Collectible EVs? This $195,000 Tesla Roadster makes the case

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Like it or not, EVs are gradually taking over the road. If you’re concerned that they’ll all be soulless overgrown luxury golf carts and no fun whatsoever, fear not. Tesla (with a little help from Lotus) already built an exhilarating electric sports car over a decade ago. It can be done.

And if you think electric cars will never be collectible, think again. A 2011 Tesla Roadster sold online last week for $195,000, about 60 grand more than it cost new and 60 grand more than a Roadster’s condition #1 (“Concours,” or “best-in-the-world”) value according to our data. It’s nearly as much as the estimated starting price for the Roadster that supposedly goes on sale next year, and that’s an all-new car. (Nobody who follows Tesla seriously expects the new Roadster to go on sale next year, as originally promised. See: Cybertruck.)

Tesla Roadster side profile
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The story of the original Tesla Roadster goes back to the early 2000s. Tesla was awash in Elon Musk’s PayPal dollars and developing the cutting edge battery tech that would eventually help EVs go mainstream. But there was one problem—no car to put it in. So Tesla crossed the pond and knocked on the doors at Lotus, with a keen eye on the extruded- and bonded-aluminum chassis from the lovely little Elise. The two companies hammered out a contract calling for Lotus to supply 2500 Gliders (complete cars minus powertrain) shipped from England to California for assembly and distribution.

Telsa sold the Roadster from 2008 to 2012, and after that supply of 2500 Lotus chassis dried up, the company turned its attention from the neat two-seat targa to its real breakout hit—the Model S sedan. The Model S did more to make electric cars cool in the eyes of the public, and it helped the company (and its stock price) grow exponentially in the years since. But the Roadster was Tesla’s opening act, and as far as opening acts go, it was a pretty cool one.

Tesla Roadster interior dash gauges
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The Roadster wasn’t just Tesla’s first ever production car, it was also the first production EV to utilize the lithium-ion battery cells we hear so much about, and in 2018 it became the first production car to show us its taillights from orbit. It’s out of this world … literally! And as EVs become more prevalent in our lives, the significance of the Tesla Roadster can only grow. Add to that historical significance the fact that it’s a handsome, fast, fun sports car with a high price tag and low production numbers, and you have all the collectible car ingredients right there. And with rising interest and rising prices, we put the Roadster on this year’s Bull Market List of cars that are poised for growth over the next 12 months.

Tesla Roadster front
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Looks like we made a good pick. The Roadster sold on Bring a Trailer is a 1318-mile car acquired new by the seller’s father, plus it’s equipped with the Sport package that got better suspension and more power. Back when it was new in 2011, the MSRP was about 130 grand ($158K adjusted for inflation), compared to about 52 grand for a perfectly good 2011 Lotus Elise.

Is $195,000 the ceiling for a low-mile Tesla two-seater, or does the OG EV only keep growing? Time will tell. For now, though, this Radiant Red car is the most expensive Roadster we’ve seen by quite a bit, so it’s fitting that the winning bidder’s name is “@MaxProsperity.”

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