It is rare in this writer’s experience to write a design critique of a car that was announced several years ago, has recently been redesigned, and is still not in the showrooms.

Oh, I forgot, there aren’t any showrooms (or maybe one or two – I know for sure there’s one in Santa Monica) Tesla keeps postponing this model's production but they did freshen it up. Who knows if it may yet be postponed again and have to be freshened again.

Franz von Holzhausen is Tesla’s US vehicle designer. Since 2008, he has been in charge of design at Tesla. He designed the Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, and the unveiled but not-yet-released Cybertruck, the Semi, and what they persist in calling the second-generation Tesla Roadster. Anyway here’s my reaction.

Front End

The fact it has no grille cavity isn’t so obvious since the black area below the bumper line gives some sort of grille impression and may be taking in air but not for an ICE engine. The grille-less look of other Teslas always struck me as people wearing masks over their mouths (now a common sight).

Tesla Roadster


Although the indented side with a chiseled half running board is stolen from the Camaro, it does give the mass some interesting solidity. To have it just gradually bowing out would make it look too much like the Opel GT of decades ago. The air scoop behind the rear 3/4 window is stolen off the Lamnorghini Miura but nicely done.

Having a targa top gets rid of all that could go wrong with the retractable hardtops. Why the press keeps calling it a roadster is inexplicable other than lazy journalism. A roadster is a fully open car. it was never a roadster even in the Lotus-based version. A fixed rear roof structure supporting a hatchback means it’s a targa roofed coupe.

The vent in the front fenders imitates vents on numerous ICE cars, used to ventilate hot engine compartments. I’d like to know what they are venting (would hate to think there’s something phony on such a highly utilitarian design).


*Above imagery by Wallace Wyss


Nice flush fitting-when-down retractable spoiler. Under-tray vertical fins suggest some attempt at controlling air flowing under the car but we won’t know if they are partially cosmetic until we see a bottom shot.

Italian Connection

The performance of the roadster (targa coupe) is predicted to be of hypercar/supercar level, 250 mph, 0-to-60 mph in under 2 seconds, which achievement-wise pits it against some of the most expensive Ferraris (even the SF90 Stradale only does a pitiful 175 mph...). But there are still those supercar lovers who yearn for the aura imbued by a car being Italian-styled, so a wise move would be to set up a small satellite studio in Italy to do a re-styling, and have those models carry an Italian badge, named after some plush resort area in Italy like Carrozzeria Lago d'Como. 


Nice design by their chief designer. One that won’t grow old, no matter how much longer we have to wait for a production model. I would even like to see the bottom vertical under-tray fins underplayed more and the top spoiler made wider as long as it still hides flush deck when not needed.

I doubt the front spoiler is deployable but if it isn’t, they might consider it since they are talking Ferrari-like speeds. Bad stuff can happen if you have a nose lift above 150 mph (as Ford found out at LeMans in ’64m forcing them to fabricate hasty mash-up front spoilers in the pits).


*Above imagery by Wallace Wyss

Performance, Price And Production

The performance claims are scary, under 2 seconds for 0-60 mph. I think that goal should be looked at with a cautionary view. There are even rumors of a Space-X package for another $50K that could get you down to 1.1 seconds. The headrests need to be re-designed to protect against the neck-snapping jerk from a standstill that acceleration ability could produce. I’d be happy with a mere 4.2 sec. 0-60 mph, say some time equal to a $300,000 Ferrari.

The price seems to have risen every time I hear it – now over $200,000 and again that production date is moved, this time to 2023. But even with four factories — Fremont, Texas, Berlin, Shanghai – poor Elon can’t delay the long-promised Cybertruck again or the Semi or the Model 2 (temporary name) to make a “playtoy” like the targa coupe (there, I finally called a spade a spade) so which one to prioritize? Decisions, decisions…



Wallace Wyss is a long time auto journalist, author of 18 books. He has guest-lectured on design at the Art Center College.  Wyss is also a fine artist. For information on how to obtain his car paintings write to

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