3 rare Teslas were discovered in an abandoned shipping container, igniting a bidding war that just hit $750,000

  • Three brand-new 2010 Tesla Roadsters are for sale after sitting in storage containers for 13 years.

  • The bidding hit $750,000 as of Friday.

  • They were shipped to China in 2010 and abandoned at the dock.

If you've been waiting patiently for years for the new Tesla Roadster sports car to start production, I've got great news for you.

Three brand-new Roadsters just hit the market. Well, sort of.

They aren't examples of Elon Musk's latest and greatest vehicle — which the upcoming Roadster promises to be — but rather his first. The 2010 Tesla Roadsters have been sitting in shipping containers in China for more than a decade, never driven, according to Gruber Motor Company, a Tesla repair shop specializing in Roadsters that's brokering the sale.

Now they're being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

A red 2010 Tesla Roadster in a shipping container.
The bidding has hit $750,000 for all three cars.Gruber Motor Company

As of Friday, the highest bid was $750,000 for all three. But they could rake in much more than that.

The most comparable Roadster Gruber has helped sell was the 13th model ever built, which went for $295,000 last year, Pete Gruber, the company's CEO, told Insider. (Gruber doesn't take a commission on sales, but rather helps match buyers and sellers.)

The tan interior of a 2010 Tesla Roadster that is now for sale.
Photos show that the plastic seat covers remain intact.Gruber Motor Company

Much like the photos the seller provided for the listing, the details are a bit fuzzy. A Chinese businessman bought the Roadsters from Tesla in 2010, shipped them to China, and abandoned them at the dock, where they've been collecting dust and storage fees ever since, Gruber said.

At some point recently, the current owner bought the cars and contacted Gruber to broker a sale.

A red 2010 Tesla Roadster sits in a shipping container.
There are two orange and one red Roadster for sale.Gruber Motor Company

Tesla released the Roadster, its very first model, back in 2008 and wound up selling roughly 2,500 of them through 2012 for $100,000 and up. Today, thanks to their rarity, place in electric-vehicle history, and the explosion of the Tesla brand, the two-door convertibles are hot collector's items.

Perhaps the biggest question mark for any potential buyer: Do the Roadsters still work after sitting for so long?

Gruber won't know for sure until the cars are shipped to his shop in Arizona later in May. If a Roadster's battery isn't manually disconnected, it can die completely after just a few months, he said. (That's not the case on more modern EVs.) But if Tesla pulled the vehicles' plugs before shipping them, there's a chance the Roadsters could be revived after 13 years out of commission.

An orange 2010 Tesla Roadster in a shipping container.
It's unclear whether the Roadsters will be able to drive after sitting for over a decade.Gruber Motor Company

News of the auction even drew attention from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who shot his personal Roadster into orbit on a SpaceX rocket in 2018. On Twitter, he said that Roadsters are "increasingly rare."

Gruber would like to see the Roadsters bought as a group and put on display.

"My take on it is these cars really belong in a museum, rather than go to some wealthy investor who's going to tuck them away," he said. "This is like a Picasso on the wall. You hang this on a wall and you leave it there."

Do you love your EV? Are you never giving up gasoline? We want to hear your opinions about electric cars. Contact this reporter at tlevin@insider.com.

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