Record are meant to be broken, but there comes a point when enough is enough. The race between car manufacturers to produce the fastest production car in the world is decades old and harks back to the dawn of the motorcar. Illustrious cars like the Jaguar XK120, Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari F40, McLaren F1 and, of course, the Bugatti Veyron were, at one point in time, kings of the hill before being dethroned. The current official record was held by Koenigsegg, and we’ll ignore the Bugatti Chiron for now, but the Egg’s record is smashed by the SSC Tuatara… and it even seemed as easy as a quiet walk in the woods!
The story on Shelby Super Cars, or SSC in short, starts about 20 years ago. The company was founded by Jerod Shelby – not related to the late great Carroll Shelby. SSC has set the goal to build the ultimate hypercar. While some of these plans never leave the drawing board and remain just plans, SSC has put cars on the road over the years and is pushing the establishment from day one. Their first car was the SSC Aero in 2004, powered by a supercharged 6.1-litre V8 pumping out a massive 908bhp. The car’s performances were mind-boggling; zero to 100kph took less than 3 seconds and the top speed was a little over 400kph. Something that would scare even the most experienced drivers. SSC dipped their toes in the World Record for Fastest Production Car showdown in 2007, with the even more powerful SSC Ultimate Aero TT (close to 1200bhp). That car broke the speed record for road-legal cars and narrowly beat the Veyron with an average top speed of 412kph (256,14mph).
While the SSC Aero and Ultimate Aero were not exactly the best-looking cars in the world, they back up the company’s claim in the performance area. The Aero and Ultimate Aero TT were followed up by the SSC Tuatara, named after a New Zealand reptile with a spiked back. The name is fitting since the Tuatara sprouts winglets in the back of the body for added stability. The Tuatara was first released in 2011, in the midst of a financial crisis, not the best time to launch a super-expensive hypercar. Despite these challenging times, the team of SSC persevered and eventually made a car that is ready for production. The goal was clear from the start: truly blow the doors off the competition.
Power comes from a massive, bespoke-built engine, developed with Nelson Racing Engines (a legendary company on the US racing scene). The engine is a twin-turbo 5.9 litre V8 producing between 1350 and 1750bhp, depending on the type of fuel you put in. On E85 fuel, it pumps out a monstrous 1750bhp, which equates to 1,3 megawatt of power, comparable to the most powerful Koenigseggs. It also means this car has more horsepower to push it forward than kilograms holding it back as it tips the scale at only 1250 kilos (2750lbs in US measurements). The redline for the engine is an incredible 8,800rpm. It is mated to a robotized manual 7-speed transmission which changes gears under 100 milliseconds. The car is loaded with the latest technology and materials, as you would expect in such an extreme vehicle as this. This includes extensive use of carbon fibre, an active aero-brake, a bespoke interior riddled with leather and Alcantara, and of course, everybody’s favourite party trick: butterfly doors.
All this engineering is covered by a strikingly elegant body, a big step forward from the rather utilitarian and brutishly simple looking (Ultimate) Aero. The final car is done in menacing black and red and looks super-fast even at rest. Despite the huge power, the body doesn’t have ginormous wings and splitters, but it looks rather menacing regardless. According to SSC, you hit 100kph in 2.5 seconds, which is right up there with most of its competitors. Word broke recently that a high-speed test run was underway when a local news source from the US claimed the car was seen speeding down a stretch of highway near Las Vegas, Nevada. This happens to be the exact same stretch of road where the Koenigsegg Agera RS previously broke the record for the fastest production car.
Regarding that claim though, there’s one important thing to remember. Yes, the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport has smashed the 300mph barrier last year at Volkswagen’s (who own Bugatti) test grounds Ehra-Lessien but has failed to do so in a return run. Their top speed was only attempted and clocked in one way, and for an official record to be set it needs to be set in both ways, with the average between the two runs being the eventual official record. And as such, the Koenigsegg Agera RS was the car to beat for SSC. And how fast, do you wonder, have they gone? Check out this on-board footage from Top Gear of SSC’s attempt:
It is hard to get your head around it, but the SSC Tuatara has smashed the previous record and reached a top speed of 532kph or 331mph. To put that into perspective, that is from Amsterdam to Paris in under an hour. That is approaching the railed vehicles top speed record held by the famous TGV (about 570kph). That is faster than any helicopter produced to date. That is faster than the top speed of a 10,000bhp Top Fuel dragster during a quarter-mile run. The average top speed of the SSC Tuatara from both runs needed to claim the record is an astonishing or 508,73kph or 316,11mph. What astounded me is the fact that even though professional racing driver Oliver “Oli” Webb was behind the wheel, the Tuatara seems very stable, right up to its v-max. This also makes me wonder where it will end. The 300mph barrier seemed too far out of reach for years, and in only a short span of time, we jumped from approaching 300 miles per hour to absolutely smashing through it.
The SSC Tuatara reached the production stage last year after all the setbacks and challenges were overcome. Even though only two have been built so far, and the first car has been delivered to a client earlier this year, SSC plans to build 100 of these monsters. The car comes with a base price of USD 1.9 million.