The Steel City Time Machine
While many of the aforementioned are long gone and others now mere nostalgia, however, two film franchises of the 1980s continue to be part of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania landscape in the Twenty First Century—Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. The region has its own Steel City Ghostbusters, for instance, a group of fans who attend local events dressed in the same attire as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler. Then there’s Rick Neuman and his Steel City Time Machine, an exact replica of the DeLorean automobile from Back to the Future.
“I had always thought that the car from Back to the Future was the coolest car on the planet,” Neuman explains. “I never gave it a thought to own one until a few years ago when I met a DeLorean owner that had turned his into a time machine, and pretty much right then and there I had set in my mind that I would find a DeLorean and do the same thing.”
The DeLorean Motor Company only produced approximately 9,000 of the gull-wing-door sports coupes in the early 1980s, but Rick Neuman was able to locate one nonetheless. “My car is a 1982 with 31K miles on it,” he says. “I found it in Richmond, Virginia. My original plan for who I was going to have convert it kind of fell through, so I drove it around stock for two years, until I found Coulombe Enterprises out of Orlando, Florida. Bruce Coulombe and his team did the excellent job of transforming my car.”
With a meticulously duplicated replica of the DeLorean showcased in Back to the Future, Neuman not only began driving the car around the streets of Pittsburgh but has also taken his Steel City Time Machine to numerous comic-cons in the region and even participated in the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. That annual event marked the premier of Pittsburgh Movie Cars, a group of other fans who likewise own replicated vehicles from film and television shows, including a Jurassic Park Jeep and the Ecto-1 featured in Ghostbusters.
“Aside from comic-cons and parades, we’ve had a few couples use the car in photo shoots for their wedding ‘Save the Date’ cards,” Rick Neuman adds. “Those were fun, especially with the couple that went thrift shopping for the 80s clothes to wear to look like Marty and Jennifer. We’ve been to a few private birthday parties—one specific that was awesome, they had me get ‘chased’ up the driveway by a 50s black convertible by a guy dressed as 1955 Biff and his gang. I just love how into it people get.”
The list of people who have been enamored by the Steel City Time Machine includes celebrities as well as Pittsburgh natives. During various area comic-cons, for instance, guest attendees such as Dean Cain, Verne Troyer (Mini-Me) and Mindy Sterling (Frau Farbissina) from Austin Powers, Larry Thomas (the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld), Travis Love and Kylie Szymanski from The Walking Dead, and Kee Chan from Star Wars have all taken time from their autograph-signing sessions to visit Rick Neuman and his DeLorean.
“The celebs have all been great, and so friendly,” Neuman says. “When I do shows with celebs, I offer up sitting in the car to them, and they love the idea. They can’t wait to come over to my area—it’s pretty cool. There’s something magical about Back to the Future that everybody just loves, celeb or not. They get in the car just in awe, like stepping back into their greatest childhood memory. A couple of them took flux capacitor selfies too.”
It’s not just at events, however, that people get excited about seeing a genuine Steel City Time Machine. “I have a lot of fun driving it around town and people-watching from inside the car,” Neuman adds. “Most people that see me coming grab for their camera phones, and I’ve even had some run out into the road to get a selfie with the car. In traffic I get waved at and get the thumbs-up a lot from people in other cars. It’s funny to drive up East Carson and hear random yelling ‘Hey McFly!’ or ‘88 miles per hour’ or ‘Where’s the flux capacitor?’ KDKA even had a little fun with me when they saw me in traffic due to a tunnel closure. They aired me crawling by the camera and stated that ‘Traffic wasn’t moving nearly the 88 mph needed for Marty McFly’s DeLorean to go back to the future.’”
In addition to owning a DeLorean, Rick Neuman is obviously also a fan of the movie that inspired the Steel City Time Machine. “I’ve always had a fascination with the idea of time travel, and I always thought that Back to the Future was the best time travel movie,” he explains. “That whole trilogy was so well written with how every little detail affected the past or future. I love seeing movies try to depict what the future will be like, and then how reality tries to make those things happen after the fact. That film series was also so great because I think Michael J. Fox’s character did a lot of things that we would do if we were to travel through time, like wanting to bring the almanac back with us, and then seeing how something so simple can go so wrong.”
Rick Neuman is a fan of other films created during the 1980s as well. “That decade for me was the best,” he adds. “That was when movies were made without political agendas, everybody had a sense of humor and didn’t get offended at everything, and movies were ‘light.’ Now days, superhero movies are ‘dark,’ have less sense of humor, the characters have to be ‘tough.’ I miss the Christopher Reeve Superman-type of superhero movies. Movies back then had a magical, believable, fantasy about them that was fun. Now, it seems they rely too much on CGI, endless explosions, and way beyond unrealistic fight scenes.”
In December 2014, Rick Neuman and his Steel City Time Machine joined forces with the Steel City Ghostbusters to recreate that 1980s “magical fun” as part of 96.1 Kiss FM’s Stuff-A-Bus Toys-for-Tots Drive in an effort to raise awareness of the annual charity. Neuman hopes to be involved in similar events as he continues to expand upon the Pittsburgh-themed Back to the Future experience.
“I’m always trying to improve on the car, and get more and better movie props from the whole trilogy,” he explains. “I’d like to get more people to come to comic-cons in Back to the Future cosplay the way Star Wars and Star Trek fans do. Right now, I do shows with the car as either from Part I or Part II. I’d like to get a set of 50s whitewall tires and the box of electronics for the hood, to be able to do the Part III car as well.”
During the 1985 sequel Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown, Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker travelled thirty years into the future, a time that has already become the present. For Rick Neuman and his Steel City Time Machine, however, the year 2015 is only the beginning of their journey.
“I hope to be all over the place to share the car with the people of Pittsburgh,” he says. “We always love meeting fellow Back to the Future fans and running movie lines with them.”
He then adds for effect, “See you in the future!”