UPDATE: In light of recent internet discussions that call into question the validity of the SSC Tuatara’s speed record, I’d like to point out that this article is written with the assumption that the information disclosed by the carmaker is true. If proven otherwise, this article will be updated accordingly.
There’s some sort of primal joy in being the -est at something. In the world of cars, claiming the highest top speed is usually the biggest claim to supremacy. As time has passed, everybody has put in a few checks and balances towards claiming the title of the fastest. The one that matters is for road-legal production cars and it has to be an average of two runs in opposite directions on the same strip of tarmac. Koenigsegg claimed the crown in 2017 with an average top speed of 277.87mph (447.19kph). Then Bugatti modified a Chiron to be the first to break the 300mph barrier but it wasn’t a record run recorded two ways. Now, the SSC Tuatara has blown away both those cars with an average top speed of 316.11mph (508.73kph).
Mind you, that’s the average. It reportedly achieved a top speed of 331.15mph on its second run after clocking 301.07mph on its first run heading the opposite way. There were officials on-site to confirm the results of this record attempt and just like they did with the Ultimate Aero, SSC is once again at the top of the speed charts. However, we now have fair reason to question the validity of SSC’s claims for reasons that will be explained a bit further into the article.
The record run was made by Oliver Webb at the wheel on October 10. He was gunning it up and down a closed-off 7-mile stretch of the State Route 160, outside of Las Vegas. That’s the same strip used by Koenigsegg for their record-setting run. Even crazier than the results was Webb stating that the car had more to give and that it would have been quicker in better conditions. I suppose that makes more sense when you revisit the heart of the Tuatara: a 5.9-litre twin-turbo V8 making 1,750hp when drinking E85 biofuel (ethanol fuel).
Jerod is the man behind SSC North America and his full name is Jerod Shelby. No, he is not from the lineage of the great Caroll Shelby and that’s one of the reasons the company stopped using its previous full form: Shelby SuperCars. While unrelated, he is kinda the Shelby of this era. His company’s previous creation was the one that snatched the record from the Bugatti Veyron and now he and his team have outdone Bugatti altogether. And in classic American fashion, it was done with the use of large V8 that has a magnificent soundtrack. Watch the official onboard clip of the 331mph run below:
UPDATE: Is this video falsified? Or is the record fake?
A few days since this record run was announced and the more intelligent petrol heads of the internet have raised some very important questions regarding the validity of the Tuatara’s speed record attempt and the official video for it. While impractical and often pointless, these records sell cars and these cars are listed for many millions of dollars, which is why the accuracy of these record claims are taken very seriously. I personally did not have the math knowledge or experience to notice something wrong with the SSC Tuatara speed record video but thankfully, others I watch are around to pick up the slack. Both Shmee150 and Robert Mitchell have taken to YouTube to show how the official record video showcased a scientific impossibility and hence bring into question the legitimacy of the recorded speed itself. I’m sure others have covered this too and perhaps were quicker to take notice, but I can vouch that these two videos do a fairly good job of explaining what’s wrong. You can see Shmee’s video here:
And also watch an even more detailed breakdown from Robert, hosted by Misha from the Nürburgring:
We are still waiting for the carmaker to respond to these obvious doubts. As fans of fast cars, we’d like to give SSC the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they used the wrong footage for media purposes or their satelite speedometer was over reading or someone made a poor judgement while editing that clip. Unfortunately, there has been no official response yet from the carmaker and worse yet, they have disabled their comment section on certain social media platforms. The official update on the matter is still pending and will be shared as soon as we get word, so stay tuned.
We’ve talked about the Tuatara on this blog before when it made its first public outing and more recently, its production-spec debut earlier this year. The 1,750hp is impressive enough but its also pretty light and can be specced to a dry weight just under 1,250kg thanks to clever structural design and healthy use of carbon fibre. Then there’s the way it puts the power down via the CIMA 7-speed gearbox and as witnessed by the onboard camera, this thing just kept pulling. I’m not a fan of its looks but it’s been designed to achieve those kinds of mind-melting speeds and clearly, it works. SSC states that the Tuatara maintains a perfect aerodynamic balance of 37:63 front and rear for sufficient downforce at each corner of the car, from 150mph onwards.
SSC is only building 100 units of the Tuatara and customers can spec it in high-speed, high-downforce and track versions. Its cabin looks nice too with premium racey materials and sufficient comforts and technology for its expected multi-million dollar price tag.
With Bugatti bowing out of the top-speed race after the Chiron SuperSport 300+, SSC’s record has two main challengers: Hennessey Venom F5 and Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut. Both are close to production while the Tuatara has been running around in production-spec all year. It’ll be fun to see how close either of them get and if they can actually go faster.
The Tuatara’s record also resurrects the question of how fast is fast enough? As cool as it is to brag about a 330mph hypercar, almost none of its 100 owners will hit that speed themselves. Not only is it unachievable under normal driving conditions, even at the Autobahn, but it’s also so risky for an untrained millionaire driver to attempt this. The car sounds great even at slower speeds and I believe it’ll be a hoot to drive in track-spec around a circuit too. But does any car need to be aimed at achieving even higher speeds? It’s a bit like upcoming hyper EVs with thousands of horsepower and ridiculous torque figures (Lotus Evija and Rimac C_Two come to mind). I wonder if broke-ass armchair specialists like me had similar thoughts when cars started going past the 200mph barrier but I think I’d be happy with 350mph being the absolute limit for a road-legal car. What do you think?
Feel free to share your thoughts on the SSC Tuatara and its new record-setting speed in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons for more cool updates from the car world.