Let’s start with a small introduction. If you are a hypercar lover and have been tracking them closely, you might know about SSC North America. Founded by Jerod Shelby in 1998 in Richland, SSC North America is the American hypercar company that created the Ultimate Aero and Tuatara. The Ultimate Aero, previously held the “Fastest Production Car” record, from 2007-2010, after it clocked 256.14 mph. It still stands among the fastest, most versatile supercars on the planet, and has served as the foundation for what would become the Tuatara hypercar. The American hypercar company has reclaimed the coveted title of the world’s “Fastest Production Vehicle,” this time with its 1,750bhp Tuatara.
When, Where, and How?
With an internationally acclaimed professional racing driver, Oliver Webb, at the SSC Tuatara’s wheel, the record-breaking drive took place on the morning of Saturday, October 10, outside of Las Vegas near Pahrump, Nevada along a seven-mile stretch of State Route 160.
Webb pushed the SSC Tuatara to an average speed of 316.11 mph (508.73 km/h) following two consecutive high-speed test runs of 301.07 mph (484.53 km/h) and 331.15 mph (532.93 km/h). In accordance with record criteria, the Tuatara traveled in opposite directions, clocking its speeds within one hour, to break the world record for “Fastest Production Vehicle.”
Officials were on-site to verify all world record criteria was met- including a review of Dewetron GPS measurements, which tracked the speed runs using an average of 15 satellites- and to confirm the new record.
The Story Behind:
“It’s been ten years since we held this record with our first car, the Ultimate Aero, and the Tuatara is leagues ahead. Its performance reflects the dedication and focus with which we pursued this achievement,” said Jerod Shelby, CEO of SSC. “We came pretty close to meeting the theoretical numbers, which is astonishing to do in a real-world setting on a public road. America’s new claim to victory in the ‘land-based space race’ is going to be tough to beat.”
“There was definitely more in there. And with better conditions, I know we could have gone faster,” said Oliver Webb, who piloted the record run. “As I approached 331 mph, the Tuatara climbed almost 20 mph within the last five seconds. It was still pulling well. As I told Jerod, the car wasn’t running out of steam yet. The crosswinds are all that prevented us from realizing the car’s limit.”
No, that’s not it. In addition to the “Fastest Production Vehicle” record, the SSC Tuatara also broke the world records for:
- “Fastest Flying Mile on a Public Road” at 313.12 mph (503.92 km/h)
- “Fastest Flying Kilometer on a Public Road” at 321.35 mph (517.16 km/h)
- “Highest Speed Achieved on a Public Road” at 331.15 mph (532.93 km/h)
Was It Easy To Achieve This?
The answer is yes, and no. Yes, it is easy to create the fastest production car record when you have an SSC’s V8 powerplant, that was developed and built-in collaboration with Tom Nelson of Nelson Racing Engines. The bespoke 5.9L twin-turbo, flat-plane crank engine produces 1,750bhp while using E85, and 1,350bhp on 91 Octane. That power is transferred to a CIMA 7-Speed computerized manual transmission working in unison with a state-of-the-art Automac AMT system that operates the engagement and selection of movement in the gearbox.
However, it’s just not that easy. There are several conditions, one needs to adhere to, when registering a world record. In order to claim a world record, the Tuatara had to:
- Be a production vehicle; it must be identical to the same vehicle a customer might purchase.
- Drive the same route in opposite directions, and average the two speeds. This accounts for winds and road grade that may have favored the vehicle as traveling in only one direction.
- Achieve this feat on a public road; this ensures ‘real world’ driving conditions that a race track or runway might not offer.
- Have its speed tracked by a certified GPS measurement system, and have two world-record sanctioned witnesses on-site for verification.
- Run-on street tires and non-race fuel.
But There’s A Lot More Than Speed:
While we already told you about the Tuatara’s engine, there are a lot of other factors which help it acquire that top speed:
- Peerless Aerodynamics: Designed in partnership with world-renowned designer Jason Castriota of Castriota Design, the Tuatara’s design achieved an all-time production-hypercar best coefficient of drag of 0.279. From 150–330 mph, the car maintained a perfect aerodynamic balance of 37% front and 63% rear, ensuring precision downforce across all four wheels.
- Safety: The Tuatara’s robust carbon-fiber monocoque provides vital safety to the driver, and lightweight enough to ensure peak performance. Crash structures across the car generate superior shock-absorbing protection.
All Things Accepted, But How Did They Film at >300mph Speed?
SSC has been the focus of many years of filming by award-winning storytellers at Driven Studios, as they’ve captured the ups and downs and difficult journey to the record-setting run for a documentary. In capturing the 331mph run, Driven Studios employed state of the art techniques as intricate as the Tuatara itself. Nevada’s broad landscape and open skies provided inspiration from above, in the form of a subsonic T-33 jet from Pursuit/XM2. The unique aerial asset is capable of operating at altitudes as low as five feet from the ground, and would prove to be the ultimate ‘camera vehicle,’ given its speed of up to 400 mph could keep up with the Tuatara. A helicopter with the same gyro-stabilized Shotover system as the T-33, several drones, and ground assets were also on-site to capture dynamic shots.
Shelby shares his feelings on the culmination of passion, engineering, and intuitive thinking on the day of the speed run by saying, “We validate our engineering by building a car capable of going 330 mph. We validate our passion by accomplishing this, despite years of setbacks and challenges. And we validate our values by making sure Oliver’s safety was the first and foremost important goal of the day.”
“We see ourselves as a piece of history that we hope inspires others to break their own boundaries,” says Shelby. “The only way we got to where we are today is by breaking our own. Accomplishing a feat of engineering that pushes the limits of a road-legal car by a margin this large is both exciting and inconceivable, even to me. We are entering a time where we are no longer faced by the limit of machines, but by the human factor.” The Tuatara is a testament to this.