Chevrolet’s heritage-inspired SSR (Super Sport Roadster) concept vehicle debuted to a rousing response at Detroit’s January, 2000, North American International Auto Show. Still, even after then-GM president and CEO Rick Wagoner announced in August that it would go to production, it proved a difficult business case due to its low planned volume, complex and expensive retractable hardtop and all-new body and interior over GMT360/370 (Chevy Trailblazer/GMC Envoy) mid-size SUV mechanicals. Production approval finally came in mid-December, 2000.
Body and Structure
The standard GMT360’s 113-in. wheelbase was too short for the SSR’s pleasing proportions, so it sits on a long-wheelbase GMT370 hydroformed steel frame with four inches sawed off its front and 13 ins. whacked from its middle. All major exterior panels are one-piece stamped steel, including the voluptuous fenders, which presented a challenge to die supplier Fuji Dietec due to their very deep draws. Extensive structural reinforcements provide respectable rigidity, another major challenge due to the open top and integral pickup box.
Steering is rack and pinion with a Camaro-quick 16:1 ratio, while the Trailblazer suspension is tweaked and tuned for the SSR’s lower ride height and sporting aspirations. The concept’s fat Goodyear tires on shiny five-spoke alloy wheels (19-in. front, 20-in. rear) are retained on the production vehicle.
Interior, Features and Safety
A Chevrolet twin-cockpit interior with painted-metal-look body-color on the dashtop, door sills, tonneau and console reflects Chevy’s post WWII light-truck heritage–think “Corvette meets ‘50s pickup.” The full-width chrome grille bar is echoed inside with satin chrome strips across the instrument panel, steering wheel and door pulls. Large leather bucket seats with headrests simulating roll bars replace the concept’s bench seat. Safety features include powered seatbelt pretensioners, side impact air bags and LATCH child seat anchors, and the passenger side airbag can be deactivated when a child is in that position.
ASC-supplied retractable hard top folds neatly into a compartment between the cab and bed.
The one-button power top takes about 20 seconds to retract into its own (structurally significant) box between cab and bed, which maximizes the bed’s capacity. While retractable hardtops are not unusual (especially in the ultra-luxury segment), the SSR’s is unique and highly innovative. Other systems use panels hinged together that “clamshell” and store horizontally, taking up much of the vehicle’s luggage space. The SSR’s linkage-connected roof panels separate and slide one under the other before retracting vertically into the storage box.
What We Think
The 300-hp V8 sounds great and performs well, launching the SSR from rest to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. Given the truck-based full-frame chassis, all-steel body, steel retractable top and substantial added structure, it’s no lightweight sports car, yet the nicely-tuned chassis delivers surprisingly good steering, handling and braking.
The planned 3,500 ’03 and 14-15,000 ’04 SSRs should sell out with relative ease despite their $41,995 base price. After that, GM plans to sustain SSR’s appeal primarily through powertrain enhancements and a growing list of GM SPO-developed accessories.
|2003 Chevrolet SSR|
|What is it:||A highly-styled two-passenger convertible sport pickup|
|Who’s it for:||Anyone who loves it and can afford it|
|Where’s it built:||Lansing, Michigan|
|Engine:||5.3L OHV aluminum V-8|
|Horsepower:||300 hp @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque:||331 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Transmission:||Hydra-Matic 4L60-E 4- speed auto w/overdrive|
|Layout:||Front engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Wheelbase:||116.0 in. (2946 mm)|
|Engineering partner &|