Roadster drivers may be some of the earliest supporters of Tesla, but many feel neglected by Elon Musk’s car company. Unlike owners of the newer Model S, X or 3, they can’t book a service appointment through the Tesla app, and the carmaker doesn’t manufacture spare parts for their vehicles even though they’re only about 11 years old.
Now, Roadster owners are turning to Carl Medlock, a former service manager at the company, and his Roadster rehab shop in Seattle, which he runs with two of his sons, Randy and Austin.
Carl Medlock’s Tesla repair shop
Since 2014, the tucked-away repair shop Medlock & Sons has been one of the only places where Roadster owners can send their beloved electric cars for serious repairs, upgrades or maintenance if they’re not getting what they need from Tesla.
One customer had his Roadster waiting at a Tesla service center for over a year because the component it required, a 400-volt controller, wasn’t available according to records Medlock shared with CNBC. Although Tesla put the customer in a loaner Model S while he was waiting, he eventually took his Roadster to Medlock.
Typically, people go to Medlock & Sons to fix their crashed Roadsters, or to have their Roadster electronics rebuilt, ceramic coatings painted on, or to have sound reduction, custom audio or custom headlights installed. Many of the shop’s clients are leaders in the tech industry, or actors and other celebrities, who refer to Medlock as the “Roadster whisperer.”
David Vaskevitch, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer and CEO of Mylio, trusts Medlock with his car.
“He took my Roadster, installed sound installation, made a couple of other changes and it became like a different car,” Vaskevitch said in an interview. “And I just like the guy! He’s very honest, straightforward. I like people who love what they’re doing and that’s Carl to a t.”
Another longtime customer is writer James Whittaker, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft today and former Google engineering director.
“Carl tinkers,” said Whittaker. “Tech people appreciate it. We love people who can nerd out and build things.”
Whittaker called Medlock a hero to the Roadster community, which felt brushed aside when Tesla began to focus on the Model S and a new generation of customers.
James Whittaker at Medlock & Sons garage.
Medlock, who estimates there are currently 1,500 Roadsters driven in the U.S. today, has a love of Tesla’s cars and mission even though he and his son Randy were fired from the company on the same day in 2013 during a wave of restructuring.
Carl was one of Tesla’s first hires outside of California. He helped grow its service division and sales from 2009 to 2013, and left as territory manager overseeing service from Alaska and Calgary to Hawaii, he says. One reason Tesla recruited him was his extensive experience training technicians and repairing vehicles. He’s also worked as a parts and service director and master technician at Land Rover Jaguar and Ford Lincoln Mercury.
Randy previously worked as a parts advisor for Tesla from 2010 to 2013. He now imports parts and is the automotive paint specialist at Medlock & Sons.
“Sure, we got fired from Tesla. Everybody gets fired from Tesla,” Carl told CNBC.
Today, Medlock & Sons can fix almost any electric vehicle, including all Tesla cars, electric motorcycles and internal combustion engine cars that Medlock, or others, converted into electric vehicles.
Their shop even built an all-electric version of the 2017 Mercedes Metris van with their own custom electronics. They raced it (on Chinese national television) against a 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB and won going 0 to 60 seven times in a row, a testament to the acceleration that’s possible with pure battery electrics.
Since parts for Roadsters are in such short supply, Medlock & Sons also makes its own molds to forge parts and stores them at its facility to ensure timely repairs. Tesla doesn’t make it easy to get after-market parts, Medlock lamented.
But his shop will always prioritize Roadster owners, he promised. That’s because Medlock feels responsible for convincing people to buy the cars from Tesla in the first place.