13 Famous Cars That Inspired Tesla Cybertruck's Radical Design

Dec 2, 2019 by Jay Traugott

We've seen that wedge-theme before. Many times.

The fallout from the reveal of the all-new Tesla Cybertruck is still being felt. Some love it. Others despise it. Others can't stop rendering it with extreme modifications. And yet, as of this writing, over 250,000 pre-order reservations have been placed. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is clearly not afraid of taking risks. Although we'll still have to wait until sometime in 2021 for the first Cybertrucks to hit the road, there's still much to talk about. Especially the design.

Now, it's wedge-shaped, obviously. Very wedge-shaped. But it's not the first production vehicle to feature such styling. In fact, the wedge design theme dates back to the 1970s when Italdesign embraced it with many now-iconic exotics from some of the most recognizable carmakers.

To say the Cybertruck's design is completely revolutionary is not entirely true. Heck, there were even a couple more recent pickup trucks with non-traditional styling which could have partially inspired Tesla.

Lotus Esprit

Elon Musk has made his love of movies no secret. Science fiction in particular. Before the Cybertruck's reveal, he hinted it would have styling inspired by the future world of "Blade Runner." He was right. But his EV pickup truck also has some English supercar influence. The Lotus Esprit launched in 1975 with dramatic wedge styling penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Italdesign.

Lotus Esprit Submarine

Because the Lotus Esprit's styling was simply cool as hell, it won a starring role as James Bond's custom-built submarine in the 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me." In fact, Elon Musk himself recently wrote on Twitter that the Esprit submarine partly influenced the Cybertruck's design. Yep, the Cybertruck was inspired by a fictional car turned submarine that Elon Musk bought back in 2013.

DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12 can be described as a successful failure. Former GM big wig John Z. DeLorean had big dreams for his newly found and self-named sports car company, but there were major problems. Mismanagement, financing from a drug deal gone wrong, and inexperienced Irish factory employees, were just a few issues. What could go wrong? Literally everything. But the stainless steel-bodied DeLorean itself, also a creation of Giorgetto Giugiaro at Italdesign, earned eternal fame following a certain mad scientist turning one into a time machine in "Back to the Future." Like Doc Brown said, "If you're gonna build a time machine into a car why not do with some style?" Elon Musk agreed.

Honda Ridgeline

When Honda revealed its first-generation Ridgeline pickup truck for the 2006 model year, many could hardly believe it was a real pickup truck. For starters, it didn't ride on a traditional body-on-frame chassis but rather a segment-first fully independent suspension. It also didn't look like any other truck on the market thanks to its radical styling. The unusual inclined profile on the sides and oddly-shaped rear windows were just two styling elements that turned away some old school truck buyers. Despite this, the first-gen Ridgeline proved a sales success; it lasted through the 2014 model year.

Dodge Maxx Concept

Back in 2000, Dodge was producing some of the coolest-looking cars on the road. While general build quality had its ups and downs and interior styling was often less than impressive, exterior design was solid. One such example, which never made production, was 2000's Dodge Maxx Concept. First shown at that year's Detroit Auto Show, Dodge billed it as a "Passenger Priority Truck." Though it was built on a Dodge Dakota chassis, it sported unusual proportions thanks to its shortened bed and "cab forward" design. Clearly not as radical-looking as the Cybertruck, the Maxx Concept and its family-friendly interior layout approach also managed to spark anger amongst true truck people.


The CitiCar has something else in common with the Cybertruck aside from its angled appearance: electrification. The CitiCar, built by US company Sebring-Vanguard between 1974 and 1977, was a pure EV. Its small size and emissions-free powertrain were inspired by the fuel crisis at the time. Weighing only 1,300 pounds, the CitiCar was clearly not for everyone but it still managed to sell fairly well. A total of 4,444 units were built up to 1979 – the highest number of EVs assembled in North America until production kicked off on a certain other EV, the Tesla Model S.

Lamborghini Countach

Of course, the Lamborghini Countach was going to make this list. The iconic Italian supercar was penned by Marcello Gandini at Bertone and literally looked like nothing else when it premiered back in 1974. Even compared to its Miura predecessor the Countach was unusually shaped, but it worked. Having a V12 and the forever cool scissor doors also helped make the case. The Countach's design certainly wasn't lost on Musk when conceiving the Cybertruck.

Citroen Karin Concept

French automaker Citroen has always carved its own path in both design and engineering. Although not sold in the US, classic Citroens can still be found among collectors. But chances are none of them will own this: the 1980 Karin concept. This pyramid-like concept premiered at the 1980 Paris Motor Show and aside from its edgy design, it incorporated a lot of glass. Perhaps too much. Having glass shatter all around you following a crash won't end well. Good thing the Karin remained a concept only. Turns out glass panels over your head were not the way to go.

Aston Martin Bulldog

The Aston Martin Bulldog was a one-off concept that premiered in 1979. Interestingly, a limited production run was initially planned of around 15 to 25 cars, but this was scrapped due to high production costs. Not only does it feature gullwing doors and hidden headlamps, but its interior actually utilizes LED touchscreens. Unlike other wedge-themed exotics and concepts of this era, the Bulldog was not Italian designed but rather penned by British designer William Towns.

Porsche Tapiro

Before Porsche launched its front-engined 928, it experimented in wedge styling. The Porsche Tapiro premiered at the 1970 Turin Auto Show, but it was based on the then-current 914/6. Power came courtesy of a mid-mounted flat-six with 220 horsepower. Aside from being an extremely unique-looking Porsche, the Tapiro also has the honor of being Italdesign's first-ever attempt at wedge styling. Giugiaro, of course, came up with the design.


Who could ever forget the BMW M1? As the original M car, the M1 looked unlike another BMW at the time, once again thanks to Italdesign. It was also the German automaker's first-ever mid-engined car built in large numbers. Although its racing career was short-lived, a total of just 453 road cars were built, from 1978 through 1981. It was also designed at right around the same time as the DeLorean, hence the many styling similarities.

Ferrari 308 GT4

Also known as the Dino 308 GT4, the Ferrari 308 GT4 was revealed in 1973 and came with Dino badging until 1976. Not only was the 308 GT4 groundbreaking for Ferrari in that it was the first mid-engined model to have a V8, but it was also designed by Bertone. Normally at that time, Ferrari turned to Pininfarina to handle exterior designs, but it wanted to offer something different. Pininfarina, to say the least, was not happy.

Lancia Stratos

Arguably one of the coolest cars of all time, the Lancia Stratos was a head-turner at rally races and on public roads. Marcello Gandini was responsible for the design. Like Ferrari, Lancia typically hired Pininfarina to design its cars, but Bertone was given this task instead. Is it because Lancia knew Bertone and Gandini's wedge styling better suited the Stratos' racing requirements? Perhaps. Only 492 examples were produced and the Stratos has since achieved icon level status.