Hypercar made in the Tri-Cities aims to beat world record
RICHLAND, Wash. — It all started with a dream. A dream of designing and building a car in the Tri-Cities.
Jerod Shelby, founder and CEO of SSC North America, grew up in Richland racing go-karts on a national level.
“I was always raised around competition and pushing performance to the limit,” Shelby said. “After I got my mechanical engineering degree, I spent 10 years in the medical device industry.”
His passion for cars remained, and that’s when he decided to create SSC North America in 1998, a Tri-Cities-based company.
“2019 is going to be a very, very exciting year for our company and our project,” Shelby explained. “We move into a new facility next month and we start production of our latest model car, the Tuatara, later this year.”
Getting to this point didn’t come without some ups and downs.
In 2007, his first car, the Ultimate Aero, broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest production car. It topped 257 mph. The car held the record for four years and SSC North America was on everyone’s radar.
“We were all of a sudden mentioned in that same sentence of all our direct competitors,” Shelby said. “Got our name out there for the first time.”
Like many companies, Shelby hit some rough patches about five years ago.
“The company was defrauded for several million dollars in a funding transaction,” he explained. “It absolutely crippled us and brought us to our knees. We were able to persevere and weather through those.”
They designed their dream facilities in the Tri-Cities in 2011. In 2015, they started to lay out the foundation of their world headquarters.
“That was the same time that we had this terrible incident happen to the company, so construction started here locally and then stopped,” Shelby explained.
Despite the setbacks, this didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream and keeping SSC North America local. They were able to bounce back in a huge way — a beast of a hypercar called Tuatara.
“We started development of this car in 2010,” Shelby said. “This car was designed with the idea of breaking several world records.”
They unveiled the car at Pebble Beach in California in August 2018.
“That’s what we call our legacy car,” he said. “The car that will brand the future of the company.”
The Tuatara has 1,750 horsepower with E85 flex fuel, or what Shelby calls a “power plant.”
“We set the bar so high and so this car is not only very light and made out of aerospace materials, it’s an all-carbon fiber chassis. Carbon fiber body,” Shelby explained.
And the aerodynamics to the Tuatara is unique, especially because of the person Shelby called to help design it.
“We brought on an ex-Ferrari designer, a guy named Jason Castriota, who is known for the aesthetics, the body design and he’s an expert in aerodynamics,” he said.
On the inside, Shelby said he wanted to replicate the cockpit of a fighter jet. And with the aerodynamic design, it’s able to achieve something no other car has.
“This has a coefficient drag of .27, which is lower than any other hypercar on the market,” he said. “Along with our internal design train and chassis design and suspension, this is an all-around performing car that you can take to the track and run racecar time lap times.”
This high-performance car is on a quest to do something else too.
“We want to be the first production car to break 300 mph and we’re very confident that we can do that,” Shelby said. “A feat that has not been done by a production car yet.”
While Shelby is passionate about breaking several records, he’s also proud of accomplishing all of this in the Tri-Cities.
“We were up in the Red Mountain area here in the Tri-Cities with wine grapes in the background and it was amazing the response we got,” Shelby said. “When we shared with them that all of these videos were five miles from our home and where the car’s manufactured, they all stated ‘you know, you got to tie into that wine industry in your local area.'”
Growing up in the area, Shelby says he’s in awe at what the town has been able to produce.
“I’ve been amazed at the technology that comes out of this small area,” he said. “It’s been important to me to keep our manufacturing here, keeping our technologies here. I’m very proud of the Tri-Cities.”
On the front of every car is an emblem. It’s the Shelby family crest. At the top is a Latin phrase, which translates to ‘Victory in Truth.’
The Tri-Cities native says he’s looking towards the future of SSC North America and keeping what he’s creating local.
“We had been through so much already and it was important to stay here locally and now, we’ve gotten over that hump,” Shelby said. “It’s so exciting to me to realize that in the next few years, I really feel like we’re going to help put Tri-Cities on the map.”
He says clientele will travel here not only for the Tuatara, but to also see the local area.
And the reason they’re traveling here — the Tuatara will be made in temporary facilities in Richland.
“It will more than handle the manufacturing production rates we need,” he said. “And that was very important to me that when we succeeded that it happened here in the Tri-Cities.”
25 Tuataras will be made once a year for the next four years, which will then be followed by a follow-up model car. All of these will be achieved in Richland, surrounded by vineyards, something Shelby thinks this area should be very proud of.
And despite some rough times, Shelby is not letting anything stop him.
“As I grew up, my parents always instilled in me if you have a dream and you want to do something, you do everything you can and figure out how to get there,” Shelby said.
He hopes his story will inspire others who grew up in the Tri-Cities and had a dream just like Shelby.
“I hope that that will give young people aspirations of chasing their dreams and don’t let anything stop you,” he said.”
In 2020, SSC North America plans to set up dealerships in the Middle East, Asia and throughout Europe.
“As we move forward, that international brand of SSC will be known more and more, and it’s based right here in Richland, Washington,” Shelby said.