Elon Musk is one of the most influential technology innovators of our time. As the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, he has disrupted the electric vehicle and private spaceflight industries. An interesting facet about Musk is his lifelong passion for all things automotive, despite helming the charge towards sustainable transportation.
Over the past three decades, Musk has owned an eclectic mix of cars ranging from vintage classics to exotic supercars. His preferences have evolved from practical daily drivers to avantgarde prototypes. Let‘s explore the 11 fascinating cars Elon Musk has owned through the years and what he drives on a daily basis today.
1978 BMW 320i – Musk‘s Sensible First Car Purchase
Like many emerging professionals, Musk‘s first automobile purchase was an affordable and practical used car – a 1978 BMW 320i. He bought the 5-year old BMW coupe in 1994 for only $1,400 using his savings from college jobs. This was an early entry-level 3-series BMW produced from 1975 to 1983 before the brand established itself as a luxury status symbol.
The modest BMW 320i came equipped with a 2.0L inline 6-cylinder M10 engine producing 110 hp paired to a standard 4-speed manual transmission. It could reach a top speed of 112 mph and accelerate 0 to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds – adequate performance for the era. As an early BMW 3-series, the handling was nimble with near perfect weight distribution. For under $2,000, the pre-owned 1978 BMW 320i gave Musk a sporty and reliable daily driver through college and his early career.
Musk logged thousands of miles commuting across California in his BMW for several years. However, the well-used BMW met its end unceremoniously when the wheels literally fell off as Musk‘s intern at Zip2 was driving it. This comedic incident convinced Musk it was finally time to trade up from the 1978 320i.
1997 McLaren F1 – Musk‘s $1 Million Supercar Dream Machine
Flush with a $22 million cash payout from the sale of Zip2 to Compaq in 1999, Elon Musk indulged in his dream supercar – a 1997 McLaren F1. Out of just 106 F1 cars produced from 1992 to 1998, chassis #067 was 1 of only 7 in the United States. Musk paid over $1 million to a private seller to secure one of the most coveted supercars of the era.
The McLaren F1 was the world‘s fastest production car in the 1990s. Its bespoke 6.1L BMW S70 V12 engine produced 627 hp and revved up to an astronomical 8,500 rpm. The F1 accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 240 mph using extremely lightweight materials like carbon fiber and magnesium. The driver seat was centered for optimal weight distribution and driving experience.
Musk purposefully did not insure the McLaren F1 to disincentivize himself from risking a crash in the ultra-rare vehicle. However, as fate would have it, the car was significantly damaged in an accident in 2000 with Peter Thiel, Musk‘s PayPal co-founder. Despite repairs, Musk decided to sell his silver McLaren F1 in 2007 for a profit estimated between $1 million and $1.5 million. The car auctioned in August 2022 for a record $20.5 million.
1976 Lotus Esprit Submarine – Musk‘s "Wet Nellie" James Bond Car
Beyond raw performance, Musk appreciates automotive eccentricity. He paid nearly $1 million at a London auction to acquire the actual Lotus Esprit Series 1 featured in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. The white sports car was custom built with gadgets that enabled it to transform into a submarine for underwater scenes.
In the movie, the Lotus "Wet Nellie" could dive underwater and cruise beneath the sea at 3 knots. Of course, Musk discovered the movie prop does not actually function as a submarine. But he found the fictional capabilities intriguing. At the 2013 auction, Musk outbid competitors because he saw the Lotus as more than just a movie collectors‘ item. In fact, he had his own plans to modify the Esprit into a real working submarine car.
1920 Ford Model T – Musk‘s Nod to Automotive History
While pushing future vehicle propulsion technology with Tesla, Musk still appreciates pivotal automobiles of the past. Among his collection is a classic 1920 Ford Model T, which he has referenced reverently in interviews. The mass-produced Model T brought the freedom of personal transportation to middle-class Americans in the early 20th century.
