Yesterday Was Not Back to the Future Day, But Let’s Look At Its Future Cars

As you may have heard, June 27, 2012, was not the day that Doc Brown set the time machine in his DeLorean to go to in the future in Back to the Future, despite what the Internet wanted us to believe on Wednesday.  As an unabashed fan of the Back to the Future trilogy, at first I was mad at myself for missing such a momentous date; I kind of had an excuse in that I hadn’t watched the movies in a while.  But then I started to think about how neatly the four main time periods in the trilogy worked out and realized it was just a hoax.

Fans of the movie know that Doc Brown and Marty McFly met in 1985; Marty travels 30 years into the past (to 1955) to save Doc Brown from the Libyan terrorists.  At the end of the first movie, Doc tells Marty that they have to go into the future to do something about their kids, setting the stage for Back to the Future Part II.  The future to a 1985 Marty is 30 years hence, which is 2015, and not 2012.  Aside from 1985 +/- 30 years, there’s also the jumped-the-shark Back to the Future Part III that takes place in the old west in 1885, 100 years before the main then-present-day story line.

I thought it would be fun to use the timing of yesterday’s hoax to take a look at some of the “future” cars predicted in Back to the Future Part II to see how closely they matched reality, even if it’s only 27 years after 1985 rather than 30.  After all, the Hover Board became a reality (), so maybe we’ll see cars likeBack to the Future’s vision of 2015 fairly soon.

The only car that I remembered from the movie’s 2015 streets was a 1989-vintage Ford Probe.  At the time of its release for the 1989 model year, the Mazda-based would-be Mustang replacement had an incredibly futuristic (for the time) shape.  The prop folks at Universal Studios took a sleek car for the day and added some additional aerodynamic enhancements.  The “future” cars appear to adhere to one or more of the following rules:

  • Sleek-looking current (as of 1989) products with aero enhancements
  • Standard 1989-vintage cars with wacky paintjobs or stripe jobs
  • Standard 1989-vintage cars with wacky full wheel covers
  • Real concept cars a year or two removed from the auto show circuit
  • Pontiac was still alive and thriving

You may recall that cars could fly in Hill Valley 2015, yet aside from those few special-effects scenes, nearly every photo on the Back to the Future Part II IMCDB page shows the cars firmly planted on the earth.  Not every one, though, as this would attest.

And now for some examples of cars that adhered to the five rules above.

Sleek-looking current (as of 1989) products with aero enhancements


These quite standard Probes with nothing other than an artificial windshield covering part of their hoods, custom wheel covers, and a “redesigned” C-pillar applique makes me laugh.  They gray one looks to me like a regular Probe with a hot water bottle on its head, or one that’s covered by a blanket.

Standard 1989-vintage cars with wacky paint jobs or stripe jobs

Check out the sporty, futuristic 1984-vintage Ford Tempo here.  Isn’t it fetching?

Standard 1989-vintage cars with wacky full wheel covers

Think those awful wheels are Trail Rated?  On a complete tangent, I never cared for the square-headlamped Wranglers.  They are just too 1980s and too far from the classic CJ look.

Real concept cars a year or two removed from the auto show circuit

What an eclectic mix of cars here; this Pontiac Pursuit (white car in the photo above) could almost pass for a modern concept car, except for the fact that Pontiac was shuttered two years ago.  The red car is the Pontiac Banshee concept from the 1980s.  So the filmmakers got their embrace of Pontiac completely wrong – there won’t be a downtown Hill Valley Pontiac dealer because there is no such thing as a new Pontiac anymore.

So what does this mean?  Predicting almost anything 30 years into the future is almost impossible.  And if you do so anyway, you’re likely to get it wrong, and people like me are already prepared to laugh at what you say instead of taking it seriously.

Thanks to the thoroughly-researched for filling in the many holes in my memory.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. Let’s see if the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series in 2015 just like in the movie. 😉

  2. Chicago is the most beautiful city in the world imho
    who cares if Cubs win or lose

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