Part car, part truck, part SUV, part response to the Plymouth Prowler, the Chevrolet SSR was a strange brew of vehicles that was itself one of the most unusual vehicles sold in the 2000s. And this one is our autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week.
Retro styling was a big thing in the late '90s and early 2000s. It started with the 1997 Plymouth Prowler. The car looked like a 1930s hot rod, but it used a modern V6 under the hood and a contemporary Plymouth interior. It was a very strange car, but it got huge amounts of hype.
Next up was Volkswagen's New Beetle. The simple shaped mimicked the original VW Bug styling and was a huge hit for the brand. It didn't last as long as the original, but it was still in production for 14 years.
Then Chrysler launched the PT Cruiser. Again, it looked like a 1930s styled van. Other manufacturers followed suit quickly. Ford had the 1950's style Thunderbird, and Chevrolet came out with their own version of the PT Cruiser. The HHR was designed after the 1947 Suburban, and built on the platform of the Cobalt.
But one of the most outrageous was Chevrolet's SSR. It was a pickup truck with a convertible top, huge wheels, and bulging fenders. You couldn't not pay attention to the show car when it appeared at the Detroit auto show in 2000. Nobody expected that Chevrolet would ever build such a wild vehicle, but in the heydey of retro styled flagships, the SSR got the green light.
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The body was inspired by Chevrolet's 1947-1955 Advance Design pickup trucks. That was Chevy's first post-World War II redesign for the pickup. Before the 1947 came out, Chevrolet's trucks looked more like cars than trucks, although the designs were starting to separate.
The new models had big, bulging fenders, a sleeker, more modern look, and a wide grille with thick bars.
The SSR got those big fenders and that wide grille. There were fewer bars this time, with just one running the full width between the headlights. The rear fenders popped as much as the fronts.
The sleek roofline was also a retractable hardtop. The mechanism folded down into the front of the bed when open. Over the bed was a full-length hard tonneau cover. It was hinged to pop-open like a car trunk, allowing access to the carpeted bed storage area.
The SSR was based on the Chevy TrailBlazer EXT, the long-wheelbase TrailBlazer. But for the SSR the platform was shortened 175 mm, so it sat somewhere between the two TrailBlazer lengths. Unlike Plymouth's failure with the Prowler, the SSR got a V8.
The V8 was 5.3L, part of the Generation III small-block V8 family. You're probably more familiar with the series as the LS family, which were found in just about everything with a V8 from GM from 1997 to 2007. The SSR got a rare aluminium version of the truck engine, shared with the TrailBlazer EXT, Isuzu Ascender, and Buick Ranier. The engine made 300 hp, and could move the SSR from 0-100 km/h in under 8.0 seconds.
When it launched in 2003, the SSR paced the Indianapolis 500. There was even a special version sold with graphics matching that car.
Our find of the week is a 2003 SSR. The first year for the truck. It has the V8 and a four-speed automatic transmission, the only pairing offered that year.
The inside had a good amount of luxury features for the day. It has leather seating, power everything, and AC. Since this is a nice-weather cruising truck, not a work truck, it has just 37,000 km on the odometer.
If you want to cruise Main street, or if you want to class-up your runs to the building supply store, this might be just what you're looking for. Is it retro cool, or is it a new rethink of the El Camino? Either way, it's an undeniably American spin on the classic Ute.