Cars of Back to the Future Part II
The production team for the ’89 film Back to the Future Part II must’ve had a car buff on staff, given the number of obscure and cool cars packed into the movie.
Actually, the obscurity of the cars was probably borne of necessity: It was surely much easier and cheaper to find cars most Americans had never heard of and festoon them with futuristic-looking props rather than build vehicles from scratch. That approach would explain the presence of cars like the heavily-modified pre-’82 BMW 635 shown above. It’s a gray-market imported European version, as evidenced by the slim bumpers, and the roof’s been removed, when the car was never offered as a convertible from the factory. The hood scoop, well… We’ll just leave that alone. Neat car, and it actually pops up for sale on eBay and the like from time to time.
The taxicab is a disguised Citroen DS, a car futuristic in its own day, between its looks and its exotic engineering. Citroen valiantly attempted to set trends in both areas, but no other automakers really took to the quirky French manufacturer’s flights of fancy. But a few geegaws duct-taped to the exterior and some extroverted paint and it’s a perfect taxi for the year 2015 (when the film is set).
Several “futurized” first-generation Ford Probes circle the town square in the film. For the record, they do represent a more standard vision than the other two cars in this post of what most folks in the ’80s thought future cars would look like: Sleek, featureless lozenges with faired-in wheels and huge expanses of glass. I think I speak for most car buffs when I say I’m glad their prognostications were off. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice in the background the car from the ’80s cult sci-fi movie The Last Starfighter.
So there’s more to Back to the Future Part II, car-wise, than just my beloved flying DeLorean. The filmmakers’ approach of taking little known vehicles and tarting them up was smart and cheap, if a bit lazy, and didn’t really offer a fully thought-out vision of the year 2015 (three short years away!), instead giving us a kind of veneer of pop futurism. But seeing as most of the movie existed on a brisk surface level and wasn’t attempting to convey any profound themes beyond pure entertainment, the cars do fit.
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:
- McLaren P1 (The Weeknd’s “Starboy” music video)
- Ferrari 328 (Sleigh Bells’ “Infinity Guitars” music video)
- Maserati Biturbo 425i (Licence to Kill)
- The cars of Back to the Future Part II
- Aston Martin DB5 (James Bond franchise)
- Sunbeam Alpine Mark I (To Catch a Thief)
- Adams Probe 16 (A Clockwork Orange)