TUCKERTON – It’s no wonder that Jon Miller is so into cars. No one would expect less from the owner of a popular car care center located in the heart of Tuckerton.
Miller’s age, 40, puts him in the generation that made “Back to the Future” a box office hit. The movie made a star out of the time machine in it – the DeLorean.
“The DeLorean was the muscle car of my generation,” shared Miller. “It was either a white or red Lamborghini Countach or a DeLorean.”
DeLorean only built 9,000 cars and an estimated 5,000 have survived after more than 30 years.
Miller said he remembered the first time he saw the DeLorean, his jaw hit the floor and the image became burned in his brain. He was probably not alone in that he had a craving to own the car with its iconic look and distinctive gull-wing doors. At the very least, that was Miller’s vision and one he suspected was unattainable.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Back in 2013, Miller began chatting with one of his shop’s mechanics who was familiar with working on Volvos. The conversation shifted to DeLoreans as the two cars share the same engines and drive lines. A seed was planted as Miller reminisced and again wondered what it would be like to own his dream car.
“I searched on Craigslist and an ad popped up that was only online for 12 minutes,” Miller said. “It was a complete serendipity moment and even though the car was in Long Island, I knew it was my car.”
The fact that this particular DeLorean was abandoned in disgraceful condition and hadn’t run in ten years turned out to be fortuitous. A show quality car would go for top dollar and this one’s neglect made it affordable.
Miller put his ASE master technician skills and hard sweat to work in restoring the DeLorean and getting it in running order. He found himself on Cloud 9 with just having what he called a regular DeLorean. Miller signed up for gigs to showcase the car for different events and has enjoyed an assortment of appearances.
“In 2015, the anniversary for ‘Back to the Future’ was a big deal,” shared Miller. “I got a job with my DeLorean to shuffle celebrities to the red carpet at the Washington West Film Festival in Maryland.”
Other DeLorean owners also hit the scene, including a guy from Florida who restored his vehicle to include a flux capacitor like the one from the movie. Miller’s son Evan was six years old at the time and made a recommendation to his father.
“He said, ‘Dad, we need to take apart our DeLorean and turn it into a time machine,’” Miller said. “I said no.”
“I lost,” smiled Miller.
“I then set out on a mission to make my DeLorean completely screen accurate to match the car in the movie,” continued Miller. “No questions, no arguments; it had to be exactly right.”
One of the steps Miller took to get a handle on the details included a trip to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. There, he carefully inspected and photographed the DeLorean used in the smash hit.
Miller said the quest to duplicate the original turned into an eight-year mission to find all the original real parts that were used on the real time machine. These have included airplane parts and helicopter parts and even things that came from the Apollo space mission.
At one point, Miller was concerned TSA authorities would flag him as he was literally bringing home rocket parts.
The focus on detail might be insane for some, but Miller prides himself on being precise. He likened his drive to a Picasso ensuring that every inch of a painting was perfect.
After the job was complete, Miller’s end product became even more notorious and put his DeLorean Time Machine in the national spotlight. And, yes, young Evan was involved in the rebuild every step of the way.
“I was hired by ‘Back to the Future,’ the musical that is coming to Broadway,” Miller shared. “My car was on display at the New York Comic Con to promote the musical. It was a huge, huge honor with over 300,000 people seeing my car.”
When it comes to time machines, Miller estimated that the number has grown in the last five years from 100 to 300-400 in existence around the world. On a regional level, Miller’s time machine ranks as the best.
The DeLorean itself isn’t just novel because of the way its doors swing upwards. It’s also the only car that’s made out of stainless steel. Miller said he’s careful to avoid the elements as he would with any classic car and tries to refrain from taking the car out from November until March.
That’s not to say that Miller doesn’t ever venture out during those months. He’s always happy to fulfil a dream wish for someone who has a special desire to be around a DeLorean.
In the meantime, the DeLorean isn’t the only car that has some kind of value in Miller’s life. He’s also restored a 1986 Pontiac Fiero that holds a special place in his heart. His work on that old-time favorite earned him the moniker of “Fiero Jon” well before he started with the DeLorean.
“My grandmother gave it to me as my first car when I was 17,” said Miller. “It was a $700 car that had 130,000 miles on it in 1989. I still have it.”
Miller’s already working on his next project tied to the “Back to the Future” movie as he bought a vehicle with the intentions of restoring Marty McFly’s pickup truck.
The pickup truck shows up at the beginning of the movie and is something the character longs to own. However, McFly’s family is poor when they go back in time. It isn’t until the character is back in the present that he opens up the garage door and there’s his truck.
As he did with the DeLorean, Miller’s on the hunt for vintage aftermath parts like roll bumpers and rollbars. He’s gathered a few things like light covers in an original package that originally sold for about $4 and now have a $400 price tag.
George McFly had an amazing line in “Back to the Future” that bears a striking resemblance to the man set on replicating his truck.
“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” said McFly.