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You won’t believe the amazing contraptions that Rich Weissensel creates out of old DeLoreans

By on March 13, 2015

Like many a student taking notes in class, Rich Weissensel would get bored and doodle. Unlike most, he drew elaborate variations on the defunct DeLorean automobile, imagining the sleek sports car as a limousine or a convertible. Years later, those doodles came roaringly to life, and this software engineer who has always been a car nut has one of the oddest collections of customized automobiles around.

“I wanted to do something a little different,” he explains.

His D Rex, a monster truck, pairs a De- Lorean body and a Chevy Blazer chassis. The limo has six gull wing doors. The convertible has Lamborghini-style scissor doors. And since he couldn’t avoid a nod to Back to the Future, the 1985 movie that prominently featured the car, Weissensel just had to make a replica “time machine” and a DeLorean hovercraft.

Love at first sight

The Illinois native was obsessed with the unique car long before the original movie came out 30 years ago.

“I was in grammar school when John DeLorean left GM to build his own car in the 1970s,” says Weissensel. “Pictures of the prototypes started appearing in car magazines and I was impressed by the stainless steel panel and gull wing doors. It was like no other car I had seen before.”

And he knew cars. His father, a mechanic for 25 years, almost always had a faltering vehicle — his own or a neighbor’s — that needed work done in their garage at home. Weissensel watched and learned.

“Ever since I was big enough to lift a wrench, I was out there helping him or tinkering on something next to him,” he recalls. “As a kid I customized bicycles, then go-karts, and then my first car and my friends’ cars.”

He vowed that he would own a DeLorean someday, and actually traveled to a dealer in Lake Bluff, Illinois, with the intent of buying one in 1982, soon after they first came out. He was just 20 years old, and though he did get to sit in his dream car, he didn’t actually buy one until 1985, three years after the company shut down.

For a long time he was happy to drive his unique car, and his mechanic’s skills proved handy when it needed repairs. Finding parts for the out-of-production vehicle was difficult, so he had to resort to fabricating what he needed. Before long he had started buying and refurbishing DeLoreans as a hobby.

Meeting John Z. DeLorean

Weissensel connected with others who had a similar obsession over the years, regularly attending the annual DeLorean Car Show. There, devotees could admire each other’s cars and talk shop. Almost every time the show was scheduled, the organizers sent an invitation to John DeLorean. In 2000, he showed up.

“I was doing stock restorations and had three DeLoreans at home, and I was the only person who brought two to the show,” Weissensel says. “John was impressed that I owned three cars and was doing the restoration work so he took the time to take a picture with me.”

Thrilled that his automotive hero knew his background, Weissensel figured he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Those student sketches —embellished, thought-out, improved on over time — were a blueprint. Here was the chance to get John DeLorean’s blessing to actually make these vehicles. But Weissensel did not have the sketches with him.

“I didn’t think he would be there, and when he appeared I knew that I needed to do something quick,” Weissensel says. “I grabbed hotel stationery and dinner napkins to draw on and showed the finished sketches to John DeLorean. I’m sure he thought I was a little bit nuts, but he said, ‘If you think you can do it, then go for it. There’s no reason not to try.’”

Slow start, big finish

Once home, Weissensel started working on the limo and a roadster but it was slow going. Then one day he was on eBay to look for parts and found a wrecked DeLorean sitting on top of a wrecked Blazer chassis.

“It was pathetic,” he says. “It looked like grilled metal. But to me, vehicles like that are like lost puppies ready to be taken in and cared for. I figured I can take a laughingstock of a vehicle and turn it into something cool and awesome.”

So he bought the mashed up mess and in less than a month transformed it into D Rex — just in time to bring it to the 2002
World of Wheels car show. It was his first completed DeLorean mashup and it took first place in the custom 4×4 division. Later that year, at the DeLorean Car Show, it won the first and only John Z. DeLorean award chosen by the visionary car maker himself.

“He was already experiencing health problems and couldn’t attend the show,” Weissensel says. “His daughter Katherine was given the task to relay to him what was at the show and she said that out of all the vehicles she told him about, the one he would give it to was the truck. Other than actually meeting him, that award is one of the biggest highlights of my life.”

Weissensel went on to complete his other project cars, plus more, and continues to buy what he can to have the materials on hand for the next crazy creation. He only buys wrecked DeLoreans, feeling strongly that those that are still intact should stay that way.

His DeLorean creations appear at all sorts of conventions and parades. They always bring a smile to people’s faces — and Weissensel is smiling bigger than anyone.

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