First production 2020 SSC Tuatara unveiled at Philadelphia Auto Show

Jonathon Ramsey
Autoblog



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Last summer, SSC North America announced that the first production Tuatara was introduced to its owner during Monterey Car Week, yet no photos of the handover were provided. The Washington-state-based carmaker was oddly low key about the event, having spent 10 years getting the Tuatara into production and delivering chassis #1 at America's glitziest auto event. Now we know why. Dr. Larry Caplin wanted to debut his car in his hometown of Philadelphia. Caplin founded CF Charities, a nonprofit that supports underserved students interested in health and STEM careers, and CF Charities is sponsoring a supercar pavilion during the Philadelphia Auto Show. The star car is the doctor's Pearlescent Black Tuatara with Gloss Black and Red accents, dressed in SSC's high-speed configuration. There's a chance it's sharing the stage with its predecessor, a white 2011 SSC Ultimate Aero that also forms part of Caplin's collection.

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Ex-Pininfarina designer Jason Castriota drew the exterior shapes. SSC says the skin and carbon fiber monocoque below are fashioned from aerospace-grade carbon fiber, the company tapping the manifest aerospace materials suppliers in the Pacific Northwest for the glossy stuff. Castriota says that lots of wind tunnel tuning has resulted in a 0.279 drag coefficient, and active aerodynamics means the Tuatara exhibits "identical aero balance from 100 mph to well over 300 mph." We're looking most forward to seeing if the Tuatara has the gumption to hit 300 mph, never mind go "well over" that mark.

It's been given the powerplant to do so, on paper at least. Developed with Nelson Racing Engines, the 5.9-liter twin-turbo V8 with the flat-plane crank and 8,800-rpm redline produces 1,350 horsepower on 91 octane, 1,750 hp on E85. Torque maxes out at 1,280 pound-feet at 6,800 rpm, all to move a car that weighs 2,750 pounds dry. A CIMA seven-speed automated manual gearbox manages shifting, swapping cogs in less than 100 milliseconds in Track Mode before sending power to the rear wheels.

Daily driver intentions are fulfilled by push-button dihedral doors, a large, vertically-oriented infotainment touchscreen with controls and readouts for the expected mod-cons as well as vehicle data and telemetry, rear and blind-spot cameras, and a Front Lift Mode that raises the nose 1.6 inches when traversing obstacles. The flat-top-and-bottom steering wheel and digital cluster look properly slick. The adjustable suspension flips between the default Sport Mode and Track Mode, a 1.25-inch ride height difference between the two; at the track, the Tuatara sits just 2.75 inches off the ground at the front, 3.25 inches at the rear. SSC also says tall drivers are invited to the Tuatara party, claiming that occupants as tall as 6-foot-5 will fit comfortably, "even sporting a race helmet."

Assuming all goes well, SSC plans to build only 99 more examples before shutting down production. The company still hasn't revealed a current price — last we heard, in 2013, MSRP was $1.3 million. That plus a touch of inflation should get a buyer well on his way to what's being billed as "America's Hypercar."

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