Meet the Enthusiasts: Back to the Future Time Machine

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Oliver and Terry Holler inciting their drive for Tothefuture.org.

Meet Oliver and Terry Holler who are taking their Back to the Future Time Machine all over the world for charity.

Via Corsa: Why Back to the Future? What drew you to this piece of popular culture in the first place?

Oliver Holler: I was a high school student in 1985, learning about cars, getting a driver’s license, etc. Back to the Future was released in 1985 (not yet a piece of pop culture!), and I have always been a fan of movies, especially anything Steven Spielberg was involved with. Naturally, I bought a ticket! I identified with the Marty character, and it was the first movie I went to see repeatedly at the movie theater. When the DeLorean is revealed, emerging from Doc Brown’s truck, I thought, “Wouldn’t that be the most fun car in the world to drive?!!??”

Terry Holler:  I took my niece and nephew to see Back to the Future when it was released in ’85. I had a crush on Michael J. Fox, and we all loved Huey Lewis.  We all left the theater laughing and talking about the possibility of time travel and singing “The Power of Love.”

VC: The car is a replica built by the both of you — why build it, instead of finding a replica?

OH: We built our Time Machine in 2001. We used the VHS tape as our ‘blueprint’, as that was the best resource back then. It may seem hard to believe, but back in the old days, you could not just launch an app on your smart phone and order a Flux Capacitor from Amazon Prime to receive it the next day on your doorstep.

Financially, we live very simple lives. There are many who are able to purchase movie cars to add to a collection, (we have had offers to buy ours,) but our fandom was specifically with Back to the Future. Our passion was creating something with our own hands — And our joy is driving it every day and sharing it with others.

TH: When you can build something yourself, you can save money while taking satisfaction in the work. You can create and customize to your own tastes and requirements. Plus, if anything breaks, you can fix it!

VC: You built the replica as volunteers for Team Fox (Michael J. Fox’s Foundation for Parkinson’s Research). What was your objective at first?

OH: Initially, the project was taken on as a ‘bucket list’ item that needed to be checked off, due to my diagnosis of terminal cancer. We did it with a credit card and for purely selfish reasons. So the objective was similar to a final ‘Make-a-Wish’ that we created for ourselves! As my prognosis changed, and we learned there seemed to be more time on the clock, we realized we had an opportunity to do something with the car that could have meaning and benefit others.

TH: Bob Gale, creator of the trilogy, theorized that perhaps the act of building the time machine may have influenced the outcome of the diagnosis. We think this is a great way to look at it!

VC: What was the inspiration for this type of act, this selfless piece of interaction and volunteering?

OH: About the same time we were building our Time Machine, Debbie Brooks was building the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research with Michael. Because the car attracts intense attention everywhere, it seemed obvious to try to redirect that positive energy towards something useful. It was a natural fit. Everyone wants something. With us, people want to take a photo. Our philosophy is, ‘If you take something, give something.’ Pretty simple, and polite, but it is a principle we believe rings true. We provide an opportunity for people to give, and that has resulted in raising over $500,000 to date, for research.

TH: Michael J. Fox is an inspirational force. He does not let his disease stop him from pursuing his interests.  He has also brought about revolutionary change in the way funding and research for P.D. is done. He has acknowledged our role, and we’re inspired and honored to be a small part of that.

VC: Has the objective or mission of what you are trying to do changed?

OH: Yes! Just as there were no blueprints on how to build a time machine, there was no instruction book on how to use it!  So we’ve been writing it as we go, learning and adapting over 16 years.

VC: What does it mean to get behind the wheel and take the Time Machine out across numerous adventures?

OH: I’ve always enjoyed travel, and driving in particular. I got that from my parents. There is a magical sense of freedom to get into the Time Machine and point it in any direction you desire and simply, ‘Go!’  And the car produces smiles everywhere, which is a nice side effect.

TH: With each trip we meet wonderful and exciting people. We see beautiful country and sparkling cities. Traveling in a time machine never gets old, it just gets better with every smile and wave as we drive down the road.

Oliver and Terry Holler venturing through Europe during the end of 2016.

VC: Where are you currently adventuring with the Time Machine?

OH: We completed our initial goal of reaching all 50 states in the Time Machine, so when the invitation to attend the Copenhagen Comic Con in Denmark arrived, we instantly said ‘Yes!’ We mapped out 20+ countries in Europe, shipped the car over, and we’re currently in Paris, working our way towards Spain and Greece!

TH: Oliver keeps mixing languages, saying ‘Gracias’ in Poland, and ‘Merci’ in Norway.

VC: What are your future plans with your car and your adventures?

OH: We look forward to arriving at the day when Parkinson’s Disease is a thing of the past. Our goal is to raise one million dollars, and as the car approaches one million miles, that is a worthy milestone to reach as well!  But nothing lasts forever. We have noticed the novelty of seeing a Time Machine is diminishing.  An industry has been created due to the demand and businesses are now building movie car replicas for great profit to wealthy collectors. We have seen a shift over almost two decades, which makes what we do more difficult, even though we still enjoy it.

TH: ‘Retirement’ seems inevitable, but we will move on to the next magnificent obsession with great satisfaction in what we were able to accomplish for the Foundation—the friends we made and the adventures we had!

VC: Oliver and Terry, what has this work meant to the both of you? Throughout any hardships, battling cancer or long nights traveling, has it fulfilled your initial mission?

OH: Life has endless surprises. You can make plans and set goals, but you never really know what the results will be until the end. Our personal mission began in 1996, when Terry and I eloped to Hawaii and promised to love each other ‘Today, Tomorrow, and Always.’ We didn’t know we would build a Time Machine and travel the world and be in a documentary, and play a role in funding research for a disease. All we could be certain of, is whatever our future held, good or bad, we would be doing it together. I think we are fulfilling that goal.

TH: Our mission gave us something other than the cancer to focus on. It gave us faith in people; when you provide the opportunity to do something good, good things happen. We’ve gained respect for our country and all the countries we have visited. Time traveling can have its challenges, and it can be difficult, unpleasant and even frightening sometimes. But we’ve certainly gained an appreciation of what it is like for Michael J. Fox and others with Parkinson’s Disease, waking up every morning and facing their challenges.  If they can do it, so can we!

VC: Thanks!