Shelby Supercar Tuatara aims for Bugatti Veyron 268 mph speed record for production cars
By Mike Hanlon
July 20, 2011
The competition for the world's fastest car appears set to escalate once more with Shelby Super Cars finally pulling the wraps off the car it has had under development for several years.
The aluminum and carbon fiber SSC Tuatara was styled by talented American designer Jason Castriota, and will run a mid-rear mounted, seven-litre, twin-turbo, Quad camshaft V8 producing 1,350 bhp.
Shelby is making no bones about the aim of the car - it is aiming for 280 mph and wants to once more produce the world's fastest production car, a title it held as recently as 2010 with the 1183 bhp, twin-turbo V8 Ultimate Aero TT which ran 412.68 km/h (256.18 mph).
It bested the previous fastest, the original 1001 bhp Bugatti Veyron's 408 km/h (254 mph) but lost the title back to the French marque last year when a 1200 bhp Bugatti Veyron Super Sport ran 431 km/h (268 mph).
SSC has only just disclosed the name of the car and some images, and no doubt intends to get as much value from the project as it can by staged releases of additional information over time. Hence we don't yet know what the performance figures will be for the car, but it can reasonably be expected to eclipse the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport's 268 mph.
Traditionally, new speed records are achieved in small increments unless your name is Bugatti. The McLaren F1 held the record at 386.4 km/h (240.1mph) for seven years, before it was marginally improved to 387.87 kmh (241.01 mph) by the Koennigsegg CCR. Then followed Bugatti's 408 km/h (254 mph), the Ultimate Aero TT's 412.68 km/h (256.18 mph) and then the quantum leap by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport to 431km/h (268 mph).
Hence, our bet is that when the SSC speed runs are made, the American crew will be aiming for something in the vicinity of 280 mph from the Tuatara and even then, there are some who believe that the Bugatti's 268 mph speed might not be bettered for some time.
It must be noted that 431 km/h is an astonishing top speed for a road car, considering it's capable of pulling out and passing any Formula One car in a straight line. Indeed, it'll best any speed an F1 car can do by more than the outright speed limit in most countries and happens to be the exact speed of the Shanghai Maglev train.
In terms of further details of the SSC Tuatara, very little more is known at this stage. The twin turbo V8 delivers its power through a seven-speed gearbox which will come with either a conventional H-pattern stick shift or F1-style sequential paddle shifters tucked in behind the steering wheel.
The Tuatara will be built almost entirely of carbon fiber - the cabin, chassis, sub-frames and even the wheels are carbon fiber while there are also some "energy absorbing aluminum crash structures".
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Tuatara is that it is both visually arresting and immediately identifiable - while many supercars are beginning to look the same from a distance, the Tuatara is visually unique, and for the dozen individuals who will have the money to own one (only a dozen will be built), no-one will be left in any doubt what it is that they're driving.
The car is the work of American design prodigy Jason Castriota.
Castriota designed the SSC Ultimate Aero and his other work so far includes the Bertone Mantide concept, the Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina, the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, the Maserati GranTurismo, the Maserati Birdcage 75 and the Saab PhoeniX. Pictures of all of these cars are in this article or in the gallery and it's interesting to look at the Tuatara and the cars Castriota has previously penned. Can you see similarities between the Birdcage and the Tuatara, or the aerodynamic detailing of the PhoeniX and the Tuatara?
For such a young designer, his portfolio is already brimming with astonishingly beautiful and significant machinery. He now leads the design team at Saab.
No price has yet been mentioned, but talk suggests you'll not only be able to go faster than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, you'll also have to contend with a price tag of less than half that of the French supercar.
Which speaks volumes for the efficiencies of SSC - Bugatti spent so much money designing and building the Veyron that many people believe they effectively subsidized the purchase of every single one of them.