By: Mike Levine
© 2003 PickupTruck.com
It was the
summer of 1999 when Wayne Cherry, General Motor’s vice president
of design, presented a team of GM’s best and brightest designers
with a challenge to explore and create a design for a pickup based on
Chevrolet’s rich heritage in trucks and performance vehicles.
Ed Welburn, executive director of the Advanced Design Center, was tasked
with leading the effort.
“We began with images of Chevy trucks from the 1930’s to
the 1950’s and displayed them around the studio for influence,”
Over the next several weeks, as the teams got underway, four ideas began
to emerge from this inspiration: a 1930’s highboy / farm truck;
a late 1940’s / early 1950’s street machine; a late 1950’s
Motorama-inspired truck and a retro-futuristic pickup with 1930’s
In the mid
to late 1930’s Chevrolet’s Master
Series pickups were considered as stylish as they were capable haulers.
They featured prominent vertical grilles, sharp V-shaped hoods and gracefully
arched front and rear fenders. It was the Master Series in 1939 that took
the best selling truck in America title away from Ford and helped Chevrolet
hold that position for another 30 years, so it’s not surprising
to see how much inspiration the design team must have gotten from this
truck. Their extremely attractive highboy rendering is pictured at the
top of the story.
At the end
of World War II, after several years of extremely limited production and
no new designs, Chevrolet was the first manufacturer to produce an all
new pickup with fresh styling. From 1947 to 1953 Chevy Advanced
Design trucks were highly coveted and ground-breaking in both looks
and capability. This is the truck that would inspire the design for the
In the 1950’s General Motors created one of the best ways ever
devised to mass market their vehicles – the Motorama. This was before
there was a television in every living room and during these optimistic
times GM’s Motorama crisscrossed the country showing buyers all-new
car and truck models plus a glimpse into the future with some of the first
concept vehicles every created. And these concept vehicles were stunners.
With jet power, bubble cockpits, two-way radios and more, the sky and
the imagination were the only limits. But out of all the concepts there
was never a pickup so one of the design teams asked ‘what if’
and from this a Motorama-inspired truck was designed.
“Its styling was very unique but not as strong as the SSR’s.
What the Motorama truck did have was a mechanically retractable top that
we thought would be perfect for the SSR so we incorporated that idea from
the Motorama into it,” said Welburn.
truck was a futuristic design blended with subtle Chevy heritage cues.
Known officially as the Nostalgia 2000 it quickly took on the new name
"Funkstalgia" with team members as its design progressed.
As you can see in the picture below its lines are eerily similar to those
found on the Dodge
M80 concept pickup that first appeared at the North American International
Auto Show in 2002. If it had been given the green light for production,
the Funkstalgia was intended to have a 6-foot bed and $22,000 price tag.
All of the designs were rendered as math models in computer workstations
and from the four candidates two were picked by Welburn for presentation
to Wayne Cherry and Tom Davis, then vice president of GM’s Truck
Group. Those two pickups were the SSR and the Funkstalgia.
The math models of the trucks enabled them to be quickly converted into
full size foam models by mid-August and when the covers came off for Cherry
and Davis it was clear the SSR was the winner.
By the end
of September the SSR was approved for the 2000 North American International
Auto Show and the rest, as they say, is history.