When it comes to supercars that post breathtaking speeds, names like Bugatti, Koenigsegg and McLaren are often the first to come to mind.
But, a relatively small American automaker can now claim bragging rights over all of its speedster rivals with the fastest car in the world. The SSC Tuatara, made by Richland, Washington-based private car company SSC with a base price around $1.6 million, set a new world record earlier this month with an average speed of 316.1 mph, the company announced in a press release on Monday.
Officials from Guinness World Records were on hand to verify the record, which easily topped the previous mark for the world’s fastest production car — set in 2017, when Sweden’s $3 million Koenigsegg Agera RS reached nearly 278 mph.
The Tuatara also cruised by an unofficial mark set by France’s Bugatti in 2019, when the company’s Chiron hypercar broke the 300-mph barrier with an average speed of 304.7 mph. (The Chiron had been modified from the production version of the supercar that Bugatti sells for roughly $3 million, though, which is why it did not count as an official record.)
The Tuatara’s record speed was the average of two Oct. 10 runs in opposite directions on a seven-mile stretch of road on Nevada’s State Route 160, roughly an hour west of Las Vegas. (Officials take the average of two seven-mile runs driven in opposite directions in order to account for changes in wind and elevation.)
The Tuatara’s driver, professional racer Oliver Webb, topped 301 mph on his first run before reaching 331.15 on his second run, to set the new record with the 316.1 mph average of the two runs.
The Tuatara features a seven-speed transmission and a 5.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine with a top horsepower of 1,750.
Founded in 1998, SSC is still privately-owned by founder Jerod Shelby (who is no relation to the legendary racer and car designer, Carroll Shelby). Based out of Washington state, SSC reportedly has just 24 employees, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile Bugatti, which is owned by huge auto conglomerate Volkswagen Group, and Sweden’s Koenigsegg both boast around 300 employees each.
SSC also plans a relatively small production run for the Tuatara, as only 100 of the cars will ever be built (at no more than 25 per year), according to the company. By comparison, Bugatti plans to make no more than 500 of its Chiron supercars.
“People may look at SSC and ask if we belong in the hypercar realm, with such stalwart competitors,” Shelby told Bloomberg. “This record is so extremely sweet, knowing that our small organization just achieved something that much more established brands, with much larger engineering and development teams, and obviously larger budgets, have not been able to achieve.”
Still, SSC managed to set a previous record for the world’s fastest production car in 2007, when the company’s first production car, the Ultimate Aero supercar, posted a top speed of more than 257 mph. And, buzz had been building around the Tuatara, which began production in 2019, with reports that the American supercar was topping 300 mph in unofficial runs.
The supercar weighs in at 2,750 pounds and it is low to the ground, measuring at just 42 inches in height, compared to the 45-inch-tall Chiron. That height, combined with the car’s sleek design, helps it achieve a “class leading 0.279 drag coefficient” (which measures how efficiently a car can avoid being slowed down by the force of air), the company says.
The Tuatara’s design incorporates smooth curves and small wings in the back and front of the car to improve aerodynamics.