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FIXATIONS : Messenger Who's Ahead of His Time : 'Back to the Future' buff Marc Goldstone warns Irvine residents that their city is being threatened by overdevelopment.

March 25, 1992|JIM WASHBURN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — Is life ever fair? Here I finally get to see what the world looks like from inside the sleek confines of a status-packed DeLorean, one of the finest cars ever tied up in a narcotics sting operation, and people are just pointing and laughing.

OK, some are gaping, guffawing, doing double-takes and falling off their skateboards, but none of the people we're driving past in this verdant and typically characterless Irvine housing tract are reacting with the respectful, awe and resentment one would expect a stainless-steel power car to engender.

Perhaps that's because Marc Goldstone has tricked out his early '80s DeLorean with fins, hoses, trash can sections and a coffee grinder so that it's a spitting replica of Doc Brown's balky time-traveling car from the "Back to the Future" series. Kids may love it, but the gadgetry makes the once-sexy auto look about as seductive as the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

"At first I was a little apprehensive," Goldstone said about getting behind the wheel of his creation, "but at this point if someone looks at it like, 'What a jerk! Who'd drive that thing?' it's counterbalanced by all the kids and the young at heart who enjoy it."

Goldstone is a science-fiction buff, with a particular love for the "Back to the Future" films whose posters and 3-D lobby displays decorate his house. The 36-year-old bachelor considers himself a futurist, and, no great surprise, works in the computer industry, as principal design engineer of disc drives at Western Digital in Irvine. He is also a community activist, which gives him an interesting slant on his "Back to the Future" hobby.

Here's his rap: "Marc Goldstone comes back from Irvine's future in the year 2010. The Irvine general plan states that Irvine will be built out by that year, with a population of 250,000, more than double the 1990 population of 120,000. That's right in the plan," which he says was designed by the Irvine Co. "The reason I came traveling through time to 1992 in my 'Back to the Future' DeLorean is to let people know that if they get involved that they really can make a difference, and the people in the future are very upset with all the overdevelopment which was approved in the '90s."

Goldstone's is a frequently heard voice at Irvine City Council meetings, and he is running for the board of directors of the Woodbridge Village Assn., which represents some 22,000 residents. The longtime Republican is on the board of the slow-growth organization Irvine Tomorrow and admits to being disappointed that the group isn't too big on adopting his sci-fi time travel theme in its campaign against Irvine Co. development.

Goldstone said: "They seem to think more conservatively than that, even though they're painted to be radicals by the Irvine Co. (which wholly owns the city's free weekly newspaper and its cable TV service). The others in Irvine Tomorrow are not sure that (using the DeLorean) would get the word out, or that people wouldn't laugh at it.

"But I really feel that politics is supposed to be fun, and it isn't fun any more at any level. It's been made anything but fun, I think, because those in power don't want people to get involved in it."

Goldstone, meanwhile, is keen on the idea of parking his car in front of Irvine's City Hall with a banner reading, 'I've seen Irvine's future and you're ruining it.' He also tried persuading a Times photographer to doctor photos to make it look as if he and the DeLorean were up in the sky, buzzing City Hall.

He says he's always loved the look of the DeLoreans, and seeing one used in the first "Back to the Future" film convinced him to buy one in 1985. Since you can't exactly pick up a time machine conversion kit at Johnny's Speed and Chrome, Goldstone freeze-framed parts of the film on video and took exacting measurements off his screen, using the taillights to determine the scale. He then fabricated most of the parts himself in a machine shop. For the Mr. Fusion reactor mounted on the rear deck Goldstone used a Krupp coffee grinder, which is exactly what Universal used in the film.

Using a kitchen appliance as an atomic reactor is only fair, since a fair amount of the kitchen counter space in Goldstone's roomy house is devoted to his attempt at a real fusion reactor, a mess of glass and coils intended to duplicate the famed, ill-fated Pons-Fleischman cold fusion experiment of a couple of years ago.

"I got palladium rods and platinum wire and I still have a quart of deuterium oxide heavy water. My neighbors would be happy to know that the experiment didn't work."

He thinks answers to Irvine's and other cities' woes can be gleaned from the "Future" films. In Goldstone's ideal future, things would indeed run on non-polluting fusion power, and traffic would be eased by "telecommuting."

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