The future arrives in moments like this: a beige Honda vaporizing its drag radials, the car squirming against line-locked front wheels like a rottweiler on a rope. Smoke spills across the asphalt. Pellets of hot rubber fling from the tires, then rain from above. The scene is manic. And nearly silent. This is the Teslonda: a retro, all-electric love letter to hot-rodding. The name is a mash-up—Tesla and Honda—and an obvious recipe deciphered.
“The thing that’s going to help people love electric cars is performance,” says Jim Belosic, who cooked up the car. “Not range or autonomy.”
That sentiment is fresh-breath optimism. Electric cars, from Teslas to Formula E racers, coat themselves in a Jetsons sheen: polite, chic, clean. But shouldn’t fast electric cars feel more like Ridley Scott’s Alien, where futurism and grime and flamethrowers coexist? That’s Teslonda.
The project was pieced together at Belosic’s shop in Reno, Nevada. It began as a means to connect with his kids, ages 9 and 12, who Belosic imagined would be wrenching on and driving electric cars in the coming decades. He wanted to jump ahead of the curve, to figure out electric hot-rodding for himself.
A 1981 Accord entered Belosic’s life at the time, bone-stock and beige, just like the one he had at age 15; a vessel meant to rekindle the Sega Genesis glow of his youth. The anemic sedan bored Belosic, just as he began searching for a cadaver for his electric experiment. One thing led to another. A Model S rear end (subframe, drive unit, suspension, brakes, hubs, wheels) was sourced from a scrapyard, then grafted into the Accord’s trunk.
The Tesla drive unit is half inverter, half motor, nestled into an aluminum housing that looks like a giant AA battery. From another wreck, Belosic salvaged a Chevrolet Volt battery pack, which sits longitudinally in the Accord’s engine bay.
Volt packs are readily available and powerful, providing the Tesla drive unit with a Godzilla punch of amperage.
Gazing into the hollowed-out bay of the Teslonda, you’re reminded of the grimy authenticity of unrestored race cars: fast old things whose corporate decals are peeling at the edges but still feel purposeful. A single small radiator up front accompanies a bank of fuses running along the Teslonda’s fender. The car’s guts appear almost primitive.
Belosic’s life positioned him at the center of a Venn diagram of wrenching, coding, and a willingness to experiment. His career bounced between a thousand disciplines. His shop now houses a room-sized, two-axis laser cutter that’s constantly sparking and dancing, the centerpiece of his newest venture in rapid manufacturing.
“Building the Teslonda was a different process, but that’s what’s so cool about it,” he says. “This electric process was like doing my first oil change at age 15. It was renewing and reinvigorating.”
Stuffing battery packs and a rear-wheel drive unit into a front-wheel-drive econobox was the primary challenge. Belosic says the Honda’s chassis is “flimsy, like a cookie sheet,” and it was only made worse when he sawed holes to accommodate the car’s electric organs. The Accord body sits awkwardly atop the Tesla rear end. Beefy 305/35 rubber sprouts from the car’s sides, miming an old-school “gasser” drag car. But perhaps the most awe-inspiring aspect of the car is the dash.
CAN data from the Tesla drive unit is intercepted via Raspberry Pi, a $35 Swiss army knife of a computer that can power everything from robotic arms to dash cameras on the cheap. Belosic and his friend Michael Mathews, a software engineer, dived into the data pumping from the Tesla drive unit.
“We had to figure out a lot through trial and error,” Belosic says. “A big part of my discovery with electric cars was that this is not an LS engine and a blower. This is a laptop and all this data, and fine-tuning that data.”
The fruits of that labor are displayed across two touchscreens mounted to the steering column. The setup drips retro cool, as if Knight Rider’s KITT got freaky with a Super Nintendo. Mathews’s face was digitized and rendered on-screen. His 16-bit head shouts warnings like “critical voltage event,” and there’s a submenu that ranks the Teslonda’s best 0–60-mph times, displayed like scores in a vintage arcade cabinet. “JIM” has the top score, at 2.43 seconds.
That’s where the future lies, Belosic says: beyond batteries and motors, which will simplify with time. At some point, he believes, you’ll thumb open a Jegs catalog to cross-shop crate motors and batteries. Or maybe you’ll order a chassis from Factory Five and provide your own salvaged Tesla Model 3 powertrain. “But the software is where everything is going to be crazy,” he maintains. “I was like, Okay, this is what I need to teach my daughter and my son, the laptop tuning. Not necessarily anything else.”
On the first test drive, the Teslonda ripped. There were no carbs to sync, no vacuum leaks, no weeping seals, no blood-curdling clunks from deep in the engine. With electric hot rods, you plug it all in and get wheelspin on day one, Belosic says. No Lamborghini Huracán Performante, no 911 GT3, no Tesla Model S snaps to attention like the Teslonda under prodded throttle. When you weld the accelerator to the floorboard, the car’s steering goes to lunch, weightless. It’s terrifying. The Teslonda squats on its rear end, bucking the nose skyward, briefly transforming its Sparco driver’s bucket into the world’s fastest observatory. There’s a hole in the firewall, sawed out to accommomade the steering rack from a Chevrolet Vega. Gales of wind shoot up your pant leg under acceleration, racking your undercarriage. The whole time, the Tesla power unit is chirping like a concert of crickets, cheap-cheap-cheap-cheap-cheap, their notes ramping up in frequency the harder you flog the car. If anyone tells you electric cars can’t be engaging because they don’t make sound, tell them to go chew a lamp cord. There’s a buffet of noises: tire screech, motor chirp, wind rush.
I wish every doubter could spend 10 seconds behind the wheel—about enough time for the Teslonda to cover a quarter mile. The experience mimics that levitating-gut panic in the split second before you crash on a ski hill. It’s brilliant.
The car’s joy is infectious, even in traffic. The chunky tires and friendly mug are all mastiff-puppy charm—gawky and cute. Truckers flash grins. Harley riders thumbs-up. “That’s totally badass, dude,” chimes down from the cab of a heavy-duty Ram pickup. Cackles erupt from every direction, as if the hillsides cosseting Reno are themselves entertained.
“It’s an ugly mutt, so people aren’t afraid to love it,” Belosic says.
But the Teslonda is not long for this world. By press time, Belosic and his team will have ripped out the drive unit, transplanting its guts into their next project—called Teslakart—which should do 0–60 in 1.8 seconds. That’s quicker than Tesla claims for its yet to be released Roadster.
The Teslonda is proof that enthusiasts should embrace the electrified future—the whole experiment feels fresh and breakneck and exciting. Belosic’s projects may now live on the cutting edge, but they give us a window facing forward while referencing the past. The Teslonda’s masterful dash display is akin to pinstriping. Cramming battery packs via ever-smaller, ever-cleverer solutions feels a lot like stuffing a Chevy V-8 into a ’32 Ford, but also a logical evolution.
“Electric is definitely the better mousetrap,” Belosic says. “I always get a giggle when Ferrari or Lamborghini go, ‘There’s no soul in electric.’ I say, ‘Have you guys not driven a fast electric car?’ It’s wild. The performance is vastly superior. And we’re just at the very beginning.”
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