a lot of wonderful people,” Terry says.
“We call the car our magic carpet,” Oliver said. “We never know where it’s going to take us.”
They’ve met the man who inspired their fundraising efforts, Michael J. Fox, who is “wonderful,” Terry says — “everything you’d hope and more,” Oliver adds.