Trucks & SUVs

What The Heck Was The Inspiration For Tesla Cybertruck?

Yeah, the Tesla Cybertruck definitely has its detractors. But industrial design is a complex web of factors that all end up determining the final design. There isn’t enough space to accurately discuss those factors. What might help to explain the design is what the heck inspired the Cybertruck. Or, what has come before to signal what has become the Cybertruck.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has over the course of several years said that the Tesla pickup truck will look like something out of the movie Bladerunner. Syd Mead, the designer of the vehicles and general atmosphere in Bladerunner said this about the Cybertruck, It has “completely changed the vocabulary of the personal truck market design.” 

He then went on to say the design was “stylistically breathtaking” continuing that it went beyond his expectations. Mead said he was “flattered” to hear Musk associate the Cybertruck to his work close to 40 years ago for the movie. 

OK, so much for the genesis of the design. But there are plenty more design cues from many eras and professions that factor into the design. Let’s take a look. 

DMC Delorean

DMC Delorean 1977
DMC Delorean 1977

Though it echoes its time when flat surfaces and hard edges were at the leading edge of design, there’s more. The most obvious connection to the Cybertruck is the stainless steel body panels. Absolutely without precedent when it showed up in 1977, the Delorean established the body surface could be distinctive, yet easy to maintain. And it could hold up to salt on roads and damp environments without so much as a blemish. This was in contrast to the steel bodies of all vehicles that rust away in time. 

Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter

US AirForce Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawk taking-off at the Dubai AirShow 2007 | Getty Images)

All car designers are inspired by the environment, and what’s in that environment? Well, planes for sure. As one of the few vehicles that one can seek inspiration from, fighter jets and military airplanes were inspiring car designers since the 1930s. Where do you think the Cadillac fin came from? It started with the P-38 planes of WWII. 

So it was natural when we could see the silhouette of an F-117 in the silhouette of the Cybertruck. Does it translate to the Cybertruck? In my honest opinion, no. I have gone on record to say if this part of the top could just transition to the windshield without the hard angle it would settle down the design and work better overall. 

“Spinner” from Bladerunner

Batmobile Tumbler
Details of the Tumbler Batmobile | Getty Images

Musk has specifically said this was an inspiration for the Cybertruck. Can you see it? We see it mainly in the sail panels, but the overall starkness has some relation as well.

Lotus Esprit From The Spy Who Loved Me James Bond movie

Lotus Esprit,
| Getty

First, we need to say Elon Musk owns the actual movie prop. If he has it at home he sees it every day. Whatever he sees in it he obviously wants to see it translated into his pet project. The Esprit came out in 1977, so it’s from the same era as the Delorean. Are you seeing a pattern?

First Gen Honda Ridgeline Pickup

Honda Ridgeline | Honda
Honda Ridgeline | Honda

Though it may have been subliminal, the Ridgeline has a similar silhouette if you dismiss the pointy top. Especially how the sail panels tie into the bed of the truck, it has a lot of the same character. Being similar to a Ridgeline is not a bad thing. Truck people tend to dismiss the Ridgeline because it is unibody instead of body-on-frame, but it handles better than those conventional trucks, and has more impact integrity. Love it or hate it, we know you can see similarities.

Chevy Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT

Chevy Avalanche | GM
Chevy Avalanche | GM

Similar to the Ridgeline in that the top extends into the bed with sail panels. Not similar to the Cybertruck in almost every other way.

Batmobile Tumbler

Batmobile Tumbler
Batmobile Tumbler | Getty

Is it bad that actual vehicle design is being influenced by fantasy movie vehicles? There are really no parameters in designing movie vehicles other than how aggressive it compares to the storyline, and how believable its features and styling is relative to the storyline. In this instance, we see similarities, though each vehicle’s function is completely different.