SHELBY Supercars stunned the world of motoring 12 years ago when its Ultimate Aero hit a top speed of 255.83mph.
It not only knocked Bugatti off the top of the speedsters’ tree – but also triggered the multi-billion dollar race to be the quickest.
As cars have got faster than ever, the focus has changed to who will be the first to break the 300mph barrier.
And the US firm’s SSC Tuatara could be the one.
BEYOND ITS TIME
We first set eyes on its wildly futuristic design eight years ago – but it still looks like a spaceship.
The design isn’t purely about its visual impact – it is driven by the demands of aerodynamics at high speed.
Designer Jason Castriota said: “At these stratospheric speeds, the aerodynamic drag of the vehicle has a huge effect on your high-end performance and the bhp required to get to the magic number.
"We’ve done the math and we’re confident we’ll do the number . . . with power to spare.”
Talking of power, the Tuatara’s 5.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 delivers an eye-watering 1,726bhp and revs to 8,800rpm, feeding its power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automated manual gearbox that’s capable of shifting in less than 50 milliseconds.
SSC claims a 0–62mph time sub-2.5secs, a quarter-mile in under 9.75secs and a top speed of . . . well, we’ll have to wait and see. With all-carbon bodywork, the SSC weighs 1,247kg – that’s 272kg lighter than a Lamborghini Aventador, so it’s clearly not going to be slow.
I set out on Monticello Raceway, a track 90 minutes north of New York City, to see if 1,726bhp fed to the rear wheels is just an accident waiting to happen.
But, contrary to my fears, the SSC delivers its huge power in a way no rear-wheel-drive car should. With a clear circuit, I finally summon the courage to pin the Tuatara down the back straight.
Second gear, full throttle . . . the rear of the car squats, squirms momentarily then grips and goes.
"The acceleration is brutal and shows no sign of letting up until you punch a hole in the horizon"
It’s violently impressive.
Every full-throttle shift is accompanied by an explosive shockwave.
The acceleration is brutal and shows no sign of letting up until you punch a hole in the horizon.
For many, the race to 300mph is an irrelevance. For some, like Shelby, it’s the driving force in the pursuit of building the car of its dreams.
There will only ever be one production car that is the first to break the 300mph barrier.
Time will tell – but I wouldn’t bet against it being a Tuatara.