Skip to main content

AACA Museum in Hershey goes 'Back to the Future'

October 21, 2015; it's a date that has been surrounded by anticipation and mystery for the past 30 years.

Why, you may ask? Because that date plays a prominent role in a time-traveling movie trilogy beloved by fans all over the world.

While it may have been just Wednesday to many of us, not so for the millions of fans of the "Back to the Future " trilogy from the 1980s, starring Michael J. Fox as the hero, Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd as Doctor Emmett Brown.

It's Brown's invention, a time machine in the body of a 1982 DeLorean automobile, that propels the movie along as it simultaneously propels the plot — and McFly and Doc Brown — back and forth through the wavy time-space continuum.

At the end of the first movie, Doc Brown punches in a date on his super computer in the DeLorean sports car/time machine, when his cohort Marty McFly asks "Where are we?"

The answer, according to the doctor, is "October 21, 2015."

Not "where," but "when," and that made October 21 "Future Day," and the object of much speculation through the years. October 21, 2015 is the date they went back to, in "Back to the Future — Part 2."

"I need you to go back to the future," Brown tells McFly — and that's what they do in the second film of the trilogy, spending time unraveling "wrong way" scenarios and having hair-raising adventures in 2015.

In the 1985 film, a number of futuristic possibilities are presented as facts, and many folks wanted to see what would really become "real" by this date in time.

One of those predictions is the thumbprint technology used by the character "Biff," when he pays a cab in that manner — that's pretty much become a part of our reality.

But will the Cubs win the World Series this year? The Mets said no, despite the movie forecast.

"It certainly has a cult following; people have been waiting for this date for a long time," said Nancy L. Gates, director of marketing and communications for the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey. "People were fascinated with the predictions and were waiting to see if they come true."

Some of the movie props, like the above-ground "hover boards" have only come close to reality, like the "swag-ways," that, while personal mobile devices, are still earth-bound.

"People are fascinated with the idea; what would you do if you could time travel, and if you could change the past, and that's part of the mystique; it sparks people's imaginations to think about that," Gates said.

One of those people is Tom Silknitter of Gap, Pa., who spent four years working with friends, to actually build a 1982 DeLorean, like the one used by McFly and Brown in the "Back to the Future" films.

That tribute vehicle is currently on display in the AACA museum, and will remain so for the rest of the month. Gates is encouraging folks to come and take "selfies" with the car, while they enjoy some of the movie memorabilia on display as part of the exhibit. That includes original blueprints, original movie scripts, a letter to Director Robert Smeckis from someone who had screened the movie and re-created futuristic Pepsi bottles.

The Pepsi Company recently produced a quantity of the special bottles, which sold out on Amazon in four minutes, Gates said.

"It's like a fun little exhibit for us," Gates said. "We like automobiles and we like history, and this exhibit has both."

To say the movies are popular with people is an understatement.

The original DeLorean used in the films was featured on the "Today" program in New York this week and film channels have been running "Back to the Future" marathons all week long.

Wednesday evening, local TV station WGAL-TV 8 presented the weather forecast from the museum, featuring the DeLorean.

Silknitter contacted the AACA museum after seeing a Lotus display there last spring. The company that built the Lotus also had a hand in engineering the DeLorean, and since he happened to have his own DeLorean, he thought the museum might be interested in combining the 30th anniversary of the film with a replica of the car that was a huge part of its success.

"That (Lotus exhibit) kind of opened the door for us," Gates said. "We thought that having the DeLorean would resonate with visitors and it's been really fun, and very popular."

Silknitter, in a phone call from his home in Gap, said he comes from a family of collectors, and he simply enjoys collecting memorabilia from the "Back to the Future " films.

Plus, he actually made a car.

"I've been a big fan since I was a kid," Silknitter said. "I started out being in a fan club and through the years, I've done research on the movies. The first movie and the sequels, they're just fun; everything came together. I mean, a time machine in a sports car - that's perfect."

As expected, Silknitter is a wealth of information on the background and trivia of the films, including that fact that Eric Stoltz was supposed to play McFly, but the studio thought he played the part too seriously, so Michael J. Fox was cast to lighten it up.

"It's a neat story, and the cast had a good mix of creative energy," Silknitter said. "It's a time travel movie that follows some interesting timelines. And, as a fan, you're always aware of this day, there's always been an interest in it. For those of us who are fans, reaching this day means the movies reach more of the public, and that's good."

The October date is not only the fulfillment of the specific date, it's also the 30th anniversary of the first movie, Silknitter said.

A group of fans in California have been celebrating the October date for the past week, calling their gathering "We're Going Back," he added.

Silknitter said he can't really put a dollar amount on his DeLoreans's worth, which is OK, because even though some people sell replicas of the auto, he has no plans to sell his car.

"A DeLorean that was actually used in the third movie sold at auction for half a million dollars," Silknitter said. " But mine's not worth that much."

The first fan clubs turned out newsletters on a typewriter, Silknitter said. Now, "Back to the Future" has its own website and its own domain. Times have changed.

The website is

To get into the spirit of the exhibit, Gates dressed up as Marty McFly. Regarding achieving the Oct. 21, 2015 date, she took a line from the movie, saying "From now on, the future will be the past."