Why Are People Building Their Own Tesla Cybertrucks? We Asked Them.
What do Russian YouTubers, a Bosnian businessman and an Arizona EMT have in common? Homemade Cybertrucks.
When Elon Musk unveiled the Cybertruck in 2019, it was an instant sensation. While previous Tesla vehicles were exciting in their electric power, their design was nondescript at best and boring at worst. But this — this wasn’t a truck. It was an alien ship, a Ridley Scott prop, a post-apocalyptic bunker on wheels. Best of all, it promised to hit garages starting in 2021.
It’s now 26 months later. Not only is the Cybertruck not yet being built, but on an earnings call in January Musk said Tesla wouldn’t begin production on the electric pickup for at least another year — if they ever do.
That’s not to say Tesla has nothing to show for all the hype, memes and refundable preorders. There are, in fact, a number of drivable Cybertrucks all over the globe right this very moment — in a 1,600-person town in Arizona, in Miami by way of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Novosibirsk, the most populous city in Siberia. The one caveat? They don’t bear a Tesla nameplate. They’re homemade.
In the past two years, everyone from YouTubers to gearheads to impatient businessmen have built or commissioned their own versions of the Cybertruck. While Tesla envisions their vehicle as offering “better utility than a truck with more performance than a sports car” by way of a newfangled electric powertrain, what seems to have captured the imagination of people around the world isn’t a powerful pickup running on renewable energy, but the possibility that they could drive a four-wheel vehicle that seems to have been beamed down from Mars.
We spoke with the people who built and own these Frankensteinian creations to see what it’s like being the first to drive the illusive Cybertruck.
The Wooden Plybertruck
Rachel Berge, an EMT who lives in the small town of Joseph City, Arizona, tells InsideHook that she’s not a fan of EVs, especially not Tesla’s futuristic truck.
“You couldn’t even pay me to drive the Cybertruck,” she says, laughing on the other end of the line. “No, I have absolutely no interest in a Tesla, be it car, the Cybertruck — not at all. Nope. I am a good old-fashioned redneck. Gimme a gas 4×4 any day.”
She did, however, pay $500 for the Plybertruck, a first-generation Acura MDX that’s been covered in plywood to resemble Tesla’s pickup. (“That thing is so cool, I’d love to have that,” she remembers thinking when she first laid eyes on it.) She’s spent an additional $2,000 on upgrades since she bought it off a friend who took it off the hands of CJ Cromwell, the original builder, after he displayed it at the International Off-Road & UTV Expo in Phoenix.
Berge originally became aware of the Plybertruck when she came across an image of it Photoshopped next to the monolith that was found in the Utah desert in 2020; it was edited to look like the metal pillar was a charging station and the vehicle was plugged in. (That image is now the profile photo of the Plybertruck Facebook page she runs, which has 294 followers.) Of course, this Acura-turned-Cybertruck not only runs on gas in real life, but it has quite a few quirks that would probably not go over well if they made it into Tesla’s production model.
“There’s something I’ve got to figure out to keep the screws in so I don’t have to stop every few hours and retighten screws all along the body,” Berge says. She keeps battery-powered tools and extra screws in her car for just such tune-ups. “And it does creak quite a bit because of all the wood.”
No, Not That Stark
Six thousand miles away in Bosnia and Herzegovina, entrepreneur Igor Krezic took a more refined and expensive route to his own Cybertruck. The founder of NSoft, a software provider for the betting industry, as well as Stark Solutions, a company that manufactures and maintains betting terminals, Krezic tasked his team at the latter business with chopping up a Ford F-150 Raptor and transforming it into the closest equivalent to Tesla’s truck.
“The initial presentation of Cybertruck caused quite a stir and Mr. Krezic was impressed by the performances and intrigued by the mechanical solutions and the design of the vehicle,” Mario Coric, head of production at Stark, tells InsideHook via email. “For him, it was an instant decision, and the timing in 2020 was just right for the Stark crew to start the project. The company has extensive experience in the metal industry and top professionals for the job.”
While Coric doesn’t divulge the cost of the project, the outcome is easily one of the most accurate replicas that has been built — minus the electric powertrain. A video from September 2020 of him driving the vehicle shows a yoke steering wheel, a large screen in the middle of the dashboard, a cargo bed with a tailgate and a marble-like dashboard.
The only problem is that after the build was complete, the team was having a hard time registering it in the country in order to drive it legally. Coric says this ended up not being possible, so their truck was “sold to a private buyer from the Miami area.” It appears that the Stark Solutions team did a good enough job that their homemade Cybertruck has been fooling Americans into thinking the model currently rolling around Florida is the real deal.
The Russian MythBusters
Head northeast from Bosnia to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and you’ll find a less believable but potentially more intriguing Cybertruck. It’s currently sitting outside an outpost of Garage 54, an automotive group that’s been around since 2016 and posts videos to YouTube that feel like a Russian version of MythBusters.
In their most popular video, the amiable host Vladislav Barashenkov pours boiling water on a frozen windshield to see what will happen. In another, they fill tires with concrete … to see what will happen. But they also build full-size, driveable vehicles, and in late 2019 they began the process of jackhammering the concrete off a previous project and turning the UAZ-469 underneath into a Cybertruck lookalike.
In an email, Barashenkov tells InsideHook that they wanted to try their hand at replicating Elon Musk’s instantly recognizable truck because “Tesla was on the wave of importance.” In other words, they knew people would watch. As it stands, the four videos they’ve posted — featuring the building process, a test drive through the snow and a tug-of-war with a Porsche Cayenne — have racked up more than two million views.
While Barashenkov gets much of the credit as the host of the show, the main mechanics besides him who worked on the project include Kirill Filimonov, Ivan Kokorin, Alexander Korogodov, Amirov Vlad and Presnyakov Vyacheslav. But in relaying this info, the Garage 54 team only mentions one team member who has a nickname: Barashenkov, “or as we call, Vlad Toretto,” they write, alluding to Vin Diesel’s character in the Fast and Furious movies.
More Than a Meme
If a real Cybertruck ever rolls out of a Tesla factory, Krezic of Bosnia and Herzegovina will likely be the only one of these three seriously interested in buying one. As Coric says, his boss “is passionate about novelties in the automotive industry, electric cars in particular, and he is a big fan of Tesla … [and] excited to become an owner of [a] Cybertruck.”
Yet, after talking with Plybertruck owner Berge and the Russian YouTubers at Garage 54, it became clear that while many people treat the Cybertruck like a joke, their individual endeavors were not all fun and games. When asked what he really thinks about Tesla’s truck, and whether or not it’s overrated, Barashenkov writes, “We treat the original Tesla Cybertruck very well. This is a very interesting project. And we don’t think it’s overrated.” Even Berge, who cackles at the very idea of owning an electric car, has good things to say about Elon Musk.
“Honestly I think people kind of pick on him because he’s got so much money,” she says, “and my personal thing is, he made it — his money — so don’t hate the guy.”
That doesn’t mean she’s as optimistic as Musk about the potential 2023 production date. As Berge says, she belongs to a Tesla Facebook group so she can post occasional pictures of her splinter-inducing car, and she often sees users talking about where they are in the digital line to get a Cybertruck.
“They’re posting, Oh, I’m order number 500,000 some-odd-thing,” she says, “and I’m like, ‘You’re never going to get that vehicle.’”
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