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SuperCar SSC Tuatara Speed Record Wearing Gilded Crown

If You Were Confused About The Speed Record, You’re Not Alone

Audrey Davis
August 20 2021
In October of 2020, the Washington-based supercar manufacturer SSC North America claimed that they had hit the holy grail of automotive speed records. But did they, really?

The answer here is not a straightforward yes or no, so it’s worth examining this long, messy saga in full. Following a test drive in Nevada, SSC announced that their Tuatara “hypercar” had reached an astounding average speed of 316 miles per hour, making it the newly crowned king of speed for all production vehicles in the world. Not only had SSC cracked 300 mph, but they had exceeded Koenigsegg’s 2017 record by nearly 40 mph – an achievement that certainly would’ve been worth celebrating if it had only been real.

Although SSC only recently admitted that they did not surpass 300 mph in the October test, the holes in their story were starting to show long before last month’s Instagram mea culpa. For starters, the Guinness World Record officials on hand at the race did not initially certify it as a world record, and Internet sleuths quickly noticed that video evidence of the Tuatara’s fastest lap was suspicious. This supposed 331 mph run already sounded too good to be true, and concerns over editing irregularities in the footage put the nail in this bold claim’s coffin. In a video statement released several weeks after the test run, SSC North America founder Jerod Shelby acknowledged the video error but claimed it was unintentional.  

Here’s where things get complicated: in an effort to prove that the speed record was real, SSC staged yet another test run in January, which raised more questions than it answered. This time around, the Tuatara actually did break the production speed record, but at an average of 282.9 mph, a far cry from the numbers the company was boasting just a few months earlier. 282.9 is still enough to beat Koenigsegg’s record, but it doesn’t come close to topping 300 mph – which means we’re left with little explanation as to why or how SSC got its original numbers. It’s also unclear why the company didn’t own up to the error until nearly six months after the January test.

CEO Jerod Shelby originally formed the SSC North America brand under the name Shelby Supercars, which was later changed to avoid any association with Carroll Shelby and Shelby American, Inc. Reaching the production speed record was supposed to earn Shelby some much-needed name recognition, but his small company now faces an uphill battle to restore their rep. In this sticky situation, Jerod Shelby might actually benefit from taking a page out of the other Shelby’s playbook: when Carroll Shelby was accused of counterfeiting his own Cobra chassis back in the 1990s, he went on the offensive, claiming the whole thing was a smear campaign led by AC Cars of England. He escaped with his sterling reputation hardly damaged at all. So if Jerod Shelby can find a plausible explanation for the October error – or at least, one that doesn’t include foul play on his part – SSC can still claim a spot in the pantheon of legendary, record-breaking hypercar manufacturers.



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