Electric Car History Lost In Fire: Tzero and Tesla Roadsters Burn Away



Tzero (Tesla Roadster predecessor) and Tesla Roadster lost in a fire caused by an experimental repair on a bricked Roadster (Image Credit: Peter Gruber via Flickr)

A garage that was practically a museum of electric car history burned to the ground last week in Arizona.

It was a sad day at Gruber Motors, home to several Tesla Roadsters, an original AC Propulsion Tzero, and an EV Smart, among other battery electric cars and parts. Apparently, the workers at Gruber were attempting an experimental repair on one of the Roadsters, when something went wrong.

The Tzero was the inspiration for the Tesla Roadster, and it was actually what was shown to investors to get support to move forward with the Roadster. AC Propulsion only built three Tzeros, but later supplied the initial electric drivetrain for the Roadster. According to discussion on the Tesla Motors Club forum, only two of the Tzeros were known to still exist as of last week. Now there is only one.


Pete Gruber posted a picture on flickr showing Gruber Motors just 4 hours before the fire, and the aftermath.

The fire also took with it six Tesla Roadsters, and basically everything else inside, and the building itself. There aren’t many details as to the exact nature of the “experimental” repair, and it is not known for sure if the lithium-ion batteries were a cause, but it would be a sure bet that they fueled the fire to its 3-alarm status. Due to the batteries, the fire department couldn’t simply spray water on the flames, without causing a “significant hazard.”

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident, but the loss of iconic electric cars is devastating to Pete Gruber, the owner of Gruber Motors, and others involved.

Source: Tesla Motors Club, AZ Central via Teslarati

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39 Comments on "Electric Car History Lost In Fire: Tzero and Tesla Roadsters Burn Away"

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Dang…Even if the EV’s didn’t cause the problem (sounds like it may have), big oil will certainly use this for propaganda…

How can they? Gas cars catch fire every day (evan when sitting in the driveway as my neighbor would tell you) so what is the problem?

You’re new here, aren’t you.

EV bashers have been surprisingly successful at using the very few fires in PEVs (Plug-in EVs) to portray them as “dangerous”, even though the rate of car fires is significantly lower in PEVs than it is in gasmobiles, and nobody has ever died in a PEV car fire… unlike fires in gasmobiles.

If you repeat a Big Lie often enough, all too many people will believe it.

OT: Why do you use PEV when most everywhere else people use BEV?

If I was only talking about BEVs, then I would have said BEVs. The term PEV includes both PHEVs and BEVs.

Two of the PEV battery fires that EV bashers talk about incessantly were in wrecked Volts… which of course are PHEVs and not BEVs.

Pu-Pu said:
“and nobody has ever died in a PEV car fire”

That is not true.

A Tesla owner in Indianapolis died in a Tesla fire when he let his drunk co-worker drive. She promptly crashed and the car immediately caught fire. The co-worker/driver died upon impact, but the Tesla owner/passsenger died in the subsequent fire.

A Tesla owner in California who was a CPA died in a Tesla fire when his Tesla drove off a canyon road and burst in to flames.

In China a pair of passengers took car service in a Tesla X crashed, and were trapped in the back seat when the Model X falcon-wing doors refused to open. The Model X was upright and hadn’t rolled over. Lucky for them, they were still conscious and able to crawl out of the front doors as the car caught quickly fire and became engulfed in flames. Tesla dodged a bullet there.

“A Tesla owner in California who was a CPA died in a Tesla fire when his Tesla drove off a canyon road and burst in to flames.”

Dude, your “performance art” posts in support of the StopTesla campaign are getting a bit tiresome. The joke is wearing thin, okay?


If someone plunged off a cliff to his/her death, then it was the sudden stop at the end that killed him or her… not the fire which followed.


Your other assertions there… well, your performance art fiction or half-truths aren’t really amusing, and whatever entertainment value they may once have had is long since dead.

