Time Out, My Identity's Been Stolen

A chat with a DeLorean owner.

"Back to the future, baby!"
  • "Back to the future, baby!"

My apartment was broken into while I was at a ballgame. Nice touch. The thief stole my MacBook and iPad, plus a jar of loose change. The laptop has all my personal info, credit card numbers, internet passwords, Schwab account numbers, bank account numbers, everything.

Now come phone calls to people living in India, repeating the same story over and over until it is burnt into my subconscious. Then, finding and filling out forms (credit freeze, fraud alert, et al.) for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Trips to the bank for a new account, trips to the police station to amend the crime report and nag disinterested officials. It wasn’t until two days after the burglary that I noticed 15 years worth of IRS returns were missing. Now it’s identity theft.

This is but the tippy tippy top of the identity restoration iceberg. There is so much more but you don’t want to hear it and, frankly, I can’t stand to talk about it anymore. The point is, after ten days doing the excruciatingly boring work of identity restoration I needed a break.

I’m driving around in the Big Empty, that mass of real estate north of Bakersfield between I-5 and old Highway 99. Cock your head at the right angle and you can see 1950s California. Take State Route 33 out of Firebaugh, head up to Dos Palos, and further on to Los Banos, make a right at Volta Road, left at Henry Miller Road, meet up with State Route 33 again, motor through Gustine, and then another four miles to Newman.

Newman, California, population 10,224. It’s 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. I park in front of the half-block-long Discount Center, get out, stretch, and amble past handmade signs that say, “Cake Creations. You think it, we make it.” “Housecleaning.” “International threading.” I find Main Street and — whoa — dead ahead is the second annual “Hot Night in the Plaza. Enjoy classic cars and music from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.”

The car show covers both sides of the street for one half of one block. I count 18 cars and a half-dozen more in an adjacent parking lot. The Newman Chamber of Commerce has a booth. There’s the pink-everything women’s cancer booth. West Side Community Radio and Newman Historical Society are here. There’s a live DJ from Ultra Mega Mix and hot dogs, burgers, and pop. Can’t beat it.

I stroll past a ’64 Ford Falcon Ranchero, a purple ’56 Chevy Bel Air, but pull up in front of a 1981 DeLorean. Mike Brinkman owns the treasure. Brinkman, 45, is tall, well over six feet, has reddish hair, and is clean-shaven. He was born in Castro Valley, attended Chabot College, and is a building official (building inspector) for the City of Newman and the City of Gustine. Add wife and two teenage daughters.

I wanted to know how long he’d owned the DeLorean. “About a year and a half. An old boss, it was his vehicle. He cleaned out the back of the warehouse and it was under a cover.”

Brinkman paid the old boss $5000. “It wasn’t running. With it running it’s probably worth $20,000...$25,000, depending on the options. I’ve rebuilt the engine and brakes, cleaned out the gas tank. Just got it running three weeks ago.”

A large, 6'5", maybe 300 pounds, looks like a Samoan sumo wrestler man-child stands behind and to the side of Brinkman. Sumo shouts, “Back to the future, baby!”

I ask Brinkman, “Is it hard getting parts?”

“No. Actually, you go online and there’s a store in Texas...”

Sumo shouts, “Are you ESPN?”

I ask Brinkman, “Any other DeLoreans around here?”

“I’ve only heard of a couple, but I’ve never seen one. I’ve driven a lot of miles in California, and I’ve never seen one on the road.”

Sumo says, softer now, “What year do you want to go to?”

I survey the inside of the DeLorean, fix eyes on the instrument panel, and ask, “Does it strike you as weird that it only does 85 miles per hour? I mean, is that possible?”

Sumo says, “Is this guy still interviewing you?”

Brinkman replies, “I’ve read that the originals had 145 mph on the speedometer...”

Still looking at the speedometer, I wonder, “So this isn’t from the first batch?”

Brinkman says, “No, the VIN number is 904, but the first car was number 500, so this is actually the 404th off the line.”

“So, somewhere between the first and 404th car, DeLorean figured they needed a lawn mower for an engine?”

Brinkman says, “It’s called a PVR. It’s a Peugeot/Volvo/Renault engine, V-6.”

Sumo says, “I thought it was aluminum.”

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Lo siento, Patrick, probably a bummer that's still unfolding. So much for on-line banking and direct-deposit anything. Are you reviewing who would know to do this while you were out? For the rest, I never knew Peugeots, Volvos or Renaults even HAD engines.

The State required vehicle manufacturers to install speedos that would only go to 85. They figured that no one would try to go faster. It was a determined to be a bad idea, as speeders didn't know how fast they were really going and got into big danger. Am I doing 90 or 110? The makers were allowed to go back to whatever they saw fit after a couple of years. One more California case of legislation without investigation. Speedometer maximum limits have never been an indicator of how fast a vehicle can actually go, but what salesman want you to think it will do, and many erroneously read as much as 10% high. That fool doing 50 in a 55 may think he is speeding. The V-6 PVR engine was also used in Jeep Cherokees, and Volvos, until they figured out what a POS it was.

I thought the V-6 was made through Buick???????

Those speedos that topped out at 85 were, I recall, due to an order that come from the female head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (don't recall her name) during the Carter administration. Having some four cylinder car with a speedo that ran up to 145 mph was kind of dumb, but so was the federal government telling you that anything more than 85 made no sense. Some more of the nanny state that Reagan got rid of after he was inaugurated.

Everything I read about that De Lorean was that it was actually a Chevy with a racy, overpriced stainless steel body wrapped over it. If they actually used that PRV engine in it, it was worse than I ever imagined. That engine was designed by committee, and while Volvo wanted a state-of-the-art V6, the French wanted one that was cheap. The French outvoted the Swedes 2-1 at every turn. There have been many accounts of the failings of that engine written, and make some of the errors sound like something from a comic opera. Volvo did great damage to its reputation when it sold its more costly 260 line of cars during the 1976 through 1979 when they abruptly dropped it from their US lineup. The initially-cheaper four cylinder models (240 series) commanded a far higher price in the used car markets than did the sixes. That was some engine, all right!

is the avanti still in production??????

more importantly what other gems did baby sumo drop?

I've always been more of an Avanti guy myself.

Ah, you are too young to even remember it. Twenty years ahead of the DeLorean. From a standard 289ci with 240hp to bored out 305 00+hp R-4 with dual superchargers broke records at Bonneville in '62 and '63 at over 170mph. The first American four passenger car to have front disc brakes as standard equipment, Fibre-glass body like the Vette, leather interior. a beautiful car. An Avanti is like a redheaded woman; you either love her or hate her, no in between. (yes, my wife is a red head and since we've been together 40+ yrs, so that question is answered) BTW, here's what you can do with an Avanti. before and after

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