The SSC Tuatara is now the fastest production car in history—by a shocking margin

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SSC North America/James Lipman

UPDATE 11/6/20: In response to widespread feedback, SSC has announced that it will rerun its record attempt with a renewed data recording plan. More details here.

When SSC CEO Jerod Shelby arrived at the end of the seven-mile stretch of Highway 160 outside of Pahrump, Nevada, his stomach sank. The SSC Tuatara hyper car was parked, tire engineers already scurrying around the vehicle like worker bees. But Oliver Webb, the race car driver hired by the hyper car constructor to attempt the world record top-speed run, was seated on the ground, head in his hands. It looked as if Shelby’s goal to hit an average speed of 312 mph—500 kilometers per hour—would remain out of reach, despite Webb’s prior run of 301.07 mph.

That is, until Webb looked up at Shelby and said, “I saw a big number, Jerod. I saw a big number but I was saving the car, so I don’t know how high I got.” Webb was right; just as he was fighting to save the car from a terrifying crosswind that nearly blew him off the road north, he had seen a big number. As the data trace would reveal moments later, he’d seen 331.15 mph.

Webb’s blistering pace appears to give the SSC Tuatara the outright title of fastest production car in the world, with a two-way average speed of 316.11 mph (508.73 kmh), handily beating the previous record of 277.87 mph set by the Koenigsegg Regera RS on the very same stretch of road. If confirmed, not only will the Tuatara have eviscerated the previous confirmed record by nearly 40 mph more, Webb’s 331.5 single pass will blow the doors off the previous single-direction record of 304.77 mph set by a modified Bugatti Chiron.

“All my dreams came true that day,” Shelby told us. “It was a super emotional time for Oliver, for us, for everybody involved. It was a true testament to everything we’ve worked for [these last] 10 years.”

SSC Tuatara Production Car Speed Record shelby and driver
SSC North America/James Lipman

For the record to count, the Guinness World Record mandates that a car make two consecutive at-speed passes in opposite directions, with less than an hour between passes. Webb’s first pass at speed clocked an astonishing 287 mph. On his return pass—which the team had deemed the harder of the two directions—Webb hit 301.07 mph, but suffered a scary moment as a crosswind blew him into the other lane of the two-lane highway that was shut down. On his third attempt, headed back the direction of his first pass, Webb clocked that fateful top speed of 331.5, achieving what Shelby would later call a “miraculous” top-speed that did in fact achieve—and exceed—the SSC goal of 500 kilometers per hour.

First announced in 2010, the Tuatara was meant to pick up where SSC’s Ultimate Aero—once a land speed record holder itself—had left off. For more than a decade, Shelby and team worked diligently behind closed doors to craft the Tuatara into what you see here. SSC tapped famed designer Jason Castriota, formerly of Pininfarina, to pen the Tuatara into something capable of safely traveling nearly four-and-a-half times the normal highway speed limit.

SSC Tuatara Production Car Speed Record front three-quarter
SSC North America/James Lipman

Powering this 330-mph missile is a 5.9-liter twin-turbo LS-style V-8 cranking out 1750 horsepower on E85, or 1350 hp on 91-octane pump gas. Southern California-based Nelson Racing Engines is responsible for this herculean power plant which weighs just 428 pounds. The engine bolts to a seven-speed automated manual transmission.

The best part? According to Shelby, this top-speed record is only the beginning. “Now we’re going to start highlighting the handling, the braking, [and] the ride quality.” Not far down the list is a not-so-little track in the mountains of Eiffel, Germany. “The Nurburgring lap record is big to me,” said Shelby. “That would be, to me, something that we really want to highlight. I don’t want people to think that this is just a high-horsepower, high-aero car that’s good in a straight line.”

Having done the rarest of things in the hypercar community—namely, demonstrating outrageous performance to independent observers—the SSC Tuatara has ensured itself at least a mention in the history books. We look forward to following along with what’s next.

UPDATE 10/22/20: A Guinness spokesperson reached out to clarify that officials from Guinness were not present on site at the time of the record attempt. Currently, this is an unverified record, although SSC stated that all rules and proper procedures were followed. SSC has submitted the data from the runs to Guinness for official verification. 

To hear more from Castriota, be sure to check out today’s episode of Hagerty’s Daily Driver video series, posted below:

 

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