SSC Ultimate Aero TT - The Forgotten King

This cheap looking thing actually became the fastest production car in the world for a brief moment. Here's a quick look back at it...

3y ago
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If I were to ask you to name as many mid-engined American production cars as possible, you'd probably count to about 3 before finally surrendering to the involuntary head-scratch that comes once you've exhausted all your thoughts.

There have been many concepts, and there are still plans to bring out the illusive mid-engined Corvette – but America have stuck very closely with their original formula of putting a sports car's engine in the front.

The SSC Ultimate Aero TT however was one of America's only mid-engined cars, and it most certainly wasn't your usual type of sports car. If anything, it could be more accurately described as a hypercar. For this was the car that invaded its way onto the throne of the fastest production car in the world, right in between the Bugatti Veyron and the Veyron SuperSport.

With a top speed of 256mph, it still up there with some of the fastest machinery every to grace the earth – yet it seems to have been forgotten about under what can sometimes appear to be a cluttered onslaught of frantic speed machines that come and go.

The record breaking production car wasn't the first incarnation of the Ultimate Aero to rock up on the scene. Three years earlier in 2004, SSC – an acronym of "Shelby Super Cars" – had finally established their prototype supercar, which they called the Ultimate Aero.

The car's name, while sounding fairly ridiculous, does give some information about certain elements of the car. The "Aero" part of the name for instance was in reference to how the car was designed to be as aerodynamic as possible; and when the record breaking TT version came along in 2007, the TT indicated the use of Twin-Turbos. In the early prototypes before they'd turbocharged the car, they had used a single supercharger instead.

Utilising the engine from a Corvette C5R racing car, with its displacement increased from 6 to 6.2L, and a supercharger bolted on, the first prototype produced a more than healthy 782bhp. A year later, the engine saw its capacity rise further to 6.3L, resulting in a modest 5 horsepower increase, but a substantial rise in torque – up from 634lb-ft to 736. It was in 2006 however that the final prototype was made, and by turning the supercharger's boost up, and by increasing the displacement of the engine once again to just 6cc short of 6.4L, the SSC Ultimate Aero now produced 1046bhp, and 821lb-ft of torque. It was clear to SSC that in order to rise above this, they need to move away from the parasitical world of supercharging, and onto the more efficient realm of the turbo.

In 2007, the world got the first glimpse of the SSC Ultimate Aero TT – the car that promised to be faster than a Bugatti Veyron. SSC's claims were bold. The 6345cc Twin-Turbo V8 engine was pushing to the rear wheels alone 1183bhp through a 6 speed manual gearbox. Not only did it have nearly 200 horsepower more than a Veyron, it was also well over half a tonne lighter, at just 2,749lbs (1,247kg). According to SSC, the car had a theoretical top speed of 273mph. Not that anything inside or out hinted that it was a machine capable of such performance.

To my eyes at least, the exterior looks cheap and tacky, like a Halford's own-brand hypercar; and the verdict you'd draw on the interior would entirely depend on what decade your opinion was residing in. If you got into it with your early-90's spectacles on and judged it against the typical exotica of that period, you'd describe the interior quality as "a bit shit". In 2007 however, it was atrociously shit! But the cabin's lack of quality was merely nothing compared to what some road testers were reporting.

I don't know about you, but if I had nearly 1200bhp under my right foot, I'd certainly like to entertain the performance with the guarantee that I'd be able to stop. But according to some of the journalists who drove the TT, the brakes were frighteningly lacking an ability to actually stop, like they were made of cotton wool. SSC insisted that they were going to rectify this problem – but quite frankly, why they felt terrible brakes were an acceptable fault in the first place is beyond me.

In the September of 2007, the SSC made its record breaking run along a piece of closed highway. Aiming for over 270mph, the car stopped short of expectation, banking a two-way average of 256.18mph, marking a new production car speed record until Bugatti released the Veyron SuperSport.

The 1183 horsepower car that broke the world record wasn't the end of the line for the Ultimate Aero however. In 2009, SSC used their own engine instead of the Corvette's – of the same 6345cc capacity – to bring power up to 1287bhp, hoping to finally crack 270mph. Unfortunately, despite having an extra 100 horsepower, it only managed to travel 1mph faster than their 2007 car.

Production of the Ultimate Aero finally ended in 2013 with the XT version, of which only 5 were made. This was essentially an experimental testbed for what SSC were planning on releasing as the Aero's successor, and as a result it was very different to all the versions that had gone before it.

Once again, SSC had used one of their own engines: a 6.9L unit, which equipped with Twin-Turbos revved out to the crazy regions of 9,200rpm – 2,000 revs more than the Corvette powered cars – and produced 1300bhp!! Not only that, but they'd decided to equip the car with a 7-speed paddle shift gearbox, rather than the 6-speed manual that all the previous incarnations had used.

Once again aiming to achieve the car's theoretical top speed of 273mph, they sent it for a top speed run – but in reality, it also managed to run into the brick wall all of their cars had faced at 256mph.

Despite the speed all Ultimate Aeros are clearly capable of, none of them are really comparable to the Bugatti Veyron which they aimed to conquer. They are all merely one-trick top-speed ponies, executed with the engineering simplicity of putting a bomb on wheels.

The Ultimate Aero's successor – the Tuatara – was first unveiled in 2011, and has not yet entered production. That said however, SSC are adamant that the car will finally be produced this year, with 1350bhp. If I were to place a bet on the likelihood of that however, I'd certainly be putting my money on it never happening.

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Written by: Angelo Uccello

Twitter: @AngeloUccello

Tribe: Speed Machines

Facebook: Speed Machines - DriveTribe

Photo credits: Autoblog

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