The Tesla Cybertruck is the first stainless-steel vehicle since the ill-fated DeLorean - here's a closer look at both

Tesla cybertruck elon musk

With the exception of a few one-off promotional cars, the auto industry has never used stainless steel to manufacture vehicles.

With two notable exceptions: the DMC DeLorean, made from 1981-1983; and the newly unveiled Tesla Cybertruck, which could go into production in 2022.

A stainless gulf of numerous decades separates these vehicles, raising the question of why undeniably durable stainless hasn't displaced good-old-fashioned regular steel.

For DeLorean, the stainless proposition was that scratches could be easily buffed out, but of course the car's shimmering skin was marketing.

For Tesla, marketing is also a factor, although the company's sibling, SpaceX, has been developing new stainless applications for its spacecraft.

As a practical matter, no automakers use stainless to build cars these days, so there's no supply chain on any magnitude.

While the CyberTruck and the DeLorean have one big thing in common, they also have some little things. But in other ways, they're utterly different.

Here's a rundown:

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The DMC DeLorean was, the context of the auto industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a stunner. Nothing else looked like it — the dashing coupé was defined by its gull-wing doors and its stainless-steel skin.

The DMC DeLorean was, the context of the auto industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a stunner. Nothing else looked like it — the dashing coupé was defined by its gull-wing doors and its stainless-steel skin.

The Cybertruck, in the late 2010s and soon-to-be early 2020s, is also like nothing else on the market. Certainly not the truck market.

The Cybertruck, in the late 2010s and soon-to-be early 2020s, is also like nothing else on the market. Certainly not the truck market.

Founder John DeLorean was the most flamboyant personality in the car business, in his day.

Founder John DeLorean was the most flamboyant personality in the car business, in his day.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is something of the John DeLorean of this era — except that he's far exceeded DeLorean's achievement, selling many more cars and building other companies, including SpaceX.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is something of the John DeLorean of this era — except that he's far exceeded DeLorean's achievement, selling many more cars and building other companies, including SpaceX.

DeLorean was hands-on.

DeLorean was hands-on.

And so is Musk.

And so is Musk.

DeLorean was no stranger to the celebrity circuit. Here he is with Johnny Carson, a DeLorean owner and investor.

DeLorean was no stranger to the celebrity circuit. Here he is with Johnny Carson, a DeLorean owner and investor.

Musk has marched down a few red carpets in his time.

Musk has marched down a few red carpets in his time.

The DMC DeLorean used 304 stainless steel for its body — that's a relatively common grade of the material.

The DMC DeLorean used 304 stainless steel for its body — that's a relatively common grade of the material.

The Cybertruck uses what Tesla calls "Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled stainless-steel." This material is supposed to be superior to 304.

The Cybertruck uses what Tesla calls "Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled stainless-steel." This material is supposed to be superior to 304.

The DeLorean was designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, who has an absolutely staggering resume for a car designer, ranging from Ferraris to Maseratis to humble VWs.

The DeLorean was designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, who has an absolutely staggering resume for a car designer, ranging from Ferraris to Maseratis to humble VWs.

The Cybertruck was penned by Franz von Holzhausen. The Tesla design chief has created every new vehicle for the company since the Model S in 2012 (with a little input from CEO Elon Musk).

The Cybertruck was penned by Franz von Holzhausen. The Tesla design chief has created every new vehicle for the company since the Model S in 2012 (with a little input from CEO Elon Musk).

Fewer than 10,000 DMCs were built before allegations of drug-trafficking sank John DeLorean's reputation and iffy finances ended the car company.

Fewer than 10,000 DMCs were built before allegations of drug-trafficking sank John DeLorean's reputation and iffy finances ended the car company.

The Cybertruck isn't even in production yet. Elon Musk has endured his share of legal run-ins, but so far, Tesla is still in business.

The Cybertruck isn't even in production yet. Elon Musk has endured his share of legal run-ins, but so far, Tesla is still in business.

The DeLorean's fame was revived by the 1985 film "Back to the Future" and the sequels that followed.

The DeLorean's fame was revived by the 1985 film "Back to the Future" and the sequels that followed.

The time-machine DeLorean was, basically, a joke. But it saved the DMC from the scrap-heap of history.

The time-machine DeLorean was, basically, a joke. But it saved the DMC from the scrap-heap of history.

The Cybertruck has thus far only appeared at a Tesla event and on video. A mishap with its supposedly super-tough window glass is its only media stumble thus far.

The Cybertruck has thus far only appeared at a Tesla event and on video. A mishap with its supposedly super-tough window glass is its only media stumble thus far.

In the movies, the DeLorean's engine was modified to run on fusion technology borrowed from a trip to the future.

In the movies, the DeLorean's engine was modified to run on fusion technology borrowed from a trip to the future.

The Cybertruck is a pickup with a "vault" instead of a bed. The top-spec model costs about $70,000 — and full-self-driving tech adds $7,000. The DeLorean sold for $25,000 and couldn't drive itself.

The Cybertruck is a pickup with a "vault" instead of a bed. The top-spec model costs about $70,000 — and full-self-driving tech adds $7,000. The DeLorean sold for $25,000 and couldn't drive itself.

The DMC's looks were something, but its performance was feeble. A 130-horsepower V6 yielded a 0-60 mph time of 10.5 seconds.

The DMC's looks were something, but its performance was feeble. A 130-horsepower V6 yielded a 0-60 mph time of 10.5 seconds.

The Cybertruck's fully-electric drivetrain, in tri-motor trim, has 500 miles of range, yields a 0-60 mph time of 2.9 seconds, and can tow over 14,000 pounds (all according to Tesla). The DeLorean ... really wasn't supposed to tow anything.

The Cybertruck's fully-electric drivetrain, in tri-motor trim, has 500 miles of range, yields a 0-60 mph time of 2.9 seconds, and can tow over 14,000 pounds (all according to Tesla). The DeLorean ... really wasn't supposed to tow anything.
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