Cars I’ll Never Get to Drive: The SSC Tuatara
The best heroes face defeat. Time and again they are beaten down, but get back up, wipe the blood from their eyes, and fight on. Washington-based SSC can relate. They’ve been dueling for years with Bugatti, builder of the current fastest production car in the world, and since Bugatti released the Veyron SS, SSC’s unconscious on the pavement.
But now they’re set to return to the ring with their newest creation, the Tuatara, and some say they’ll be making the trip there at 275 mph.
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It all started in 1998 when Jarod Shelby (no relation) started Shelby Super Cars with a goal of building the fastest production cars in the world. Their first creation, the Aero, debuted in 2006 as the most powerful, with its 1,287 hp, though it wasn’t the fastest. It could “only” pull 236 mph, as opposed to the Veyron’s 253.
Unwilling to take this lying down, SSC released the Ultimate Aero TT the following year, and this managed to take the record, laying down a 256.18 mph top speed, though theoretically, experts said, it could pull 273. Theory, however, wasn’t enough to keep Bugatti from striking back. Owned by the titanic Volkswagen corporation, Bugatti flicked their corporate wrist and produced the Veyron SS just last year. This German-blooded monstrosity packed 1,200 hp and rocketed down the test track at 267 mph. It currently holds the record, though some say that the Hennessey Venom GT could take the title, if ever topped out.
Now SSC has returned to face the giant once more. Their newest contender, the Tuatara, was announced last year as the Ultimate Aero II, and just yesterday got its unfortunate new moniker. Apparently it’s named after the fastest evolving animal in the world, a lizard in New Zealand. It seems, though, that evolution fits up there with glaciers and pushing a bill through congress as one of the slowest things on earth. Not great names for hypercars.
But frankly, they could call it Betty White and I wouldn’t care. That’s because it carries behind the carbon-fiber cab a twin-turbocharged 7 liter V8 apparently capable of 1,350 hp. It’s bolted to a 7 speed manual or semiautomatic gearbox, so audience participation is encouraged. No other performance specs have been yet released, but since the sub-frames, like the cab (and likely the rest of the body) is made of carbon fiber, it will be very light. Even the nine-spoke wheels are molded of that fabled dark grey weave. Needless to say, the Tuatara will be incredibly fast. SSC claim a top speed of 275 mph, but we’ve heard that before. It’s not all about the top gear, either. Zero-sixty times are expected to fall around 2.8 seconds.
Nor is it an ugly car. The Ultimate Aero wasn’t, either, but it had a certain reservation, very obviously designed by aerodynamics experts who sleep in wind tunnels for fun. The Tuatara seems to have been designed by an eight-year-old with two or more liters of Mountain Dew in his stomach. Remember those Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars? The ones that didn’t look like real vehicles, but rather like sharks and starships? I think whoever designed the Tuatara owned them all. In short, it may or may not be able to achieve 275 mph, but it looks like it will do it standing still.
It’s a David and Goliath match once more, but the tiny, limited production firm in Washington may just prevail. We need more details before we can even begin to make predictions, but by the time we get them, the Veyron SS might be sweating. Long live heroes.