The Pickup Truck Chevy Has To Build
Takes a Spin in the SSR
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continues to be a good year for Chevrolet.
Chevrolet unveiled its first Corvette. Almost fifty years later the two-seater
sports coupe is still the 'halo' around Chevrolet's passenger car lineup.
the secret to the Corvette's staying power and the goodwill it brings
to the Chevrolet brand? The Corvette has remained true to its design heritage,
yet its looks are still very modern and fresh in the eyes of consumers
and enthusiasts alike.
has traveled back again to 1953 for inspiration and produced the stunning
Super Sport Roadster concept truck that debuted earlier this year at the
North American International Auto Show.
on the highly popular and radically styled Advanced
Design pickup trucks of that era, the SSR wears the same full-width,
barred grille and rounded headlights and fenders as its fifties predecessor.
Director of GM's Corporate Brand Character Center, told PickupTruck.com
that the SSR concept shown in Detroit was actually selected from one of
a total of four design proposals created by GM's Advanced Portfolio Exploration
first proposed SSR concept was a 'what if' truck, as in, "What if
GM had created a pickup truck for its Motorama car show back in the 1950's?"
In the 1950's car shows were elaborate productions created to showcase
exotic, futuristic dream cars, test consumer reaction to new design trends
and sell the more pedestrian styled automobiles displayed nearby. The
traveling GM Motorama (which ran from 1949 to 1961) was the most impressive.
Cars shown at the Motorama included the turbine powered Firebird I, an
aluminum and magnesium bodied Buick LeSabre and the concept version of
second proposed version of the SSR was a stripped down work truck with
design cues from the 1930's.
pickup truck with a 1950's look was the third SSR proposal. This truck
would have had the same functionality and portfolio position as today's
fourth version, that became the SSR all of us are now familiar with, was
inspired by taking a 1953 pickup and slamming it. It also borrowed the
retractable top concept from the Motorama truck to create the sleek roadster
we see today. Most of all, this version of the SSR, "...captured
Chevrolet's rich heritage in a new kind of crossover vehicle with an open
air, sports car feel and unparalleled storage and flexibility."
also mentioned that at least one of the three other concept proposals
is still being toyed with for a possible future concept or production
was invited out to GM's Milford Proving Grounds, located just outside
Detroit, to take a drive in the SSR and the GMC Terradyne. (Editor's
note: the Terradyne drive will be covered in a later article)
us out to a huge tarmac at Milford which led to a short course for us
to drive the vehicles on. Fresh
off the Auto Show circuit the SSR sat before us alongside the rest of
GM's Y2K concept cars and trucks.
though it had been raining the night before and most of the morning we
caught a lucky break in the poor weather. The SSR had its hardtop down
and the tonneau cover in place for the drive.
SSR is respectable in size, seemingly about the same as the Corvette.
It is absolutely dwarfed by the Terradyne. It
is also surprisingly functional in contrast to many concept vehicles which
are no more than foam or clay mockups.
into the SSR's spartan interior, which perfectly matched its sporting
nature and heritage. The design is Chevrolet's trademark twin cockpit,
also echoed in the Corvette. The only gauges and controls you readily
notice are the speedometer, tachometer, fuel level and PRNDL. The stereo
is concealed under a flip-up panel in the center of the dash.
leather seats in the cockpit are very comfortable, but in the SSR concept
they were not adjustable so it was a little awkward to drive. Nevertheless,
the driving position is very good in the SSR.
Chevrolet's tradition as a family car, the SSR is able to seat three people
rather comfortably. Ideal for mom, dad and a child to take a drive to
the local burger joint.
additional room for a middle passenger the SSR uses automatic transmission
controls set on the steering wheel. Two buttons control shifting. The
button on the right shifts the SSR from park to reverse to neutral to
drive and the button on the left reverses the process. A cool fluorescent
light behind the PRNDL informs you what gear you are in.
sonorous thrumming of the SSR's 6.0L stock V8 engine begins as soon as
you start the truck. You can feel as much as hear the 300 horsepower Vortec
6000 based engine beneath your feet.
note before we tell you about the drive. Before heading out to the driving
course we were admonished in the nicest way possible not to let it all
hang out on the track. It would not be good either for us or our GM hosts
to so much as mar the finish on the $4M+ SSR or any of the other concept
we put our foot down on the aluminum drilled gas pedal and pulled away
from the rest of the concept vehicles. Understatement of the year begins
here: There is lots of power in the SSR just waiting for the downward
pressure of your right foot.
the SSR out for two laps of the designated three-part course. The first
part of the course consisted of some gentle turns through coned-off curves
leading into a long stretch of two lane asphalt and then back into a series
of coned-off S-curves before coming back to the starting area.
first lap it was pretty conservative because it took a few minutes to
get used to the SSR's driving characteristics. The hand made SSR is still
not as refined in the handling department as most production vehicles
available today but it does drive quite well for a concept car.
second lap we drove the SSR with more confidence through the cones, further
exploring its low speed handling characteristics. Moving into the second
part we powered the SSR up to around 45mph on the two lane portion of
the track and backed off on the speed as we headed into the S-curve area.
It was quite clear we had not yet begun to really test the limits of the
aggressive engine but as far as handling was concerned, the SSR concept
was moderately far into its dynamic limits of stability. Visions of a
$.99 orange cones accidentally damaging the SSR's deep violet finish also
bounced through our head but luckily not against the truck.
ride over, our experience with the SSR can best be summed up that this
is the truck Chevrolet has to build. The SSR's head turning looks, powerful
engine, sports car-like performance and pickup truck functionality beg
to be brought to production.
not officially confirmed, whispers abound through GM that the SSR is slated
for production to take its place as a halo vehicle, like the Corvette,
for Chevrolet's truck lineup. And if that's not enough of a hint, Welburn
also made note that GM has performed some preliminary aerodynamic and
crash testing of the SSR on the computer where it was first designed.
forward to seeing the SSR on the road in 2004.