Elon Musk Roadster

When Elon Musk drove the first production Tesla Roadster to Jay Leno’s Garage

Jay Leno takes us back in time when Elon Musk visited his garage with the first-ever production Tesla Roadster.


This is not only the ‘Production Tesla Roadster 001’ but also the first-ever Tesla produced — Jay Leno has just dug some interesting discussion with the Tesla CEO Elon Musk when he visited his garage to present his dream-come-true of an electric sports car.

Both these legends of the automotive industry expounded some interesting and important information during this short session — actually this footage never aired on Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube channel, it probably was telecasted on CNBC in 2008 but at that time Elon Musk wasn’t as established as a visionary as he is today.

Jay Leno owns one of the first-ever electric cars, the 1909 Baker Electric from the automotive history’s Brass Era (1896 – 1915), the car is still in running condition but he now powers it with deep-cycle batteries sourced from the golf carts, following is an advert of this electric car in the Washington Post newspaper published 19 Oct 1913.

By The Washington Post – The Washington Post, Public Domain, Link

Building the original Tesla Roadster

During his conversation at the time, Elon Musk shared some important details that clarify the confusion on how the original Tesla Roadster was created — although the original Tesla Roadster was based on the Lotus Elise chassis, according to Musk in this video, it shares only about 8% of the car parts with the Elise.

Actually when compared to the Lotus Elise, the early Tesla Roadster was:

  • Around 40% heavier (2,650 lb / 1,202 kg vs. 1598.4 lb / 725 kg)
  • 6 inches longer
  • Door sill lowered
  • Wheelbase longer by 3 inches

There’s not a single body panel in common with the Lotus, this is an all-carbon-fiber body. Only about 8% of the parts in the car are actually Lotus heritage.

— Elon Musk

The body panels were made by a supplier named Sotira in France, the glider (the body frame) was then sent to the UK where Lotus would fit in the chassis — in the final round, the car would land in California where Tesla installed the powertrain (battery, motors, power electronics, and transmission).

The video also shared some interesting renderings of the classic Tesla Roadster which showed the powertrain components of this compact electric sports car — I grabbed the following one and marked the Motor, Battery Pack, and the unique battery coolant intake, yes the original Roadster had this too, today’s Tesla Model 3 and Model Y have some super-advanced battery cooling systems.

Early Tesla Roadster’s battery pack and drivetrain aerial view. Credits: Tesla via Jay Leno’s Garage.

The early Tesla Roadster broke the myth that electric cars were not at all feasible and Elon Musk is the stupidest man on the planet to attempt such a financial suicide but it all turned out good and in the later stages the automaker achieved its first milestone, the realization of Elon’s first part of the Tesla master plan.

The Battery Pack

Early Tesla Roadster’s battery pack and drivetrain illustrated. Credits: Tesla via Jay Leno’s Garage.

Tesla Roadster besides being a Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD) vehicle also had the battery pack set up at the rear, it basically occupied most of the trunk area — as Elon Musk describes in the Jay Leno’s show, the battery consisted of exactly 6,831 cells.

Inside the battery pack there are blades that isolate each individual cell, the advantage of this architecture is that if one or several cells dysfunction, get damaged, or catch fire, the rest of the cell units are not going to be affected by the malfunction, if this is not pure genius, what is? Imagining it all happened 13 years ago not today.

2-Speed Transmission

The early production Tesla Roadster units were shipped with 2-speed transmission installed but as Elon Musk told Jay Leno in this show, the 1-speed transmission was already int he works.

Auto Blog had documented the exact events related to the early issues in the Tesla Roadster transmission that also delayed the production at one point, ultimately the development of the single-speed transmission resolved the break-down issue completely.


The original 2008 Tesla Roadster’s successful launch and production was not only the pinnacle of Tesla’s brilliant future but also a silent call that an electric vehicle revolution was rooting silently, as silent as this car drove!



By Iqtidar Ali

Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii