Vellum Venom: 2024 Tesla Cybertruck

Sajeev Mehta

“For the Suprematist, the proper means is the one that provides the fullest expression of pure feeling and ignores the habitually accepted object.”

– Kazimir Malevich

The perfection of bare geometry popularized by Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich has arguably created some of the most controversial paintings of all time. Take, for example, the one that looks like he painted a white square on a white canvas.

“Suprematist Composition: White on White”, Kazimir Malevich, 1918The Museum of Modern Art | Public Domain

People often revile such minimalism, especially when it comes with a similarly radical price tag: I’ve lost count of how many people think they can replicate suprematism with a can of white paint, display it in a gallery, and get chumps to buy it for insane prices. Except these haters (as it were) never woulda considered doing it in the first place had it not been for artists like Malevich. And I reckon they weren’t already immersed in abstractionist theory, ensuring art remains unbounded and unrestricted by human constructs.

Automotive design is significantly different, as it can only take a pure form so far before things like safety regulations, functional requirements, and manufacturing constraints come into play. The suprematist design of the Tesla Cybertruck threaded that needle shockingly well, much to the beholder’s delight/dismay. So let’s run it over the vellum and see what conclusions come to the surface.

Sajeev Mehta

Tesla’s design team and their controversial CEO likely didn’t have Russian suprematism on their minds when fashioning the low-resolution Cybertruck. The front end has a unique stainless-steel face and light signature that resembles the mask of a superhero, with a strong neck (bumper) below and a monolithic mane of glass shooting back from an impossibly flat hood.

Sajeev Mehta

Headlights lie between the “mask” and the neck below, and searching for them is almost unnecessary. It takes away from the sheer joy of the hard lines of the fenders and windscreen, which share a vanishing point that is easier to explain than on any other automobile in production.

Sajeev Mehta

I am terrible with sci-fi references, but this cloistered space for sensors and cameras reminds me of some spaceship’s appendage from a Star Wars movie.

Sajeev Mehta

The perfectly flat, trapezoidal shape of the Cybertruck’s windscreen is part of the vehicle’s radical signature, as it blends seamlessly with the hood. It’s reminiscent of design studies from Italian studios in the 1970s, or Trevor Fiore’s Citroën Karin from 1980.

Sajeev Mehta

Part of the windscreen’s appeal comes from the lack of a cowl to house the wiper blades and fresh air ducting for the HVAC system. Here, the only functional element of the cowl is the oddly shaped footprint for the base of the Cybertruck’s massive wiper arm mounted at the lower right. Singular, because the other side is just unadulterated glass.

Sajeev Mehta

Just below the seemingly non-existent cowl is one of the most understated, distraction free hoods ever to grace a pickup truck.

The only issue is how the stainless steel fenders and hood butt up against each other. Looking more like unfinished construction than a mass-produced machine is almost part of the equation, however: A case can be made that these are akin to blade fenders on older luxury vehicles. That case may be poppycock, but it’s convincing in person.

Sajeev Mehta

Appalling panel gaps aside, the superhero mask makes more sense from this angle. The front fascia, fender, hood, and lighting strip all look like items you’d see on a “normal” vehicle, but they’ve been reduced to their most basic forms, like a full-face helmet on a motorcyclist.

Sajeev Mehta

But when you step back and admire (as it were) the whole design, you see how Malevich’s suprematism is contorted into cyberpunk transport for elitists escaping a dystopian future: There’s a cab-forward cabin, angry angles and slashes, a squinty light bar under a furrowed brow, and headlights that are forced out of the equation.

That squinty light bar took a fair bit of surfacing to come to fruition. While the hood is close to flat, its outer contour makes the lights’ general shape. Below is the front fascia in stainless steel and a black plastic(?) textured filler panel. That filler panel allows the radically angled light bar to make sense with the far flatter stainless steel face (with only two bends on its profile). Panel fitment between the light, filler panel, and fascia is surprisingly good.

The Cybertruck takes to the next level the modern designer’s mantra of hiding headlights in places normally reserved for understated fog lights. This is pure architectural excellence, worthy of an office building or a high-end living space.

Below the front license plate bracket lies a rather ordinary, almost HVAC contractor–grade grille. Which is a nice throwback in an era of overdone grilles on modern vehicles, and there’s even a shutter mechanism to seal off the system and reduce aerodynamic drag.

The civil engineering references continue elsewhere on the bumper, as the plastic trimmed tow hook and its garage door–like background remind me of a loading dock in some Robocop-ian action scene. To the right of the hook is a front valance with clever angles that make the light dance on its body.

The Cybertruck’s frunk is nothing to sneeze at, but the hexagonal washer fluid reservoir cap and the contrast of the stainless steel hood against its aluminum substructure are fascinating in their presentation of geometric supremacy.

The transition to the side view is challenging. The vertical fender looks uncomfortably static against the downward slope of the wheel arch, but it makes more sense when stepping back and seeing the A-pillar blend with that arch.

And what an A-pillar this truly is. It’s intentions are fully realized by the hood and front fender, much like on a Ford Aerostar. Except Ford’s minivan wasn’t clad in stainless steel, with this material’s minimal surfacing requirements. The harsh angles and semi-reflective finish make the sunlight and shadow absolutely dance on the Cybertruck’s profile.

Sajeev Mehta

But the rest of the body doesn’t necessarily appreciate or believe in the A-pillar’s sleek overtones. There is conflict at every point below the A-pillar, and that challenge continues down the body side. In fact, this is a vehicle that challenges you from almost every angle, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

But geometric surprise and delight lie in the details, especially how the angular fender arches complement the harsh bends present in the Cybertruck’s stainless-steel cladding. And the triangular carve-out for the camera is abstractionism worthy of an art gallery.

Sajeev Mehta

The wheel arch bends in harmony with the crease in the stainless steel, but it makes no such effort to do the same with the charcoal-colored rocker cover below it. The intersection feels like a primitive cave, or the lair of a Batman-like hero.

Sajeev Mehta

A big problem with this design stems from the wheel arches and the bespoke Goodyear tires each being designed with geometric flair in mind, but the structural wheel doesn’t want to abide. Tesla made an angular wheel cover that fit into the recesses of the tire’s sidewall, but it quickly proved to dig into the rubber in real-world driving. We are left with this unfinished wheel design instead.

Goodyear likely worked hard to make a sidewall worthy of a Tesla wheelcover, to the point of adding its Wingfoot logo where the cover ended at the sidewall. There are talks of a new wheel cover in the works, with spokes that won’t not extend into the sidewall. And with those covers comes a far more conventional tire, allegedly.

If true, that has the potential to make this Goodyear the rarest of rare tire designs on the planet.

Above the wheel arch is where the Cybertruck’s remarkable look has more merit: The body-side crease turns into a sharp, angry triangle thanks to the A-pillar and a daylight opening (DLO) that extends far ahead of the front door.

Sajeev Mehta

You don’t necessarily remember that the Cybertruck’s minimalist cowl area lacks a VIN plate. So it’s instead placed on the A-pillar, behind the windscreen.

The intersection of tinted glass and brilliant stainless steel feels right, but the weatherstripping’s fade-away action at the top of the A-pillar is a bit disconcerting. (The vehicle was dead slient at speed during my time with it.)

Sajeev Mehta

This is such a strange combination of black trim, glass, rubber, and metal (stainless steel) in an automobile. It feels more like interior design for a high-end dressing room, not an automobile.

Sajeev Mehta

That’s just the start of automotive design intersecting with architecture and interior design. A pyramid-shaped truck with stainless-steel cladding worthy of the poured concrete aesthetic of brutalism does not make for a conventional assessment normally found here at Vellum Venom.

Tesla wisely stuck with a front DLO made entirely of glass, leading to a side-view mirror mounted to the door. But since this is the Cybertruck, the mirror body is also pyramid-like, with a base that varies in thickness to keep the design from looking static at any angle.

The front door glass is as terrifyingly triangular as the side-view mirror, sporting a steep rake at the A-pillar, a modest amount of tumblehome, and an awkward door aperture with a rounded weatherstrip seal. Not having any section of the roofline parallel to the ground is beyond unconventional for a truck, but this application works: Most folks will be able to enter the Cybertruck without their heads getting anywhere near this pyramid-shaped top.

The B-pillar is remarkably conventional, as even a pyramidal roof needs an upright support. The verticality is complemented by the strong bends in the sheetmetal, complete with a door cut line that adds a forward-thrusting element to the design.

The rear door is a bit more conventional, with a radical downward slope but a more conventional-looking four-sided polygon as a sheet of glass. The shape cheats your eye at a quick glance, as the stainless steel roof cuts off at a different point than does the window’s glass. Tesla added a black plastic insert (with electronic door release) after the window glass, but for some reason this DLO FAIL makes sense as a functional door release and not just a fake vent window.

Sajeev Mehta

No such complications when looking south of the Cybertruck’s belt line, as there’s a single crease in the sheetmetal, with an almost conventional rocker cover underneath.

The rear wheel arches suffer from the same incongruity as the front (thanks to a lack of blocky wheel covers) but make for a great place for a battery-charging door. The angularity also allows for a logical transition to an integral flap at the base of the rocker panel.

Sajeev Mehta

If only the wheel design was as angular as the rest of the body, as this C-pillar takes what we saw with the Chevrolet Avalanche (i.e. flying buttress) and turns it into a razor-sharp arrowhead that loves to play with sunlight and reflections.

From a lower, more head-on view, the Cybertruck loses its arrowhead levels of sharpness. The tall, upright cladding becomes far more like a conventional truck.

But there’s nothing conventional about this truck, as no truck has ever considered the boldness of just a few lines run across its entire body. The most obvious example is the crease that runs from the top of the front end’s light bar, to the top of the rear lighting assembly.

While the pyramidal roof has more initial bite, the Cybertruck’s flavor profile comes into full view while digesting this endlessly long crease.

Much like the front end’s negative space reserved for headlights and turn signals, the space between the bed and the bumper is perfect for a side marker light.

Like a large shop window facing a street, the red lense extends around the side and to the rear, where it’s greeted by a minimalist bumper that looks like a deconstructed Ranch Hand bumper.

And much like a brutalist building that faces a main street, the Cybertruck’s bed (and tailgate) sliced off the bottom right angle to reduce the visual weight above the red “shop window” in the bumper.

Sajeev Mehta

That massive array of quadrangles comprising the bumper make plenty of sense with a flat, rectangular rear tailgate that fully extends to the Cybertruck’s corners.

Due north of that stainless-steel tailgate is one of the Cybertruck’s more impressive design features, a smoked panel with parking and brake lights. Both it and the stainless steel have chamfers to add visual tension to an otherwise flat and boring posterior. Add in the blade fenders (as seen in the front) and you have a posterior that accentuates this lighting feature.

Sajeev Mehta

The only fly in the ointment is that the minimalism promised here isn’t present when you tap the brakes and realize very little of it illuminates. It’s best to leave the parking lights on (the whole thing illuminates) and never touch the brakes. Well, in theory.

The entire panel might not be a brake light, but building a triangular footprint for the rear camera integrates well with the rest of the Cybertruck’s angular theme. The triangle’s 3-D shape also makes it easier to aim the camera correctly, without the need for amoebic tumors used on other vehicles for correct camera orientation.

Open the Cybertruck’s bed and you’re rewarded with a redundant red reflector, a deep storage well à la Honda Ridgeline, and handy power outlets, both hidden from view until needed. The onboard power is certainly appreciated but falls functionally flat compared to the plethora of outlets available in the bed/cabin/frunk of the Ford Lightning EV. The Ford also has more ergonomic outlet covers, but ergonomics were clearly not paramount in the Cybertruck’s design. (Remember, this vehicle lacks a functional rearview mirror when the tonneau cover is unfurled.)

Speaking of that tonneau cover, it operates quickly and effortlessly behind all this easily stained plastic cladding. Considering how well this stuff aged on the Pontiac Aztek and aforementioned Avalanche, the Cybertruck is going to be an automotive detailer’s nightmare. This could be just as bad as the stain-creating steel chosen for the body, but it’s certainly an exciting piece of industrial design when in perfect condition.

With the tonneau cover closed, the Cybertruck has an impressive contrast of plastic, glass and stainless steel, all meeting up like an edgeless infinity pool. The details (i.e. weatherstripping) aren’t necessarilty as elegant or weathertight as one would hope, but this isn’t a mass market vehicle.

Never forget, this contrived and polarizing design cannot appeal to everyone like a functional/practical Ford or Chevy truck, no matter what Tesla said back in 2019.

Although the build quality on this example was better than what the Internet might lead you to believe, the gaps around this panel between the tonneau cover and the glass roof clearly leave something to be desired.

Sajeev Mehta

Which is truly a shame, because the transition between bed and roof is otherwise perfect. It looks expensive. It even feels expensive, because nobody else would have the nerve to make truck with a one-piece glass roof.

Nor would anyone else dare craft a bumper of brutalist, concrete-looking blocks arranged to both play with light and mask its functionality (center step, receiver hitch cover) so effortlessly.

Even the backup lights are recessed deep within the rear bumper, much like many an iconic brutalist building.

Sajeev Mehta

But sadly, the Cybertruck as a whole cannot delight like the individual details do when examined up close. The overall design lacks refinement, something normally resulting from months of surfacing treatments by car design teams within a manufacturer. This design was meant for quick consumption on par with a meme or shitpost, not for a loving embrace with longform content in a video or a white paper.

Nothing brings this lack of detail home like a Tesla dealership that uses packaging tape to install a paper tag. Yes really: Above, that is packaging tape on the back of a luxury vehicle that someone spent/financed $102,000 to purchase. This adds a new wrinkle to retailing concerns seen elsewhere at this company.

Sajeev Mehta

Never before have I come across a design that so delights in details, yet ultimately fails in the fundamentals. These feel like the mistakes a freshman design student will make once, and only once.

The minimalist cyberpunk theme has validity to some, though it brings about equal parts excitement and cringe to yours truly. The Tesla Cybertruck is a luxury good for a unique audience, likely a demographic that mirrors those who sided with Kazimir Malevich and his artistic suprematist followers back in the day.

But this is a product made in volume, not a controversial work of art. All vehicles (especially trucks) are primarily designed to be appealing in function and form. Even a Lamborghini Urus or Porsche Cayenne can be a soccer-mom SUV, but the Cybertruck doesn’t exist in the world of fleet managers, off-roaders, or family-oriented crew cab trucks with normal things like metal roofs and durable exterior finishes.

Instead, it feasts on the social media buzz that is so important to this company’s controversial CEO. Perhaps functionality is overrated, as its worked quite well up to this point. (Just don’t tell that to some Wall Street types.) The Cybertruck is the unobtainum minimalist wedge that was the Lamborghini Countach’s exclusive territory a few decades ago. Except it’s even more polarizing, and not necessarily for the best reasons. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely day.


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    I liked reading, but especially, by the end, I liked thinking that through all of your excellently crafted sentences and delicate introspection of concepts such as Brutalism – that you truly dislike this hunk of junk as much as I do.

    I will admit that I enjoyed looking at it, that the performance is excellent, and that it has one of the best stereos I’ve sampled in a long time…but yeah, I am not a fan.

    Way too many downsides with not enough upside to compensate. I shudder to think about trying to drive this in the summer, as that glass roof has no shade and already cooks you in 80-90 degree weather. It would be downright dangerous in 100+ degree weather.

    My wife once owned a restaurant. When she retired and we tore the place down (land was worth more bare), we had a bunch of stainless steel “fixtures and equipment” like sinks, work tables, prep fridges, etc. I loaded a bunch on my trailer to bring home and stash in the barn…this was in June, I think. Lesson I learned that day: do NOT grab large pieces of stainless steel that have been baking in the sun for about an hour! I’m shuddering to think about someone leaning against a cybertruck in either shorts or a tank top (sizzle)!

    Because it is electric, because it is tied to Elon Musk, people will debate this thing until the cows come home. To me, it looks like a moderately well executed home-build project. It does not look like a production vehicle with a 6 figure sticker… attached with packaging tape. Tesla had some early success with electric cars that had greater than dismal range. I think the Cybertruck was an overreach in an attempt to keep the fire burning. It really looks like it rolled out the door too soon before they had it all figured out

    Curt Brubaker 1978 concept truck was a better design… with a lot of the cyber’s “innovations”.

    Paint a VW 181 with aluminum tremclad… (I even see customized into truck versions of 181 on some searches, give them the Ridegline buttress) and I think you see industrial slab-side better done.

    I appreciate the crazy design of Cybertruck, Nissan Cube, Nissan Juke, Kia Soul and so on. Different is a good effort, but sometimes it’s not well-executed or attractive.

    Cybertruck (to me) is neither well-executed, attractive, or even adequate for any purpose I have for a truck.

    This truck is the Howard Stern of the the automotive market. It is to stun, shock and attract attentions not always for the right reasons.

    You can explain it as eloquently as you like but in time the shock value will wear off and this will be seen for what it really is.

    I have seen a number of reviews. Lots of quality issues. The lack of cowl is running washer fluid down under the hood creating issues. The sharp panels and cause considerable pain for those who have hit them in the head with the hood up or other places.

    The drive is kind of cool as it is quick and like driving a car from the future. But then the reality of no steering feed back and the need to use turn signals to pull up the camera to find the blind spot.

    This like the gull wing doors on the X will become tired and lose their shock value. Owners will find the upkeep of the stainless a pain like Delorean owners did.

    What is funny is I was shown the tires by a Goodyear engineer last year. My first comment was the wheel covers being an issue. He said they already are and they were fighting with Musk on them.

    I was never captured by a vehicle that looks like my wifes Toaster Oven. I think Telsa could have benefited with a design that was a bit more conservative with only a few party tricks.

    What really hurt here is we saw this truck so long ago that the shock value is gone by now when we see it.

    I am not in the market for an EV truck but if I had to pick one the Hummer I find more interesting. the shapes and styling are more involved and detailed.

    It take time to design and sculpt but it is easy to hang flat panels like drywall.

    I am just glad that most of the management at Space X is under others and not Elon. I would hate to have more rockets falling on us.

    I really would like to drive one of these. I know there are many good points to it. But on the other hand do they out weigh the issues.

    Note the truck with the leak under the hood at the cowl they also had issues with staining or corrosion on the panel edges.

    What is the next issue to show up?

    Thanks for summing up this POS well. I agree Musk is a genius but when you dilute that genius, as Mr. Musk has, you get something less than average. I see 2 of these things around my area, my partner and I always have a good laugh when we see one.
    The “temp plate held on with packing tape” thing will add some gusto to our next laugh fest. My last new car was a bit less (25% of the Truck’s base price OTD) and the dealership managed to attach the temp plate to, you know, the license plate mount.

    Your wife’s toaster? Guess we can see the generation you come from!
    I loathe this design to be honest, however, my wife and I share the same toaster in this day and age.

    No one would ever call this thing organic. Didn’t I hear somewhere that nature abhors straight lines?

    Saw my first one in person at the Worldwide auction two weekends ago. Best comment I overhead about it came from someone who worked at the nearby GM Fort Wayne Assembly Plant: “If we built something with horses**t built quality like that, they’d fire us, shutter the plant, and send our work to Mexico.”

    Far be it from me to tell an expert what great automotive design is, but I can tell you that no one I know who has seen a Cyber truck on the street thought it was anything but butt ugly…Add to that the fact that it is put together shoddily and is under-engineered and it’s a three-time loser, IMO.

    Didn’t I see this thing as an extra in Robocop or BTTF 2 circa 1990? One of those, the set design dept. glued a bunch of sheet metal panels to an 86 Silverado, as a haphazard representation of “the future”?

    I believe the Sci-Fi reference you were looking for regarding those sensors is a Klingon bird of prey warship. Star Trek, that is.

    They used the Ford Taurus back when the Robocop police cars were used. It’s not even a close comparison.
    Look at Total Recall though, this is a Johnny Can evolution.

    I must have been a designer ahead of their time – when I was six years old I made a “truck” out of shoebox and cardboard that I taped togther – it looked a lot like the “cybertruck”…
    (I should have applied for a design patent back then).

    Much “modern art” is sophist bilgewater, in my opinion. I’m not a hater, just a pragmatist about genuine talent…or lack of it.
    The Cyber truck closest relative is the second gen Prius… a “hey look at me!” design that everyone noticed. It’s purely for marketing, not practicality. The early adopters will embrace, the general public will buy an F250.
    If I want minimalism, I’ll buy a 1956 Powell.

    This is just a show-off toy for the ultra-rich. The endless hype just serves that end. Hey, look at ME!
    Anyone who buys this as a functional vehicle will be sorely disappointed.

    Why, just a few days ago, on Sunday past, members the American Lancia Club took a drive along the Sonoma/Marin coast and backroads. We arrived at the Bodega Head trail, and the only place for me to park was in front of one of these “things” (I will be polite).

    The contrast between our Aurelia Spider and THAT was a genuine beauty and the beast situation, such that even tourists were stopping to take pictures. It looked like it was about to open its maw and swallow the Spider.

    I truly have nothing good to say about them, either design or execution. They seem to exist only so rich techies (tech-holes) can swing their you-know-whats around.

    If I could I’d attach a few pictures…

    Why would you call your car a beast? Is it that ugly? As far as people complaining about the panel gaps, go look at your own vehicles. On my 2020 F150, I have a gap on the rear door that goes from close to 3/16″ to less than 1/8″. But on the Cybertruck if it’s not perfect it is shoddy workmanship.

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