The "Tin Lizzie" Model T evolved through many production cycles from 1908 to 1927 as Ford implemented cost-cutting efficiencies. By 1920, Ford had sold over 7 million Model Ts. The low $265 price opened car ownership to average families. Easy DIY maintenance using interchangeable parts also contributed to the Model T‘s popularity.
Musk recognizes the Model T‘s historical influence in democratizing automobile ownership much like he aims to achieve with Tesla electric vehicles today. The vintage Ford Model T represents Musk tipping his hat to the game-changing innovation that came before.
1967 Jaguar Series 1 E-Type – Musk‘s Disappointing Dream Car
Since childhood, Elon had admired the curvaceous Jaguar E-Type for its beauty and performance. After his success and wealth from the Zip2 sale, Musk finally purchased his dream E-Type – a 1967 Series 1 4.2 Roadster. Enzo Ferrari had famously called the E-Type "the most beautiful car ever made" upon its 1961 release. Musk would apparently agree given it was his coveted childhood poster car.
However, Musk‘s enthusiasm for the British roadster drained rapidly as it constantly required expensive repairs and maintenance. He likened E-Type ownership to "…having a supermodel girlfriend who is great to look at, but then sucker punches you…" After just 6 months, Musk returned the problem-plagued Jag for a refund. This experience showed even unattainable dream cars often disappoint.
2006 Hamann BMW M5 – Musk‘s Family-Friendly Performance Sedan
As a practical yet powerful family sedan, Musk purchased a 2006 Alpina B7, a tuned version of the BMW M5 customized by specialty auto builder Hamann Motorsport. BMW‘s M5 already delivered elite super sedan performance with its 5.0L V10 producing 500 hp in stock form.
For Musk‘s car, Hamann boosted the V10 output to 603 hp while adding aggressive bodywork and interior upgrades. The turbocharged Hamann M5 could reach 225 mph flat-out. Its 0 to 60 mph acceleration dropped to just 4.3 seconds. The enhancements transformed the M5 into a liveable supercar.
Musk enjoyed the Alpina B7‘s blend of practical 4-door accommodation and exotic sports car performance. In fact, his Hamann BMW M5 likely inspired Musk to later introduce the "Ludicrous Mode" acceleration boost option for the Tesla Model S and Model X to achieve supercar speeds in a family-friendly package.
2010 Audi Q7 – Musk‘s Underwhelming Family SUV
With 5 growing boys, Elon Musk traded outright performance for max practicality and upgraded to a 2010 Audi Q7 SUV. While best-in-class in size and luxury features, the Q7 failed to impress Musk. He sarcastically equated driving it to "…being stuffed in a corpse." On Twitter, he bemoaned the Q7‘s styling, poor driving dynamics, unintuitive controls, and anemic engine sound.
Clearly, Musk favored a more responsive and sporty driving experience ill-suited to a large 7-seater SUV. The Q7‘s conservative practicality bored Musk after life behind the wheel of exotic sports machines. However, the experience possibly influenced Musk to make the Model X Tesla‘s SUV offering with exciting falcon wing doors and better driving characteristics.
2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S – Musk‘s Latest Sports Car Obsession
Most recently, Musk rekindled his passion for elite German performance buying a 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S. In stock form, the all-wheel drive 911 Turbo S produces 640 hp from its twin-turbo flat-6 engine. It rockets to 60 mph in just 2.3 seconds. However, rather than enjoying the Porsche‘s prodigious power, Musk immediately had the gasoline engine removed to convert the car to full electric drive.
With the Porsche 911 Turbo S serving as his personal test mule, Musk aimed to advance Tesla‘s planned next-generation Roadster powertrain. However, Musk‘s schedule leaves little time tinkering in the garage these days. Details remain scarce on the 911‘s EV conversion status since it was announced in 2020.
