Road Test: 2003 Chevrolet SSR
Catch 22...If You Can
By: Arv Voss ©, 2003
Posted: 9-28-03 22:10

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The Chevy "Bowtie" folks have for decades specially labeled cars and trucks that possess an added level of spirit. The SSR or Super Sport Roadster falls into this category, epitomizing the "crossover" ideology while capturing the rich heritage of Chevrolet in a new kind of vehicle that provides not only an open air sports car feel, but an unparalleled level of storage and flexibility -- it's a little bit car and a little bit truck -- technically, it's a roadster pickup, and "grape" fun to drive in its purplish hue. The top is a retractable steel unit that folds and stacks vertically behind the seating area beneath a hard tonneau cover. Operation is at the touch of a button and takes place in about 20 seconds either way. The bed features a hard tonneau as well, hinged at the front.

The architecture, contemporary in nature, is based on the platform of
Chevy's mid-size Trailblazer SUV, while immortalizing the classic essence of the '48 - '53 Chevy truck. The cab fenders and bed are so artfully integrated that they appear as a singular unit with highly sculpted surfaces. The nose incorporates both a current style, full width grille bar and the familiar Chevy badging of old. The exterior color and sculpted theme wraps into the interior, completing a harmonious blend of the two elements. The real surprise is that despite the complicated contours and shapes that comprise the SSR's alluring makeup, all major body panels are executed in metal. Many observers perceived it to be a chopped and channeled, full custom, early Chevy pickup.

The SSR's power is delivered to the rear wheels via an ohv Vortec 5.3 liter V8 engine, connected to a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. The motor develops 300 horses and 331 pound feet of torque. Seating consists of two very comfortable and supportive sport buckets and the automatic gear selector is located in the center console. For now, there is no clutchless manual shift mode gearbox available.

Early 2003 SSR production consisted of 25 special units, as part of a Signature Series, each signed by development team members and suppliers, and each numbered on a unique badge that appears on the body-colored "waterfall" seat separator. All are destined to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with proceeds going to various worthwhile charitable causes -- except for Numero Uno which stays with GM as part of their historical collection. Number Two was donated to the Society of Automotive Engineers, and has already sold on eBay for $137,850. The balance of the Signature Series will be sold as used, after refurbishing, with a specific "pedigree" and related memorabilia associated with its use as part of the package.

My test SSR was Number 22 in the Series and was finished in a chameleon-like Ultra-Violet metallic, sometimes appearing to be purple and at other times, blue. The interior was done up in black with silver stitching, and sporting trim with a brushed aluminum look. It is scheduled for auction late in the year -- if you're able to catch 22, consider yourself lucky. Signatories for #22 are Tom Wilkinson, Director of Chevrolet Communications and Dick Raymond, GM Integration Manager for General Assembly.

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