Thinking Outside the Box: The Making of the Tesla Truck
Sometimes the world doesn’t quite know what to make of innovators and trailblazers that have zero regard for tradition and boldly go off in their own direction, completely abandoning convention. Some hate them, some praise them, and some don’t quite know what to think of them. I am not so narcissistic to hold the Truck Trend staff up in the same company as such greats as Henry Ford, William Durant, and in the current era, Elon Musk. However, in our own little microcosm of automotive journalism, we stuck our neck out on a creative project knowing that the result would not be universally praised or popular. The result was featured in the Nov./Dec. ’16 issue on page 34 “, and if you’re a Truck Trend subscriber, you saw it on the cover of the magazine – the Tesla Model U pickup concept.
I had the idea brewing for a while, and eventually threw it out during a Truck Trend staff meeting. I initially faced some resistance among some of the more conventionally minded staff. However, once I was able to speak my peace and make the case for some of the design features of the concept, they at least came around to accepting my arguments, if not wholeheartedly agreeing. Conversely, since it became a collaborative project, some of them wanted features included that I did not feel were feasible or practical. But at the end of the somewhat messy creative process, I feel we came up with a bold, yet believable, conception of what a future Tesla pickup could look like.
We’ve already received feedback from some of you through letters and social media. As expected, the reaction has been mixed. Some of you have said a “real” truck has to have a solid rear axle and be front engine, rear drive, and body on frame. One Twitter follower bluntly stated, “A Tesla truck would not be a truck in my eyes. Gotta have some hydrocarbons burning to be a truck.”
Thankfully, my coworkers, at least to my face, did not share that same sentiment. I personally believe it was the cool features I proposed that won them over, like the optional “frunk” refrigerator, on-board air compressor with multiple outlets to run air tools, adaptive air spring suspension, and the extendable tailgate ramp allowing for a motorcycle, quad, or other wheeled implement to be loaded directly into the bed. Not to mention the multiple power outlets under the “frunk” and in the bed to charge cordless power tools, mix margaritas, or plug in a flat screen, among many other activities.
To really sell the idea of a yet nonexistent pickup we turned to the graphical expertise of Kris Horton. Without the talent of a skilled artist, this project would not have been possible and wouldn’t have received the attention it did. Don’t believe me? Just look at the chicken-scratch sketches we started with (courtesy of yours truly) and compare them with the finished product. To say the transformation was incredible would be an understatement. And this should put to rest any rumors of our renderings being merely a lipsticked Ridgeline.
I want to end by saying that I don’t “hate” the internal combustion engine, solid axles, or fully boxed steel frames. They have underpinned trucks for more than a century and will likely continue to for decades to come. However, if we only define trucks by what they have and not by what they can do, I believe we’re doing ourselves a major disservice. If a truck can tow, haul, enable recreation, go off the beaten path, and generally make our lives easier, then it shouldn’t matter what’s propelling it down the road.