SSC Tuatara Speed Record: Making America Fast Again!

American carmaker SSC (formerly known as Shelby SuperCars) reclaimed the production top speed record last Saturday, October 10th, and it did it with its magnificent Tuatara hypercar. The SSC Tuatara was a long time coming, but it’s now officially the world’s fastest production vehicle by reaching an average speed of 316.11 mph (508.73 kph).

Think about that for a moment. The SSC Tuatara is the first production vehicle to breach the elusive 500 kph (310 mph) barrier. “We came pretty close to meeting the theoretical numbers, which is astonishing to do in a real-world setting on a public road,” said Jerod Shelby, CEO of SSC, and no relation to the great Carroll Shelby. “America’s new claim to victory is the ‘land-based space race’ is going to be tough to beat.”

Destination: Nevada

The record-breaking speed run took place on a seven-mile stretch of public road on State Route 160 near Pahrump, Nevada. With the help of state-of-the-art Dewetron GPS measurements from no less than 15 satellites; a subsonic T-33 drone jet from Pursuit/XM2; a helicopter equipped with a gyro-stabilizer Shotover camera system; and many drones, the SSC Tuatara – with professional racing driver Oliver Webb behind the wheel – achieved 301.07 mph (484.53 kph) on its first run.

But to claim the top speed record, the Tuatara had to finish two consecutive runs in opposite directions, something which Bugatti failed to do last year. It’s also the reason why the Chiron Super Sport 300+ was not officially recognized as the fastest production vehicle in the world in 2019, even after reaching an astonishing top speed of 304.773 mph (490.48 kph) at VW’s Ehra-Lessein private test track.  

Less than an hour after its first run, Oliver Webb and the SSC Tuatara sped towards history by reaching a mind-blowing top speed of 331.15 mph (532.93 mph). After doing the math, the SSC Tuatara officially claimed the fastest production vehicle speed record.

“It’s been ten years since we held this record with our first car, the Ultimate Aero, and the Tuatara is leagues ahead,” Shelby added. “Its performance reflects the dedication and focus with which we pursued this achievement.”

Jerod Shelby (left) and driver Oliver Webb (right) with the SSC Tuatara hypercar.
Jerod Shelby (left) and driver Oliver Webb (right) with the SSC Tuatara hypercar. Photo: SSC North America.

SSC Tuatara: Setting New Records

The SSC Tuatara not only broke the production speed record, but it also broke three more world records along the way. As a matter of fact, the SSC Tuatara could have gone faster, given the ideal running conditions.

“As I approached 331 mph, the Tuatara climbed almost 20 mph within the last five seconds,” Webb explained. “There was definitely more in there. And with better conditions, I know we could have gone faster, and the crosswinds are all that prevented us from realizing the car’s limit.”

In addition to averaging 316.11 mph to become the world’s fastest car, the SSC Tuatara also broke the “Fastest Flying Mile on a Public Road” record at 313.12 mph (503.92 kph). It also broke the “Fastest Flying Kilometer on a Public Road” record at 321.35 mph (517.16 kph).

But the sweetest of all is breaking the “Highest Speed Achieved on a Public Road” record by travelling at an insane 331.15 mph (532.93 kph). Talk about bragging rights! In the world of megabuck and hyper-fast supercars, the SSC Tuatara is as good as it gets – and is officially the fastest among all, as well.

SSC Tuatara on State Route 160 near Pahrump, Nevada.
SSC Tuatara on State Route 160 near Pahrump, Nevada. Note the irony of the speed limit sign. Photo: SSC North America.

Ticking All The Right Boxes

Breaking the production top speed record is not as easy as it sounds. It’s more than just showing up with an angry supercar on a deserted highway and hitting the gas pedal. The SSC Tuatara had to abide by some rules, which are the following:

Rule 1: The car should be a production vehicle and identical to the vehicle a customer might purchase. SSC delivered its first production Tuatara in February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head. Check.

Rule 2: The vehicle should be driven the same route in opposite directions and average the two speeds. According to officials, this accounts for winds and road grade that may have favoured the vehicle as it travels in one direction. Check.

Rule 3: Although the Bonneville Salt Flats might come to mind, when trying to set the kind of record the SSC Tuatara was after, the vehicle must be driven on a public road and not on a runway or racetrack. Check.

Rule 4: The vehicle speed should be tracked by a certified GPS measurement system and have two world-record sanctioned witnesses on-site for verification. Check and check.

Rule 5: The car should run on street tires, and the engine should run using regular non-race fuel. Check.

SSC Tuatara powertrain.
Photo: SSC North America.

The Right Ingredients Creates The Perfect Broth

The SSC Tuatara became the fastest production car without a gargantuan, force-fed W16 motor. Instead, it has a twin-turbocharged 5.9-liter V8 engine co-developed by SSC and Nelson Racing Engines. According to SSC, the engine produces 1,350 horsepower using regular 91 octane juice.

Feed it with E85 gasoline, however, and you have an incredible 1,750 horsepower at your disposal. All those stampeding horses are fed to the rear wheels via a CIMA seven-speed semi-automatic transmission.

But it’s not just about power. The SSC Tuatara has a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. All told, it only weighs 2,750 lbs., and the slippery body has a drag coefficient of 0.279 Cd, which makes it like a dolphin swimming in the ocean. The SSC Tuatara’s curvy body is courtesy of world-renowned automotive designer Jason Castriota of Castriota Design, the man responsible for styling the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Maserati Gran Turismo.

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