The top speed record of 256.18 mph was set on Oct. 9, 2007, on a closed-off section of Highway 221 in Washington state.

Courtesy of Shelby SuperCars

Other Fast Cars

The record held by the Ultimate Aero TT is for fastest production car in the world. That means that this is a car you can buy and keep in your own garage -- assuming, of course, you can cough up the more-than-$600,000 base price. Some people argue, however, that the Ultimate Aero TT isn't truly a production car at all, but rather constructed for the sole purpose of setting records and drawing attention to SSC's other vehicles. Jerod Shelby openly admits that the Ultimate Aero was designed for the purpose of putting Shelby SuperCars on the high-end automobile buyer's radar, but also says that he fully intends to sell the 50 Ultimate Aero TTs that his company plans to produce. The car has also been certified as street legal by the United States Department of Transportation.

But what if the Ultimate Aero TT wasn't the fastest car in the world? What car would reign supreme? The previous official world record was held by the Koenigsegg CCR, which set the record on Feb. 28, 2005, on the Nardo Prototipo track in Italy. (Before that, the record had been held for 12 years by the McLaren F1.) Oddly, the Nardo track is circular, a configuration that usually isn't conducive to setting speed records since the physics of automobile motion requires acceleration just so that the car can take the curves.

The Koenigsegg CCR's record was actually broken less than two months later, on April 19, 2005, by the Bugatti Veyron 16.4. However, the Veyron's top speed wasn't verified by the Guinness Book of World Records and is therefore considered unofficial, which left the CCR in top place until the Ultimate Aero TT clocked its even faster record speed in 2007.

But all of these record-setting cars are sluggards compared to the Thrust SSC jet-propelled car. SSC stands for "supersonic car" and, yes, it can go faster than the speed of sound. It set a record for land vehicles when it was timed at 763 miles per hour (1,228 kilometers per hour) across Nevada's Black Rock Desert in 1997. The Thrust SSC isn't a production car and it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to own one unless they do a lot of travel across flat, open spaces. But it does demonstrate that production cars have a long way to go before they achieve the maximum speed that it's possible for a vehicle to go on land.