At 265.7 mph, Hennessey Venom GT claims “fastest production car” title — but is it really?

Since 2010, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport "World Record Edition" has held the mantle as the fastest production car in the world, topping out at 267.8 mph. On April 2, 2013, Hennessey Performance of Texas announced it had stolen the crown from Bugatti by posting a slower speed of 265.7 mph. Now both claim the title — and the true holder may be neither.

Hennessey’s reasoning for calling Venom GT faster, even though it remains slower, derives from the way Bugatti reached its record — by effectively deactivating the safety restrictor on its 1,200-hp Veyron Super Sport World Record Edition.

“While a Veyron Super Sport did run 267.8 mph, Bugatti speed-limits its production vehicles to 258 mph,” said company founder and president, John Hennessey. “Thus, at 265.7 mph the Venom GT is the fastest production car available to the public" — a claim Hennessey has emblazoned on his web site.


Despite reports from Fox News stating that Bugatti’s World Record Edition cars were delivered to customers without the limiter, Bugatti told us that in fact that statement is incorrect: All five World Record Editions built were sold with its restrictor in place. That, according to Jaime Strang from Guinness World Records Ltd., means the Veyron no longer holds the title as the fastest production car in the world.

In fact, as Strang told me, no vehicle does:

“It has come to the attention of Guinness World Records that there was an oversight in its adjudication of the ‘Fastest production car’ which was set in 2010 by the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. As the car’s speed limiter was deactivated, this modification was against the official guidelines. Consequently, the vehicle’s record set at 431.072 km/h is no longer valid. As we are now reviewing this category with expert external consultants there is no current record holder.”

Bugatti, incidentally, knows nothing about this, and maintains its cars stand as the world's fastest production vehicles.

This brings into question the legitimacy of Hennessey’s claims regarding the Venom GT being a “production” car. According to Guinness, to qualify as a production car one must build “at least 50 mechanically identical vehicles, and these vehicles must be on sale to the general public.”

Hennessey only intends to produce 29 Venom GTs, falling short of the Guinness guidelines. Guinness does, however, offer exceptions to this rule gifted upon a case-by-case basis. They confirmed that even if Bugatti did sell five World Record Edition Veyrons without the restrictor, it would not qualify as “production.” Seeing as Hennessey secured the Guinness World Record title for the fastest production car from 0-300 kmh earlier this year, completing the run in a staggering 13.63 seconds, it would appear an exception was indeed granted for the Hennessey Venom GT.

The limited production 1,244-hp Venom GT looks more like the work of a hot-rodder than an automaker. It remains based on the Lotus Elise / Exige: It utilizes components such as the roof, door, side glass, windscreen, dash, cockpit, floorpan, HVAC system, wipers and headlamps, just to name a few. It also looks just like the Lotus, with a few tuner add-ons to ensure it appears and sounds as fast as the numbers promise.

“One day I joked about putting the Venom 1000 Twin Turbo engine in the back of a Lotus Exige,” said Hennessey. “Then I thought, let’s do a sketch and see what that might look like. When I saw the sketch I stopped laughing and really started to seriously think about this idea.”

Of course, making a Venom GT requires extensive modifications; no one can argue that the car isn't a screamer, and Hennessey and his team have undertaken a mountain of work to fit the engine and make its handling as non-lethal as possible. But production? Hennessey Performance declined to comment, but personally, I’m not convinced.

There's no bright line that demarcates the world of high-end tuners and small-scale automakers. More to the point, do we care whether the car meets production standards in the realm of speeds unattainable without a special track? Does Bugatti even care? (While they may say no, I get the impression they do.)

One thing’s for sure: The Venom GT is blisteringly fast – potentially faster than 265.7 mph if more road existed. It also likely attracts a very different clientele from the Veyron. Whether you agree with Hennessey’s claims of “production” or not, one can’t deny the publicity it's garnered for the Texan tuner company.

You can watch the video of the record run below. Whatever Guinness may decide, there’s no doubting the lethal ability of the Venom GT, or Hennessey’s capabilities at making ludicrously magnificent machines.

And no matter where the debate lands in the next few months, it will only surge again in September — when Bugatti reveals a 1,600-hp version of the Veyron.