A 1981 DeLorean Was Found In A Wisconsin Barn With Less Than 1,000 Miles On It

Published October 13, 2023

The DeLorean still had all of its original parts and was in near-pristine condition — other than a mouse living inside.

1981 DeLorean

DeLorean Midwest/FacebookThe 1981 DeLorean was found in a barn in southern Wisconsin with only 977 miles on it.

A group that restores classic cars recently uncovered a blast from the past when they found an original 1981 DeLorean sitting in a barn in southern Wisconsin. Even more amazingly, the car, turned into a cultural phenomenon by the 1985 film Back to the Future, was in nearly pristine condition — albeit a bit dirty.

Michael McElhattan, owner of the restoration company DeLorean Midwest, said he first heard about the untouched vehicle from the nephew of the car’s original owner, informing McElhattan that they were looking to sell it. While the nephew had called all the way from New Mexico, McElhattan is an Illinois native, meaning he didn’t have to travel far to see the unique vehicle.

“It happened pretty quick because once I found out the car was close, and it was a low-mileage car, I was excited to go take a look,” McElhattan told CBS 58.

Amazingly, the DeLorean still had all its original parts from 1981 and only clocked 977 miles since it was built. That said, it wasn’t exactly ready to drive.

“We opened it up, and the first thing I saw was a mouse go across the center console,” said DeLorean Midwest’s social media coordinator, Kevin Thomas, who accompanied McElhattan to check out the historic car.

The whole car was coated in dust and in need of a serious clean-up, but it was in good condition in the ways that mattered.

“The condition of the leather, the condition of the instruments, cluster in the dash, and a lot of places where you see sun damage — and that’s one of the big killers on this — this car virtually has no sun damage,” McElhattan said. “To take a car from this condition to what I know we can do with it is just — that’s an adventure anybody wants to be on.”

1981 DeLorean In Wisconsin Barn

DeLorean Midwest/FacebookThe original 1981 DeLorean was coated in dust, but McElhattan expressed confidence that he could restore it to its former glory.

The DMC DeLorean may be most well-known for its role as Marty McFly’s car in the Back to the Future films, but the story of the actual car is itself quite fascinating.

The DeLorean was the sole production of John DeLorean’s DeLorean Motor Company (DMC), and it was only produced for the American market for a brief period starting in 1981. Designed by famed Italian automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, it was notable in particular for its gull-wing doors and brushed stainless steel outer body.

However, the DeLorean was also plagued with issues. To start, it was highly priced despite not having the power and performance that warranted it. It also developed a reputation for being poorly built and simply not being great to drive.

DeLorean With Less Than 1000 Miles

DeLorean Midwest/FacebookThe speedometer of the DeLorean found in Wisconsin, showing the mileage.

Initial interest in the DeLorean seemed fairly high. However it quickly faded, and eventually, the company produced more cars than it could sell. Coupled with the U.S. entering a recession towards the end of 1981 and into 1982, the price for the DeLorean was starting to become unjustifiable.

Things only got worse for DMC, and John DeLorean in particular, on October 19, 1982, when DeLorean was arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine in what would be a $24 million drug deal.

Although he was acquitted of the charges in 1984, DeLorean continued to face legal issues, eventually going to trial for fraud and being forced to pay millions of dollars to creditors and lawyers.

Meanwhile, The DeLorean Motor Company had gone bankrupt, and its remaining cars and parts were bought out by Consolidated International, now known as Big Lots.

Regardless of the legal woes and controversies, though, the DeLorean still has diehard fans even now, 40 years after its production. It is certainly one of the world’s most unique and iconic cars, despite everything, and for an enthusiast like McElhattan, finding an essentially unused DeLorean with original parts is a dream come true.


After reading about the discovery of this 1981 DeLorean, read about the time 60 rare automobiles were found in a broken down French barn. Or, check out these behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Back to the Future.

author
Austin Harvey
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A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
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Matt Crabtree
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Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
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Harvey, Austin. "A 1981 DeLorean Was Found In A Wisconsin Barn With Less Than 1,000 Miles On It." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 13, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/delorean-wisconsin. Accessed May 23, 2024.