All-American Bug-Killer?  Maybe...
Tuatara Supercar Claims 1350 Horsepower, 275+ mph
When the Bugatti Veyron made its debut with a million-dollar price tag, a thousand horsepower under the hood and a 250 mph top speed, it was difficult to conceive of a car more extreme.  Surely this must be the pinnacle of automotive performance, for the street anyway?
Apparently not…
Because now the 1350 horsepower, 275+ mph Tuatara (pronounced twu‐tar‐ah) is nearing production. 

The driving force behind this proposed Bug(atti)-killer is Jerod Shelby (no, not that Shelby), principal of SSC North America, based in West Richland, Washington… a place that, if seemingly unlikely, is at least appropriately-named.  The 36,000 square foot facility, specially designed for the production of the Tuatara, is equipped with the latest technology and features a dedicated R & D space for development of all future products.  It also houses a production facility capable of building up to 48 cars per year, and will also serve as a showroom for prospective buyers.
Promoted as having 1350 horsepower on tap (1,700 if you take off all the emissions gear) from its twin-turbocharged V-8 engine – and a 300 mph speedometer installed in the futuristic dashboard – the SSC Tuatara is the even-swoopier follow-up to the SSC Ultimate Aero XT, a car that made a name for itself and the company by holding the world's record for top speed for a production car for three years until Bugatti took the record in 2010 with a top speed or 267.8 mph.
There was a bit of drama about this recently when Bugatti was stripped of the title because it was discovered that the speed-limiting chip used in the thirty customer cars that were produced was removed for the top-speed run.  This was apparently an egregious violation of the rules and the Guinness Book of World Records gave the title back to SSC.  Then Bugatti came back and claimed the open-top speed record with a run at 254.4-mph in a Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse… takes a brave man to drive a convertible that fast.
“After we held the record for 3 years, I was happy to hand over the crown to Bugatti back in 2010," said Shelby.  "I think it’s good for the supercar industry to have competition. It keeps the enthusiast hungry. We’ve also always felt that it would be better to break someone else’s record next time, instead of just re-breaking our own record."
The concept version of the Tuatara was a sensation when it was first shown at Pebble Beach in 2011.  Designed by the oddly talented Jason Castriota, he of SAAB and Fiat fame, the Tuatara bears a passing resemblance to the 2006 Maserati Birdcage 75th anniversary concept car, also a design in which Castriota had a hand.  He runs an independent design consultancy called Castriota Design.
While the appearance speaks for itself, the name Tuatara would perhaps benefit from a bit of explanation.  It was inspired by a modern day New Zealand reptile that bears the same name.  A direct descendent of the dinosaur, this reptile’s name translated from the Maori language means “peaks on the back,” which is quite fitting, given the winglets on the back of the new car. While the Tuatara is a very unique creature, there was a particular property of this reptile that immediately married it with SSC. The Tuatara possesses the fastest evolving DNA in the world, and amongst the world’s greatest supercar manufacturers, so does SSC.
“Most manufacturers essentially use the same basic model and body shape for up to 10 years, while only making small refinements to it each year," says Shelby.  "After only three years in production with the Ultimate Aero, SSC’s Tuatara is about to monumentally evolve in the areas of sophistication, design, aerodynamics and shear all‐around performance. We felt that the fastest evolving DNA was a perfect definition of SSC’s latest project.”
Let us all give thanks that they didn't draw any more inspiration from the Tuatara lizard than they did, and also that they chose to emulate the Boeing Dreamliner in the construction of the car, and the attention paid to the passenger experience.
The Tuatara, like the Dreamliner, is built almost completely out of carbon fiber, with the exception of aluminum crash structures, the Tuatara’s frame is all carbon fiber.  SSC has gone above and beyond in this department by even making the wheels out of carbon fiber—the first of its kind in the world.  This extensive use of lightweight materials helps keep the Tuatara's weight down to around 2,750 pounds, while the Bugatt Super Sport weighs in at just over 4,000 pounds.

The Tuatara’s light weight, combined with its 1350 horsepower engine, lowers its horsepower-to-weight ratio to two pounds per horsepower—a new world record for production cars, and should – theoretically – produce a top speed of 276 mph… assuming the gods of aerodynamics are feeling charitable toward the idea.

In addition to the aerospace-inspired exterior design, the Tuatara's cockpit is visually reminiscent of a fighter jet, including a heads-up display for the driver and two small screens for the passenger to that provide "co-pilot information" such as speed, RPM, etc.
With major assembly development entering the final phases for the Tuatara, the engine package completed its final testing and validation during a last full day of dyno testing last week.  This newly developed 423 twin turbo V-8 engine will come standard in the Tuatara producing 1350 horsepower and a staggering 1280 lb-ft of torque running on standard United States “premium” 91 octane fuel and has also shown that it is easily capable of over 1700 HP for those owners that don’t want or need to be buffered by regulations. After three years of engineering, the final results are an amazingly docile package with incredible daily drivable characteristics that truly mask the savage beast within.
“This is a proud moment for all that were part of the engineering team on this project," says Shelby.  "This amazingly versatile package has already shown that it can easily be driven on a daily basis in any climate or environment in the world and at the same time can roll out of the pit area onto a track like Nurburgring and easily handle any rigors that record will require. Versatile, efficient, docile, savage…Engineering success!”
Engineering success perhaps, but sales success?  Gerald Weigert was the first to build a small production run of an all-American supercar with the Vector, but a variety of factors kept the project from being the success it should have been and he went on to design the AquaJet Jet Bike watercraft. 
And the main reason Bugatti was able to be rescued from history to join the ranks of modern supercars with long histories such as Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini is that its owned by Volkswagen, the largest automaker in the world.  But even at $2.7 million per copy, its unlikely Bugatti actually makes money on their cars. 
So how will Jerrod Shelby and SSC North America fare financially with an approximately $1 million price tag for the Tuatara?  Unknown.  But it's also worth remembering that Enzo Ferrari, Ferrucio Lamborghini and the Maserati brothers, Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Ettore, and Ernesto, were all once visionaries building cars like the world had never seen before in a remote garage somewhere, long before they were legends.   




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