First Tuatara built for a customer comes to life inside Richland facility

RICHLAND, Wash. — 10 years of development, design, and changes have led to the creation of the Tuatara, which was created in the Tri-Cities.

The first customer car was delivered to its first buyer in February. It wasn’t an easy road to this point. It took SSC North America several trial and errors, testing and more.

“Staring at this car on the computer screens for the last 10 years, whether it was sub-assemblies of it or the completed model — it is so rewarding to me now, just in the last six months, to get to see it rolling around in final form,” said CEO and founder, Jerod Shelby. “It was quite a journey.”

Back in 2010, SSC North America designed a dream facility. It didn’t work out, but Shelby knew he had to keep going with his idea of the Tuatara.

“Last year we were at the stage where we were ready to go into production of these vehicles,” he said. “We needed a facilities and we wanted to keep this right here in the Tri-Cities and in Richland.”

In June 2019, they moved into a Richland facility and hit the ground running.

“The completion of the first assembled customer car was completed in September 2019,” Shelby said. “Just a really exciting time to finally get to see it all assembled in front of you where you can walk around it and see the detail and it’s very rewarding.”

They unveiled the Tuatara at a Philadelphia Auto Show in February 2020. Everything viewers saw came right out of a Richland building.

“This will house not only our ongoing R and D, but the full production line and the completed process, or the complete process can be done under one roof now,” he said. “To the assembly to the fit and finish work to the upholstery to the paintwork, right down to the alignment and the final testing of the chassis dyno testing.”

The facility has a state-of-the-art paint booth and prep station — the finishing touches on the Tuatara. With the facility, the possibilities and number of cars they can build have grown.

“It’s going to be full, but it’s an amazing opportunity for us and it allows us to achieve that dream of delivering those customer cars,” Shelby explained. “It’s always been important to me with what I’ve been through in the last 20 years trying to build this company – I didn’t care what it took. I wanted to make sure and keep it here locally.”

As for the first Tuatara — it’s based on the test car SSC North America created three years ago.

READ: Hypercar made in the Tri-Cities aims to beat world record

“There’s just been an immense amount of refinements that went into the production car,” he said. “Under the skin, it has been changed and modified so many time through what we learned on the track.”

The Tuatara has 1,750 horsepower with E85 flex-fuel, aerodynamics similar to a fighter jet and a coefficient drag of .27.

One of the biggest differences is the test car didn’t have automatic wing doors like the customer car. It’s one of the trials and errors Shelby discovered while creating the first customer car.

Though the first customer was presented with the car — they wanted Shelby to use it for a big task.

“First and foremost, we wanted to break 300 mph,” he said. “During the engineering, development, design phase, it was always that we were going to exceed what our initial specifications were.”

A few months ago, Bugatti broke the record of the fastest production car. However, Shelby said it wasn’t certified by Guinness and didn’t follow the parameters of the world record.

“They didn’t follow the world record specifications to be certified because to get that certification you have to run the record in two directions and they only ran it in one direction,” Shelby explained. “So it has to be ran in a vehicle that’s exactly the same as what’s delivered to a customer.”

Shelby said if they break the record, he’s sure they’ll be recognized for that immediately.

“We spent so much time on the engineering side to design a vehicle that can achieve that record, we’re very confident that we can do that now,” Shelby said.

As for the future of SSC North America — they have a lot in the works.

Next week they’re expected to start assembling more cars. They hope to deliver five to six in 2020. Over the next few years, they’ll make only 100 Tuataras. The future of the company looks even brighter.

“We’re already working on the next model follow-up to this,” he said. “It takes several years to get through development, design and testing.”

The facility will have people coming in and out. Shelby wants to provide tours.

“It’s been my dream to have a facilities where we could do tours — bring in engineering groups, bring people in that are interested in cars like this,” Shelby said. “I’m excited to be able to share what we’re doing and how we got to where we’re at with groups, so it’s going to be fun to be able to start scheduling tours and being able to have people come in and see what we do.”

Shelby said they’ll be going to more domestic and international auto shows, showing off their creation.

“We’re going to be putting a lot of miles on our cars during 2020 and I think a lot of people here in the local area will get to see them in person,” he said. “We’re extremely proud of what we created and we’re really excited about what we’re going to be able to achieve with this car.”