Watch how the SSC Tuatara became the world’s fastest production car

It achieved a two-way speed average of 508.73kph
by TopGear.com | Oct 20, 2020
PHOTO: TopGear.com

Top Gear can exclusively reveal that Shelby SuperCars (SSC) North America has set a new top-speed record for a production car, hitting a Vmax of 532.69kph (331mph) and setting a two-way average of 508.73kph (316.11mph) on a seven-mile stretch of closed road just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Before you read any further, we recommend you hit play below and climb on board for the outrageous 0-331mph run. Top Gear is being granted this exclusive footage from the guys that are making the full feature-length documentary of this epic endeavor, landing later in the year.

Picked your jaw up off the floor yet? Good. Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any more surreal, Team America smashes Bugatti’s 490.48kph (304.77mph) set in that go-faster Chiron at Ehra-Lessien. Better than that, on October 10, SSC did it in two directions—something the Chiron failed to do—stealing the crown off Bugatti and once again beating the hypercar glitterati fair and square. Just like it did way back in 2007.

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To hit an average speed of 508.73kph, British racing driver Oliver Webb got behind the wheel, pointed the nose at the horizon and pinned it down the two-lane highway. On his first run, he hit 484.53kph (301.07mph)—spicy speeds in anyone’s book, but not good enough for an official world record.

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So, he turned the car around and did exactly the same in the other direction, this time not letting his foot off the throttle until he hit 532.93kph (331.15mph), good enough for an average of 508.73kph to make the SSC Tuatara the fastest production vehicle on the planet.

The straight section of State Route 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump may ring a bell, especially if you’re a speed freak. It’s the same bit of tarmac made famous by Koenigsegg in 2017, when it claimed the title of world’s fastest production car from SSC’s previous creation, the Ultimate Aero (which hit 411.72kph or 255.83mph on a closed road in Washington State in 2007, itself taking the title from the Bugatti Veyron).

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The Swedish Agera RS posted a two-way average of 447.24kph (277.9mph) in Nevada, with a Vmax of 447.24kph (284.55mph). SSC has just around 64kph on top of that average. Stop and think about that for a second. Now breathe.

Just what the hell is the SSC Tuatara? Well, it first broke cover in 2011 as the replacement for the Ultimate Aero. Since its inception, Top Gear has been following its progress and exclusively drove the development car last year—and unsurprisingly, we found it to be rather brisk to drive.

Built in Richlands, Washington, USA, the 1,247kg hypercar is powered by a 5.9-liter twin-turbo flat-plane-crank V8 producing 1,750hp. But power only gets you so far. The Tuatara’s crazy Vmax comes in no small part from the outlandish design of its carbon-fiber bodywork. That bit is the work of Jason Castriota, he of Maserati Birdcage Concept, Ferrari P4/5, Ford Mach-E, and Saab Phoenix fame.

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From the outset, Castriota stressed the focus on delivering a crazy 0.279 drag coefficient and an aero-centric philosophy. The Tuatara’s slinky ability to pierce through the air effectively is obvious toward the end of the run; the Tuatara furiously blasts from 400-480kph and beyond, not pausing for breath. Now, check out Bugatti’s run—where the Chiron is headbutting an aerodynamic wall.

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Having completed the run, Webb had this to say: “There was definitely more in there. And with better conditions, I know we could have gone faster—as I approached 331mph, the Tuatara climbed almost 20mph within the last five seconds. The car wasn’t running out of steam yet. The crosswinds are all that prevented us from realising the car’s limit.”

Watching this film and processing the numbers, it’s hard to imagine it ever being bettered. After all, it was 13 years ago that SSC stunned the automotive nobility when it set the production-car speed record by hitting 410kph, taking the title from Bugatti with the added validation of Guinness. Now, thanks to being a production vehicle, having a two-way average, being on the public road, and having certified GPS data and two world-record sanctioned witnesses on site while running street tires and non-race fuel, they’ve won again: fair and square.

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“It’s been 10 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.

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“America’s new claim to victory in the ‘land-based space race’ is going to be tough to beat.”

SSC might well have just put the full stop at the end of the hypercar speed equation, but in a market were fastest is best and egos are big, we’re sure it won’t be taken lying down. We may need a bigger planet. Your move Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Hennessey...

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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