With the production of customer Tuatara hypercars well underway at SSC North America headquarters in Richland, Washington, the public has its first chance to witness the product of over a decade of design, engineering, and development as Larry Caplin and his organization, CF Charities, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania reveals his 2020 SSC Tuatara, the first of one hundred exclusive units to be produced, on February 7th, 2020 at the Philadelphia Auto Show.
The SSC Tuatara is a hypercar that alters reality on several automotive design and engineering fronts. The Tuatara project, code named “Exceed”, began in 2009, when SSC North America Founder and CEO Jerod Shelby began to look to the future for a successor to the company’s record-breaking SSC Ultimate Aero, which held the Guinness World Record for Fastest Production Car in the World from 2007 to 2010. From there, he assembled a collaboration of industry leading individuals and firms to enhance the SSC engineering team.
“The team had to reflect the achievements that we set out to accomplish, which is why we gathered the best in the industry to push the vision of the Tuatara forward. The team has not only achieved that original vision, but has surpassed it by an incredible margin.” – Jerod Shelby, CEO / Lead Designer
The body and aerodynamics of the Tuatara were designed in collaboration with world renowned automotive designer Jason Castriota. Penning the design of legacy brand automobiles such as Maserati and Ferrari, his insight into timeless and striking form would help move the SSC brand forward with a hypercar design that would endure the test of time. Likewise, the science of aerodynamics and thermal efficiency had to not only blend seamlessly into the artful exterior, but be pushed to new limits, ensuring an unparalleled coefficient of drag.
“The resulting aerodynamics package sets the Tuatara apart from our competitors. Not only does the car boast a class leading 0.279 drag coefficient, but also maintains an identical aero balance from 100 mph to well over 300 mph, resulting in an incredibly stable and predictable car that instills absolute confidence in the driver.” – Jason Castriota
Beneath the carbon fiber skin of the Tuatara is a robust carbon fiber monocoque, engineered with safety, durability, performance, and aesthetics in mind. The monocoque brings all of the critical sub-assemblies together into an aggregated form, as well as contours to the shape of the ergonomic cockpit surrounding the driver and passenger. Composed entirely of carbon fiber, the light weight frame provides uncompromising safety thanks to its systematic crash structures and durable design. The beautiful carbon fiber composition was not left to be unnoticed, as exposed areas of the monocoque are visible, both subtly and notably across the car. For over a century, Washington State has been a global leader in aerospace innovation. SSC North America tapped into this extraordinary potential by collaborating with aerospace design firms and suppliers based in Washington that could provide carbon fiber components that meet the strict aerospace standards. Further collaboration between the SSC engineering team and Nevada based Customs Factory bolstered the design, engineering, and development of the lightweight Tuatara skeleton, an all carbon work of art leading the hypercar industry for safety and performance.
Jerod and his team at SSC North America are founded on the pursuit of extreme performance. As such, the vision of the Tuatara embodied creating a hypercar with unprecedented power, speed, and versatility. Furthermore, the powerplant had to be as unique as the Tuatara itself and the driving experience it affords. SSC North America engineers started from the ground up, designing a bespoke engine in collaboration with Tom Nelson of Nelson Racing Engines. From a groundbreaking intake system, to a unique flat-plane crank configuration, to a form so exceptional it is designated as a work of automotive art, the SSC Twin Turbo V8 revolutionizes the potential of hypercar powerplants. Producing 1,350 horsepower with 91 octane or a massive 1,750 horsepower with E85, the SSC V8 pairs with a CIMA 7 speed transmission, integrated with a state-of-the-art Automac AMT system, providing sub-100 millisecond shifting capabilities in Track Mode.
After two decades of achieving top tier performance, one of the most underestimated goals and achievements of SSC North America is the diversity of drivability that SSC hypercars deliver. The aggressive capabilities of the Tuatara may be apparent through the astonishing aerodynamics and power it boasts, but the vision of the car was to achieve the rare ability for the car to transform its capabilities at the touch of a button. Integrated into the Tuatara are advanced automated systems, granting the driver the ability to completely alter the suspension, ride height, handling, acceleration, shifting, and overall drivability. Sport Mode, the default configuration, sets the car at 4.0″ front and 4.5″ rear ride height, as well as a transmission configuration to allow for docile shifting for ease of operation and city street environments. Track Mode lowers the ride height to 2.74″ front and 3.25″ rear, adjusts the geometry of the suspension for extreme track-level handling, substantially increased shift responsiveness, and dynamically activating a rear wing control surface, adjusting pitch and height based on speed to maintain deliberate airflow and balanced precision downforce. While braking, the active rear wing deflects accordingly, spoiling the airflow and delivering superior braking capabilities. Front Lift Mode offers convenience in situations that would otherwise limit the low ride height of the Tuatara. The front suspension is lifted an additional 40mm, allowing for clearance over speed bumps or other raised surfaces. Ease of transport is achieved through this adjusted ride height as well.
With an extreme level of performance at the driver’s disposal, operator and passenger comfort and connectivity is key to the unprecedented experience that the Tuatara has to offer. Dihedral opening doors offer both spacious cab egress and stunning curbside attraction, as well as ease of use. At the press of a button, the hydraulically actuated doors open effortlessly, welcoming the individual to a well appointed cockpit. Safety is immediately apparent as exposed carbon fiber encases the cab. Each and every detail of the pure and purposeful interior has been designed to maximize the ability to focus on the task at hand, redefining all paradigms of speed, distraction free. The driver is seamlessly connected to the car through a user focused digital HMI (human-machine interface) driver display, designed to provide crucial driving information to the driver in an easily navigable yet striking design. On the center console sits a readily available touch screen system, offering the driver all of the vehicle’s toggles, controls, diagnostics, and entertainment in a practical user interface. At the touch of the screen, the driver has access to the multiple driving modes, tire pressures, complete diagnostics, climate control, music, and more. At the center of the driver’s helm is the Tuatara steering wheel with custom paddle shifts, accessible buttons and toggles, and a shift light indicator to overtly prompt the driver during intense track handling situation. Passengers as tall as 6’5″ will fit comfortably in the cabin, even with sporting a race helmet.
The SSC Tuatara personifies over a decade of a methodical, passionate, and innovative undertaking to create a car that exceeds measure on all fronts. It is a truly bespoke American hypercar that involves the collaboration and efforts of hundreds of dedicated individuals on a global scale.
“I am extremely proud of our team. We have created the full package – looks, performance, and artwork all rolled into one. The last 10 years have been a journey to excellence making this February 7th public debut even sweeter and more rewarding. And it is only the beginning!” – Jerod Shelby.
SSC North America will produce one hundred (100) Tuatara hypercars, all manufactured at the company headquarters in Richland, Washington, USA. Manhattan Motorcars of New York is the exclusive Northeast United States Authorized Tuatara Dealership. An extensive options list gives customers a chance to make each Tuatara truly unique, with high speed and track-centered configurations available.