• The Chevrolet SSR convertible V-8 pickup truck was one of the highlights of this retro-obsessed era.
• In typical GM fashion at the time, the first SSR looked good but performed mediocre. This newer version has a 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 making 390 horsepower and a six-speed Tremec manual to get the horses moving.
• With four days remaining, bidding for online auctions sitting at just $16,000.
When automotive archaeologists wrote this chapter in the early 2000s, they would have wondered if there was some kind of rift in the space-time continuum. Suddenly, the streets were full of 1930s, 40s, and 50s machines, from the Chrysler PT Cruiser to the Ford Thunderbird to the Plymouth Prowler. Some of these throwbacks are actually great, but they’re at least fun. And when it came to reimagining a 1950s hot-rod pickup for the 2000s, General Motors (finally) got it right. Today’s pick from auction site Bring a Trailer—which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos—is This low mileage Chevrolet SSRwithin ideal specifications.
Chevrolet first demonstrated the SSR as a concept at the Detroit auto show in 2000. It was styled by GM’s Andre Hudson and the green light to build a working prototype was given by Ed Welburn, who later became GM’s head of global design. SSR stands for Super Sport Roadster, and the vehicle brings some much-needed excitement to the show. At the time, the Camaro was only two model years from its long hiatus, and bow tie fans wondered what would replace it.
SSR wouldn’t do it, but it’s still fun, and the public is clamoring for a production version. Inspired by the “Advance Design” pickup trucks of 1947–1955, it was a street stick available at your local dealer, ready to line up on dragstrips and . . . disappointing.
The 2003 SSR looks and sounds like the part but, like the Plymouth Prowler, shows more than it goes. The 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 makes 300 horsepower, but with Chevy Trailblazer basics and a power-folding hardtop, the SSR clocks in at 4,700 pounds. Imagine putting a grand piano in the trunk of a Corvette. The quarter mile time is almost sixteen seconds.
But bear your ridicule, as GM took the criticism with caution and heated up their factory hot rod with the 6.0-liter V-8 that the original concept promised. When Car and Driver testing this enhanced version in 2005, we felt something went wrong has been fixed.
The combination of this engine and six-speed tranny gives the SSR some crazy bites to go along with its already hairy barks. . . GM should have installed a bigger, more powerful engine and manual transmission in the SSR from the start.
Now with 390 horsepower at 5400 rpm and 405 pound-feet of peak torque at 4400 rpm, the SSR accelerates to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and over the trap in 14.1 seconds at 100 mph. It’s more like that.
Better yet, the SSR was originally just a four-speed automatic, now there’s an optional six-speed manual gearbox. Never has $815 been better spent than outfitting a GM concept that comes to life with shift action as satisfying as wielding a steak knife.
This SSR is one of the newest versions of this and only has 2900 miles on the odometer. It’s not so low-key that you can’t enjoy it as a weekend cruiser in the summer, the use of which the SSR’s limited practicality will pair nicely. There’s a slight ding to be noted, but the silver exterior and black interior present well.
As a quirky machine from a seemingly odd past, the SSR is certainly a conversation starter. Equipped with the best powertrain, this one has a driving experience that matches its looks. Don’t let it go—splits in the space-time continuum only happen frequently.
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