Well Pushi, the point is that SVEN makes intelligent, ACCURATE statements – no one would EVER accuse YOU of that. But the cliff-diver did save on his cremation – when “S”‘s ‘go’ they get good and hot. That Indianapolis case where the FBI agent and his girl friend died was an eye opener – drivers in OTHER CARS said they had to dodge flying assemblies exploding out of the car. The point here though – is the only TESLA BASHER IS YOU!!!! YOU accused Musk of selling ‘fault-laden’ cars, and then not honoring the warranty – of which there was no warranty issue to honor in the first place. And you’ve never apologized for it, nor specified what the FAULT(S) were supposedly, or what your GREAT BRAIN idea would be to correct it. As someone who is TOO CHEAP to even buy an inexpensive used EV for a relative, it is more than annoying that you constantly offer your ‘supreme expertise’ on those of us, such as SVEN, or myself who am on my 5th plug-in-electric. The fact that you are so far removed from even being near an EV (I know, you rode in the back seat of an… Read more »
The EVs didn’t cause the fire, it was the owner who essentially was “playing with fire” by not respecting the voltage thresholds while trying to recover a ‘bricked’ battery pack. It was stupidity that resulted in this, all the way around. In no way should you be storing priceless irreplaceable cars in the same building you’re ding “experiments’ with high energy batteries, let alone when you’re not following proper precautions and procedures. These guys got in over their heads, and I hate to say it was their head that got them into this mess. It was bound to happen to them sooner or later. I’m just glad it didn’t happen to a customer who had their EV worked on by them, that could have resulted in a home fire where people are sleeping. If you did have work done by this company, I’d for sure have a true professional like Tesla look it over to ensure its safe. Again, the EV didn’t cause this fire, it was the lack of expertise, experience, and mindset that led up to this. Curious if any customers such as Roadster customers had their PEM or battery pack there at the time of the fire.… Read more »

It is sad, but ultimately if he owns the Tzero there really isn’t anyone else with standing to tell him where he can’t store it. To you or I it’s an important thing, to him it’s just another thing he owns that he has to pay to store. And storing it under a roof he already has is pretty cost-effective.

In some jurisdictions, the fact that he owned the car wouldn’t make any difference: For anyone not formally certified to work on a high voltage (100V+) system, including automotive, to do so would be a criminal offense.

That has nothing to do with it. First of all, you don’t know the people who worked on it weren’t certified. This was a company, Gruber Motors.

Second of all, we’re talking about whether the car was burnt up by being there, not whether they should have worked on the car.

And finally, if the government wants to lock people up for working on electrical systems they can start with me. Ridiculous.

Should’ve had a proper cardox system anywhere they were working on batteries. If the work was done in the pictured garage, clearly they did not.

Sooooooo guns don’t kill people, people do?


Well if you wanted to be 100% correct….
There have been cases where guns self discharged killing or injuring so guns do kill people…sometimes.

Without being handled in any way or dropped? That’s bordering on impossible. An inanimate object in a steady state doesn’t just change state without some outside influence.

DJ said:

“Sooooooo guns don’t kill people, people do?”

I suppose we should have expected one of our resident EV bashers to make a pointless analogy here to further his EV bashing.

Electricity can be dangerous; high amp electricity more so. Anyone who’s an adult should know that you shouldn’t mess around with live high amperage systems unless you’ve had special training; and those who have had the proper training should know enough to use the proper safety procedures.

Trying to paint EVs as inherently dangerous — like a gun — just because they use electricity, is as stupid as saying plumbing is inherently dangerous because people can drown in a bathtub.

Ah jayzus. That really hit me in the gut. ?

I highly doubt it.

Bless your little heart.

Here’s hoping the one remaining tZero is properly preserved, hopefully in an automotive museum somewhere. The car which served as the prototype for Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, is an important part of automotive history!

There’s still a red one out there in California I believe. It’s the one I saw.

I wonder if this could be repaired, despite the extensive damage. The chassis is basically a Piontek Sportech kit car. So maybe you can get a new one of those and put this car’s drivetrain parts into it?

It is an important piece of car history, it could be worth the effort.

@unlucky and @Pushmi-Pullyu

It sucks that several vehicles were destroyed, but the Roadsters and Smarts are common enough… the Tzero being destroyed is a tragic loss.

Is the other Tzero in a museum of some kind? If not it probably should be.

There is an EV1 at the Smithsonian correct? It would be nice if that Tzero was there as well so these pieces of EV history can be preserved together.

“There is an EV1 at the Smithsonian correct? It would be nice if that Tzero was there as well so these pieces of EV history can be preserved together.”

An EV1 at the Smithsonian… that sounds right.

But I’d nominate the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village as the place to display the tZero. (Not “Tzero”. The name refers to a mathematical term, t(sub)0, a symbol used in mathematics referring to the starting point or the beginning of time within a system.) The Henry Ford museum actually has sufficient space to display… if not everything in their collection, then certainly the majority of it. As I understand it, the various Smithsonian museums, like most museums, only have about 10% of their collections out on display; the rest is in storage at any given time.

