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Third Time’s A Charm: SSC Tuatara Sets World’s Fastest Production Car Record

$1.9 Million American Hypercar is Now the World’s “Fastest Production Vehicle”

SSC Tuatara Fastest Production Car Record

Now on its third attempt at the “fastest production vehicle” record, the SSC Tuatara has set a new record, with what looks to be a certified average speed of 282.9 mph on the Shuttle landing strip at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first attempt happened last October on a closed Nevada highway outside Las Vegas. It produced the maybe too good to be true speed of 316.11 mph, with video and GPS data not matching up properly. A second record attempt happened in December, at the Kennedy Space Center, and the car had engine issues.

Is this third attempt the real deal? Does SSC once again hold the fastest production car record? Can the SSC Tuatara American Hypercar really break 300 mph? Lots of questions remain.

Fastest Production Vehicle Record

SSC North America has taken the world’s “Fastest Production Vehicle” crown once again. It first held the record from 2007-2010 with the Ultimate Aero, at 256.14 mph. The current record was set in 2017 by the Koenigsegg Agera RS, at 277.9 mph. The 1,750 hp SSC Tuatara hypercar has now set the new benchmark of 282.9 mph.

Both runs were completed within one hour, in opposite directions on the same route, and in a vehicle identical to what a customer might purchase. All of those things are required to set the official record, along with street tires and non-race fuel. The record also must be witnessed by at least two Guinness World Record witnesses and tracked by a certified GPS measurement system.

Third Time’s a Charm

The new record was set on January 17th, 2021 with Larry Caplin behind the wheel, owner of Tuatara #001. The speed run was done on the 2.3-mile Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. It took the Tuatara 1.9-miles to hit its top speed of 286.1 mph, with 244 mph being achieved in the first mile.

For this record attempt, SSC North America contracted Racelogic USA to independently verify the record. Speed and time data was collected with a Racelogic VBOX 3i 100Hz GNSS system, which is accurate to ±0.06 mph. Jim Lau, Technical Director – North America of Racelogic USA, installed the system and was on-site to verify the data. A VBOX Video HD2 was also installed and provided onboard video with speed overlay.

Run 1, Northbound:

• Max Speed: 279.7 MPH (450.1 km/h) reached at 2:38:09 PM EST

Run 2, Southbound:

• Max Speed: 286.1 MPH (460.4 km/h) reached at 3:28:51 PM EST

Two-way average:

• 282.9 MPH (455.3 km/h)

“I got a taste of full power in the top of seventh on the last run. I am excited to come back and break 300 mph.” -Larry Caplin, Tuatara #001 owner and record-setting driver.

The only upgrade done to the car for this record attempt was an upgraded cooling system, because of lessons learned during the second record attempt in December. SSC fitted larger intercoolers, more water capacity in the water-to-air intercoolers, and increased venting on the dry-sump oil system. All current and future Tuatara models will be retrofitted/fitted with these upgrades.

The SSC team has already said that they will be back to attempt 300 mph, which they are confident they can achieve. Can they do it?

Second Tuatara Record Attempt

After the mess of the conflicting data from the first record attempt, SSC set out to make good on their record numbers. This time they attempted to set the record on the space shuttle landing strip at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in December of 2020. Tuatara #001’s owner Larry Caplin was behind the wheel for this attempt.

Sadly after hitting 251.2 mph on the first run the Tuatara’s engine had issues. Specifically, two cylinders weren’t firing properly. This was likely due to overheating issues.

Since this record attempt was on a much shorter course than the first attempt, the car was fitted with a final drive ratio of 3.167, from the original 2.92 used for the October record attempt. This shortened gearing allowed the Tuatara to get up to speed faster, before hitting the necessary 1-mile braking zone.

The team packed up and vowed to be back with an improved cooling system and once again chase the 300+ mph goal and record.

First Tuatara Record Attempt

On a chilly morning in the desert about an hour southwest of Las Vegas, near Pahrump, Nevada, professional driver Oliver Webb strapped himself into the SSC Tuatara and went for the production car speed record on a 7-mile stretch of State Route 160 in Nevada. His first run he hit 301.07 mph and then on his return run he managed an astonishing 331.15 mph. The average of those two runs is 316.11 mph.

Sadly after closer inspection, the video provided and GPS speed data do not match up and corroborate those numbers. Big questions remain about what was really accomplished on this first run.

“It’s been ten 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. We came pretty close to meeting the theoretical numbers, which is astonishing to do in a real-world setting on a public road. America’s new claim to victory in the ‘land-based space race’ is going to be tough to beat.” -said Jerod Shelby, CEO of SSC after the first attempt in October.

Other Records “Set” On First Attempt

SSC Tuatara Fastest Production Car RecordBesides the “Fastest Production Vehicle” record, also known as the fastest production car record, a number of other records were theoretically achieved during this first attempt:

“Fastest Flying Mile on a Public Road” at 313.12 mph (503.92 km/h)
“Fastest Flying Kilometer on a Public Road” at 321.35 mph (517.16 km/h)
“Highest Speed Achieved on a Public Road” at 331.15 mph (532.93 km/h)

SSC Tuatara American Hypercar

SSC Tuatara American Hypercar

If you’re not familiar with the SSC Tuatara hypercar, don’t be upset. It has largely flown under the radar so far, but this new record is sure to cement its name in the hypercar history books. SSC North America is a hypercar company that has been creating fast cars in Richland, WA, for over 14 years. The Tuatara is their latest insanely aerodynamic and powerful machine, which will have a limited production of only 100 cars at a whopping $1.9 Million+ dollars apiece.

To go really fast you first need an insanely slippery shape. The Tuatara achieves a production-hypercar best coefficient of drag of only 0.279. This was achieved through the hard work of world-renowned designer Jason Castriota of Castriota Design. SSC said, after the first record attempt, that from 150-330mph “the car maintained a perfect aerodynamic balance of 37% front and 63% rear, ensuring precision downforce across all four wheels.”

SSC Tuatara engine

Besides being slippery through the air a huge amount of power is required to propel a car, even one that is only 2,750 lbs, to over 300 mph. The SSC Tuatara has a custom Nelson Racing Engines 5.9L twin-turbo, flat-plane crank engine putting down 1,750 hp on E85. A super-advanced “robotized” 7-speed transmission transfers all that power to the wheels, shifting in under 100 milliseconds.

SSC Tuatara American Hypercar world record

“There was definitely more in there. And with better conditions, I know we could have gone faster. As I approached 331 mph, the Tuatara climbed almost 20 mph within the last five seconds. It was still pulling well. As I told Jerod, the car wasn’t running out of steam yet. The crosswinds are all that prevented us from realizing the car’s limit.” -said Oliver Webb, the driver of the first record attempt.

Bryon Dorr
About Bryon Dorr

AutoWise Editor-in-Chief Bryon Dorr has been a lifelong automotive enthusiast. From the supercar posters on his childhood walls to the massive Hot Wheels/Matchbox collection, Bryon has been dreaming about automotive adventures his entire life. For the past decade+ Bryon has pursued a career in automotive photography and journalism. He's worked for a wide range of the top outlets in the overland, off-road, adventure motorcycle, and general automotive media. His current household automotive quiver includes a custom overland 2013 GX460, a 2020 Ioniq Electric, and a 2006 KTM 950 Adv. He recently sold his 996TT, and is on the hunt for a new performance car.