DeLorean to appear at show ski tourney today

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August 14, 2011
— Where Greg Tanko is going, they don’t need roads.

They mostly use rivers or lakes.

Tanko today is participating as the Rock Aqua Jays compete for their 16th title at the 2011 U.S. National Show Ski Tournament on the Rock River at Traxler Park in Janesville.

Today’s show will include Tanko’s 1981 DeLorean, the model famous for—among other things—its role as a time machine in the 1985 movie “Back to the Future.” That’s the theme of the Aqua Jays’ show this summer as the team celebrates 50 years.

The movie also is the source of the “don’t need roads” line, in case you weren’t a child of the ’80s.

Tanko retired in 2003 after teaching for 34 years. He was well known as the auto mechanics teacher at Craig High School and started an industrial cooperative education that allowed students to get local experience in the skilled trades.

Tanko’s DeLorean is No. 2,384 of fewer than 9,000 produced. between 1981 and 1983.

Tanko in December 1992 traded a four-passenger Beachraft Sport airplane for the car. Tanko was a member of the flying club that owned the plane. He and a friend flew to North Platte, Neb., to make the trade with the car owner, who lived in Colorado.

The car and the plane each were valued at $15,000.

For years, Tanko mostly stored the car but has since decided that was a silly way to enjoy a dream-come-true.

“This car has been on my list of cars to own since they came out,” Tanko said.

He doesn’t drive it far—mostly to the golf course or on the occasional errand. He’s put 10,000 miles on it in 15 years, Tanko said.

“Once I got it, I wasn’t letting go,” Tanko said. “It’s kind of like a member of the family.”

Former General Motors executive John DeLorean designed the car’s frame and stainless steel body, Tanko said. He bought the rights to the rest of the parts, Tanko said.

It’s got a Volvo engine, a Renault transmission, General Motors and Ford brakes, a French master cylinder, and so on, Tanko said. He calls it the “League of Nations car.”

“You just gotta kind of know what part is it and who made it,” Tanko said. “Parts aren’t all that hard to find, and it’s actually been a pretty good car. There hasn’t been much to fix.”

To get ready for the Aqua Jays show, Tanko just had to clean the fingerprints off the DeLorean.

“For some reason, everybody’s got to touch the DeLorean,” Tanko said. “Maybe they feel like they’re touching the movie.”


Team competition continues at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Janesville’s Traxler Park in the 2011 U.S. National Show Ski Tournament. The Rock Aqua Jays are expected on the water at 9:20 a.m.

Retired Janesville teacher Greg Tanko and his 1981 DeLorean will be part of the team’s “Back to the Future” themed show.

The car will be available for pictures afterwards. Bring your own camera; make a donation to the Aqua Jays in order to sit in the car.

DeLorean owners tend to hear a lot of the same questions show after show. The DeLorean Club of Ohio offers frequently asked questions to help owners. Try to ask him something other than these:

Question: Who was John DeLorean?

Answer: He was an automotive engineer who developed more than 200 patents and cars such as the Pontiac GTO and Firebird. He left a job as vice president of General Motors to found an independent car company. The DeLorean was the only result of the company.

Q: Is he still in jail on charges of cocaine trafficking?

A: No. He was acquitted of those charges. He died in 2005.

Q: Is it hard to open the doors if you’re parked next to other cars?

A: Nope. DeLorean’s doors only need 14 inches to swing open.

Q: How fast is it?

A: Top speed for a stock DeLorean is 135 mph.

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