If you’ve never visited the Henry Ford Museum, then it should definitely be on your bucket list! I’ve been there several times and would happily visit again.

Remember when the Corvette museum sank into a sinkhole?

@hit happens, as the say.

Hope he can resurrect the Tzero.

One might now coin this as, they pulled a Gruber!”

Man, you really Grubered that up good!

“They were using an experimental procedure to ‘recover’ a bricked Tesla Roadster battery and the battery caught fire.”

Rumors are that they were trying to recover the bricked battery by applying over-voltage. But I haven’t seen a properly sourced article to confirm it.

If so, this could be very similar to the destructive testing that GM was doing that caused an explosion in GM’s destructive test lab. The big difference being that GM was smart enough to do their work in a test lab, and not in the GM museum…

There’s a good reason why over-discharged battery get’s bricked and trying to unbrick it is a scary idea.

While it is possible to recover over-discharged li-ion cells, and they may seem OK after the procedure, it’s impossible know if there is internal damage that may ignite the cell any time. You just can’t trust in safety of recovered cells.

A damn shame! Hopefully they learned something about having a safe and secure environment to work in and good protocols. For example, doing experiments in a building with terrible fire safety and full of expensive and irreplaceable cars turned out to be a bad idea! Imagine that!

Batteries are still too dangerous and should be banned 🙁

*Sigh* 🙄

I take it you’re not aware that car fires are more common than apartment fires.

Gasoline is considerably more dangerous than batteries as a method of powering cars. Statistically, about three times as likely to cause a fire.


BMW also has some trouble with their gasoline vehicles this way: 40 have caught fire in the last five years.. Investigators supposedly have found nothing in common regarding the fires other than, they always happen sometime AFTER the cars are shut off.

An initial supposition is that most newer cars are never completely shut off ever, and there is something along that line that is causing the fire.

My own thoughts on this are careful conservative fusing, along with infrared sensing of shut down vehicles prior to release to the public surely would have either Caught the offending problem in the bud, or else would have shut it down as it happened.

As it is, this will end up getting rather expensive for BMW to rectify, since sometimes the garage/house also burns down.

I reckon it won’t be too long before all electric vehicles must have outside access to a emergency battery cut off switch

We’ve gone decades with gas car fires, and still no external emergency fuel cutoff system. So I’m not really sure why EV’s would have such a system, when people dying in EV fires happens less often than in gas cars.

I don’t think it would do anything. That’s only useful for ensuring the skin of the car isn’t electrified. With a fire, once the fire starts burning the battery it isn’t going to stop because you shut off the electricity.

I don’t know that I see the point.

Not to say you don’t have a point, Unlucky, but emergency responders are taught to disconnect the main power of a damaged or wrecked EV before attempting to put out a fire or remove someone from the vehicle.

I presume there is a good reason for that.

Clearly the EV equivalent of a ‘tragic gasoline fight accident’ ?

Hey! It’s just a little fire – don’t get all bent out of shape!

After all, the cars are “ludicrously” fast when they’re not ablaze!

They couldn’t just spray water on? Why not? The proper way to deal with an EV on fire is to spray water on it, and keep doing so long after flames are extinguished since the chemical reaction keeps releasing a lot of heat and can reignite the flame unless there’s sufficient cooling.

This at least is what my local fire department informed us when the condo board asked what we should do in the event of an electric car catching fire in our garage. We wondered if CO2 powder was the way to go, but they explained that the main thing in a battery fire is cooling, and lots of water is the best way to do it. Clean freshwater is a very poor conductor, so it’s hard to see what hazard it should present.

Are you intentionally posting B.S., Terawatt? It’s very hard for me to believe any trained firefighter would tell the average citizen to spray water on a burning EV. Even aside from the well-known hazard of using water on an electrical fire — something which perhaps you’ll learn as you grow up — no ordinary garden hose is going to provide a sufficient volume of water to cool down a burning EV battery pack. Even professional firefighters sometimes just stand back and let an EV burn, because the heat is so fierce and the fire so difficult to extinguish. Airline flight attendants are indeed trained to use water to put out a laptop battery fire. As I recall, the instructions are to empty three bottles of water over the laptop, to cool it down, and then use a CO2 extinguisher on it to smother the flames. But that’s for a very small li-ion battery pack; only a few cells involved. A burning EV battery pack puts out orders of magnitude more heat. And of course, inside a garage, the fire may spread to electrical wiring… which is another reason you wouldn’t want someone who’s not a trained firefighter to spray water… Read more »