The Original Tesla Roadster isn’t as Unfamiliar as it Looks

With all of the exciting news about the latest and greatest Tesla Roadster, it reminds us that there was an original version already out and about on the streets. In fact, the original Roadster was sold to the public and, if you’re lucky, you can occasionally find them on the used car market for a steep price. At first glance, the original Tesla Roadster might look like a unique creation, but it isn’t as unfamiliar as it may seem.

What was the original Tesla Roadster based on?

Tesla Roadster 2.5
Tesla Roadster 2.5 | Jean-Marc ZAORSKI, Gamma-Rapho, Getty Images

It isn’t uncommon for manufacturers to share parts between their vehicles — in fact, it is more common than most people like to discuss, and most manufacturers like to admit. The original Tesla Roadster, for example, has an electric drivetrain that is original to the Tesla engineering team, but the body and design are shared with another, more common vehicle: the Lotus Elise. With that being said, the Lotus Elise itself is still a pretty uncommon car, but it just so happened to be just the platform that Tesla was looking for when it came to building the original Tesla Roadster.

A rare car becomes even less common

Tesla roadster launched from the Falcon Heavy rocket with a dummy driver named "Starman" heads towards Mars
Tesla roadster launched from the Falcon Heavy rocket with a dummy driver named “Starman” heads towards Mars | SpaceX, Getty Images

The original Tesla Roadster is so rare that most people aren’t even aware it exists — and your chances of seeing one are pretty slim, with the first one ever going to the company’s CEO, Elon Musk. It shares a platform with the Lotus Elise, a small, sporty, mid-engine British car designed to dominate corners and offer drivers a truly unique driving experience. The electric car savant began working with Lotus in 2005 when they officially entered into an agreement in using the Lotus platform to create the electric vehicle, but it is substantially longer and really doesn’t share most of the components at all. There were less than 3,000 of the original Tesla Roadster ever made, but most of the attention has turned to the reportedly ground-breaking newest generation that has received a lot of hype and somewhat unrealistic expectations.

The Lotus Elise and original Tesla Roadster are similar, but not

While it does share some chassis components with the Lotus Elise and does look vaguely similar, it reportedly shares less than 6% of Elise’s parts. Regardless of the dissimilarities in the headlights and taillights, these cars are notably similar. We had purchased our original Tesla Roadster to add to our collection of Lotus cars, which included two Elises and an Evora, and, although your chances of seeing these two cars together on the road are incredibly slim when they are side-by-side, there are many notable similarities. The interior, for example, is significantly more luxurious on the Roadster but essentially the same layout and design as that of the Elise. Next to each other, however, there is no doubt that these cars have something in common, and it isn’t a coincidence.


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