SSC Tuatara: the supercar that *almost* made it
1,350bhp and 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds, the SSC had all the makings of a great
SSC, or Shelby SuperCars, was one of the supercar success stories of the mid-2000s. And not just because its breakout model, the Ultimate Aero TT, made it into limited production. In fact, the car broadsided the entire supercar establishment by nicking the road car top speed record in 2007, recording a 256mph vmax on a closed road in Washington State. The driver, Chuck Bigelow, was 71 years old at the time. The car held the title for three years, before Bugatti’s Veyron Super Sport notched up 269mph.
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Powered by a 1,287bhp bi-turbo V8, the Ultimate Aero TT was the supercar that the US had always threatened to build to beat up the Yoo-ro-peen elite. If only it’d looked less like an adolescent’s drawing of a Lamborghini Diablo, with Peugeot headlights. And so, in 2011, SSC unveiled its next salvo in the escalating top-speed war: the quite stunning Tuatara. Styled by Jason Castriota, who also penned the Ferrari 599 and Saab Aero-X concept (a big fan of flying buttresses, then), the Tuatara still looks utterly evil.
SSC claimed power would arrive courtesy of a 1,350bhp 6.9-litre bi-turbo V8, driving the rear wheels via a seven-speed manual gearbox. We were promised a 9,200rpm red line, a 276mph top speed and carbon construction. The styling prototype was even showcased at Pebble Beach. The interior was even more outlandish – existing only in the form of CAD models helped with that. SSC planned a spartan cockpit with speed, lap time and rev readouts beamed onto bespoke head-up displays.Advertisement - Page continues below
Funding delays pushed development back – SSC reported it had a working engine installed in an Ultimate Aero mule in 2013, but by 2014 press releases dried up. When TopGear tried to contact SSC for an update, there was ominous radio silence. A West Richland, Washington, newspaper report from November 2015 suggests SSC might not be down and out yet, thanks to an interest-free $829,000 loan from the local government to build a new headquarters in the city, with founder Jerod Shelby touting the facility would be completed in 2016 with new car deliveries kicking off the following year. However, there’s been no update since, nor sign of the Tuatara in testing.
Years active: 1999–2014
Number produced: One (styling model)
Cost new: $1m est.
USP: Jet fighter cockpit
Power claims: 1,350bhp @ 6800rpm, 1,042lb ft @ 6800rpm
Performance claims: 0–60mph in 2.5secs, 276mph max
Reason for failure: Funding
Chance of resuscitation: We still believe