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Kiwi name for world's fastest car

2011-07-19 08:42

JET FIGHTER: Designed to best the Veyron SS's 430km/h top speed, the SSC Tuatara's engineered to go 442km/h - essentially ready to take-off…

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer SSC
Model Tuatara
Engine 7-litre twin-turbo V8
Power 993kW
Transmission Seven-speed
Top Speed 442km/h
Think American supercars and, pow, the name Shelby naturally comes to mind.

Carroll Shelby’s racing success – especially with his iconic Shelby Cobra – has guaranteed that the Shelby name has a notable halo effect when entering discussion among petrolheads.

Shelby, despite turning 88-years-old in 2011 and courtesy of his company Shelby American, still plies his trade modifying Ford’s Mustang, but another Shelby has entered the fray of late and his name is Jerod…

The 43-year old Washingtonian started his fascination with speed thanks to a junior karting career.

Soon enough, though, Jerod took personal responsibility for defending America's national automotive engineering pride against claims that the United States could not build a supercar as rapid as those from Europe.


Although unrelated to Carroll, Jerod’s as determined as his famous namesake, and in 1999 he founded Shelby Supercars with the express goal of building the fastest production car in the world.

Eight years later, on September 13, 2007, Shelby’s Ultimate Aero ran a top speed of 413km/h and was only beaten nearly four years later by Bugatti’s Veyron Super Sports

When you share a last name with Texan racing legend Carroll Shelby, your supercar company better be very good.

America’s supercar hero, built to defend top speed bragging rights against the likes of the Veyron, was Jerod’s Shelby Super Cars (SSC) Ultimate Aero.

Powered by an all-aluminium V8, in the great American pushrod tradition, it produced 947kW from a swept capacity of 6.35-litres – thanks to sophisticated supercharging.


For Jerod, though, a new challenge beckons. Although the SSC Ultimate Aero is hugely powerful and hugely fast, it looks rather, well, inelegant and contrived – like just another wedge-shaped supercar.

His new project is the Tuatara – pronounced Twu-tar-ah; if you really need to know: it’s a New Zealand reptile… The name has not been chosen for pure novelty value, though.

Tuatara has the fastest evolving DNA known in nature and Shelby likes the association. His latest supercar, with its outlandish wings (penned by former Saab designer Jason Castriota) is an altogether cleaner design than the Ultimate Aero with more sophisticated technical details.

VEYRON EATER: With nearly 1000kW on tap and a kerb mass of only 1180kg, performance promises to be, well, epic. Composite wheels weigh only 5.3kg per corner…

In terms of specification it's a much more sophisticated machine, too. Whereas the Ultimate Aero had a rather antiquated tubular frame chassis, the Tuatara’s built around a carbon-fibre tub, reducing licensing mass to a low 1180kg.

Its seven-litre V8 has dual-overhead camshafts, doubling the number of valves to 32 compared to the Ultimate Aero’s old-school pushrod V8. The boost regime is managed by two turbochargers instead of supercharging (to reduce mechanical drag) and the Tuatara’s 993kW peak power produces a power-to-weight ratio nearly double that of Bugatti’s Veyron…

Drive is to the rear wheels only - a rather suicidal configuration considering the power on offer – courtesy of two seven-speed transmissions, either a dual-pedal SMG or proper H-gate manual. How does Shelby manage to find a seven-speed manual transmission capable of transferring nearly 1000kW with a conventional driver-actuated clutch?

Well, thanks to composite construction and a triple-plate clutch design…

Statistically, Jerod Shelby’s latest creation is every bit as radical as his first supercar – a machine that baited VW into spending an obscene amount of money producing the Bugatti Veyron Super Sports to reclaim the world production car speed record. Having delivered once before, there can be no doubt that the finest name in American (hyper) supercars has done it again.

Shelby plans to produce only 12 Tuataras at the equivalent of R6.8-million. Considering the performance on offer, that's a bargain…

SSC Tuatara from eGarage on Vimeo.

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