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New financing breathes life into supercar project in West Richland

There is little evidence of recent construction at the proposed home of SSC North America, the headquarters and manufacturing plant for Jerod Shelby’s supercar project. Shelby said he’s secured financing and will resume construction in December at Keene Road and Belmont Boulevard in West Richland.
There is little evidence of recent construction at the proposed home of SSC North America, the headquarters and manufacturing plant for Jerod Shelby’s supercar project. Shelby said he’s secured financing and will resume construction in December at Keene Road and Belmont Boulevard in West Richland. Tri-City Herald

Jerod Shelby pursued exotic financing to build a manufacturing plant in West Richland for his equally exotic supercar.

In the end, it is an old-fashioned bank loan that is allowing Shelby and his company, SSC North America, to press ahead with plans for a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing center, showroom and museum after years of delays.

Shelby partnered with Ron Asmus, a Tri-City home builder, to secure a $16 million loan that means construction will resume in December after a three-year hiatus.

The new home of SSC North America should be finished by August. Shelby intends to begin production of the his super sleek supercar by the fourth quarter of 2017.

On Tuesday, Shelby and Asmus updated the West Richland City Council on the status of the much-delayed project.

Asmus, whose firm is building the facility, said he was intrigued by Shelby’s supercar vision and wanted to have a hand in the business.

While he ended up more invested in it than he expected, he said West Richland is getting a business it can be proud of.

“When it happens, it’s going to put the Tri-Cities on the global map,” he said.

When it happens, it’s going to put the Tri-Cities on the global map.

Ron Asmus, SSC North America partner

West Richland, eager to woo business and collect sales taxes, has supported the project by taking out a a $829,000 zero-interest loan from the Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board to pay for a parking lot, curbs and gutter, sidewalks and other infrastructure at the main office, near Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road.

That work began more than a year ago and is complete, but work on the plant itself remained stalled. It currently consists of concrete footings with exposed rebar poking out.

The city has 20 years to repay the loan.

Council members, mindful of the many delays since SSC broke ground in 2013, asked pointed questions, but were generally encouraging of the new time frame.

Shelby launched SSC in 1998 to pursue his dream of building a supercar in his hometown. Working with a former Ferrari designer, he developed the Ultimate Aero and then, to attract publicity, achieved a Guinness world record in 2007 for achieving 257 mph, the fastest-ever for a production car. SSC produced 16 Ultimate Aeros in other production facilities around the country, until 2014.

He intended to attract publicity — and investors — with the world’s record.

But the timing — on the eve of the recession — and multiple false starts with would-be investors delayed his vision of establishing West Richland as home of the country’s only supercar manufacturer.

Tuesday, he told the council he rejected several equity deals that would have required him to surrender control of the company. Had he taken those deals, SSC would not have remained in West Richland.

About two years ago, he worked out a lending deal with a Florida organization that faltered.

With Asmus, who as a home builder is well-familiar with traditional financing, SSC pursued the bank loan to build the West Richland plant and finance the first phases of car building.

In 2011, SSC debuted its newest model, the Tuatara, in Shanghai, China, and Pebble Beach, Calif., with noted car collector Jay Leno at Shelby’s side.

The car is framed with carbon fiber and has a projected top speed of 276 mph. It will sell for more than $1 million. The model was well-reviewed in the automotive press.

Asmus and Shelby said there is almost unlimited demand for limited-production supercars. Competitors have sold out their production runs before the first models were built.

“There’s no shortage of customers. There’s a shortage of cars,” Shelby said.

There’s no shortage of customers. There’s a shortage of cars.

Jerod Shelby, SSC North America

When it opens, the manufacturing center will serve as a showroom as well as a museum. Catwalks with glass floors will allow visitors to observe how the vehicles are assembled.

SSC employs 18, including several engineers. Its mechanics work on custom car restoration to keep the business afloat.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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