2008 Tesla Roadster – Musk‘s Pioneering Electric Sports Car
As Tesla co-founder and chief engineer, Musk not only envisioned the company‘s first product but also became the very first customer. In 2008, he took ownership of Tesla Roadster #1 ahead of series production. His black Roadster came standard with a 6-speed manual transmission before a single-speed automatic option was later offered.
The Lotus Elise-derived Roadster boasted extraterrestrial acceleration. Its 6,831 lithium-ion cells powered 3 electric motors producing 288 hp that catapulted the 2,723 lb car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. It had a 245 mile range, unprecedented for a production EV then. Musk personally used Roadster #1 for several years before deciding on an even grander farewell.
In February 2018, Musk launched his personal Tesla Roadster into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket after exceeding Tesla‘s Mars orbit goal. Cameras onboard provided stunning views of the Roadster with its "Starman" dummy driver floating through space. It has since traveled farther than any production car ever at over 450 million miles from earth and counting.
2019 Tesla Model S – Musk‘s Current Daily Driver
Given his role as CEO, Elon Musk understandably uses the company‘s flagship sedan as his daily driver – the Tesla Model S. Musk had an integral part in the original design of the Model S to create an aspirational yet practical electric executive car. For 2023, Tesla offers three Model S variants: Long Range, Plaid, and Plaid+.
The dual motor Long Range Model S delivers up to 405 miles of range on a full charge – the longest of any Tesla. It accelerates 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Stepping up to the tri-motor Plaid and Plaid+ boosts output to 1,020 hp enabling acceleration times as quick as 2.3 seconds.
Inside, the refresh Model S has theater-like rear seating and up to 22 speaker audio. A 17-inch horizontal touchscreen with Tesla‘s latest software spans the minimalist dashboard. Active safety features include 8 cameras, 12 sensors, and "Full Self-Driving Capability". With ample range, space for 5 adults, and innovative technology, the Tesla Model S is well-suited as Musk‘s daily business vehicle.
Tesla Cybertruck – Musk‘s Upcoming "Blade Runner" Pickup Truck
Never one to play it safe, Elon Musk also has his eye on Tesla‘s most outrageous forthcoming model – the Cybertruck. Unveiled in 2019, the Cybertruck‘s geometric stainless steel body stands out against traditional pickup truck designs. Tesla touts the exoskeleton construction as nearly impenetrable. But during the debut, a metal ball embarrassingly cracked the armored glass windows.
Musk plans to offer the Cybertruck in three configurations: Single Motor Rear-Wheel Drive, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, and Triple Motor All-Wheel Drive. Performance ranges from 250 to 500 miles of range, 6.5 to 2.9 second 0-60 mph acceleration, and 7,500 to 14,000 pounds of towing capacity depending on the model.
With room for 6 adults, up to 100 cubic feet of storage, and quick acceleration, the Cybertruck promises to be Musk‘s most futuristic and functional pickup yet if it reaches production as planned in late 2023. The outlandish truck looks like it came straight from a dystopian science fiction film. The Cybertruck will give Musk the ultimate conversation piece to arrive in style.
What Does Elon Musk Drive Today?
Examining the 11 cars Elon Musk has owned reveals an evolving taste from practical commuters to exotic hypercars befitting his wealth. But a constant thread is Musk ́s appetite for speed and technology. For Musk, cars are more than just transportation – each new vehicle provides inspiration for his vision of future mobility innovation.
Today, Musk mainly pilots Tesla vehicles like the Model S sedan as both the company CEO and chief product representative. The Model S aligns with Musk‘s priorities balancing performance, range, space, and groundbreaking features. For leisure, Musk may get behind the wheel of his classics like the 1920 Ford Model T. And if produced, Musk would undoubtedly put the Cybertruck pickup through its paces.
While pushing to electrify the automotive industry, Musk remains an enthusiast, especially for sports cars. Don‘t be surprised if he again makes headlines adding more pedigreed supercars to his garage even as he aims to obsolete them. Fast cars that drive the future remain Elon Musk‘s passion.