- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

The long-awaited Chevrolet SSR retractable hardtop sport pickup is about to happen. The first 25 vehicles will in fact be a "happening," according to Chevrolet.

The first saleable Chevrolet SSRs produced will be included in an unusual debut program that will create a one-of-a-kind "pedigree" for each vehicle. Both the vehicles and the program carry the name "Signature Series."

Production of the Signature Series SSRs began last month and will continue through April. They will be used in a variety of high-profile debut activities throughout the country during the 2003 calendar year, and many will be part of themed events created specifically for the SSR.

Memorabilia, photographs, autographs, news clippings and other keepsakes that connect with the journey of each truck will be collected and placed in a special scrapbook that will be auctioned off with each vehicle at the end of its road trip.

The start of these production vehicles will carry vehicle identification numbers (VINs) 000001 through 000025. All vehicles will be painted in an exclusive color to these debut trucks, Ultra Violet.

Some other content not available on any other 2003 model year SSR include a Signature Series badge on the "waterfall" interior panel between the bucket seats. Each chrome badge will be numbered and signed by two or more General Motors or supplier team members directly associated with the SSR program.

Silver stitching on the black leather-wrapped steering wheel and seats, SSR logo on the VIN plate, and Signature Series badging on the tailgate further identify the first 25. Body-color engine cover with silver insert and billet aluminum strips continue the differences, along with an auxiliary gauge package located on the floor console and floor mats, which incorporate the SSR logo. The covered bed of this custom-looking truck is trimmed with wood strips, lights and a drop-down storage system found only on the exclusive Signature Series.

Russ Clark, marketing director for Chevrolet's midsize trucks, said: "We developed the Signature Series vehicles and program concept as a creative way to introduce the new Chevy SSR to as many people as possible." He added that, "each SSR will have its own, unique adventure, a pedigree of sorts, that could never be duplicated."

The SSR Signature Series program will consist of nine themed genres. Vehicle No. 1 will have four signatures on the waterfall interior badge, including GM President/Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Pro Tem Rick Wagoner, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, GM North American President Gary Cowgar and GM Design Vice President Wayne Cherry. This special truck will be retained by GM for its historic-vehicle collection.

Vehicle No. 2 will be donated to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Foundation to be auctioned in the spring. Funds raised will go to the Heinz C. Prechter Scholarship for Automotive Excellence. The SSR's retractable roof was one of the last vehicle programs the late Mr. Prechter was involved with at ASC Inc. Mr. Prechter founded this specialty vehicle and systems company.

The third and fourth production trucks will be the "Chevy Racing SSR" specials. These trucks will take laps around some NASCAR, Indy Racing League (IRL) and American LeMans Series tracks. Affiliated race drivers, team owners and sanctioning body officials will give these trucks a whirl in and around some of these racetracks including some prerace parades. Potential scrapbook items may include driver's gloves, autographed race programs and photographs taken during these special events.

No. 5 is designated "Stars Car." This truck may get a close-up look at a movie premier, see a music award nominee, or get to take a well-known athlete to that special event. When you catch a glimpse of this SSR on TV, you'll know it's No. 5.

Six through 10 are the "Street Art SSRs." Each one of these trucks will be dedicated to Chevrolet's five U.S. marketing regions.

Artists selected from four cities within each region will be commissioned to create original works (i.e. oil paintings, watercolors, pen and ink, etc.) depicting the SSR against a backdrop of America; its geography, landmarks, people and culture.

The artists and their finished work will appear at a variety of events within the region, with a public exhibition of all 20 pieces at a special gallery showing upon completion of the program.

"Music Tour SSRs" comprise VIN Nos. 11 through 13. Each of these vehicles will spend the summer on tour with a specific musical artist or group at up to five outdoor concert venues around the United States. These "tune trucks" will be placed in highly visible locations at the concerts. It's possible the vehicles might also be part of an on-stage performance. Memorabilia signed by the artists and photos from the venues will be collected for the scrapbook to accompany each of these SSRs.

VIN Nos. 14 through 17 will be "Feature Cars." Chevrolet will work with major media properties to create opportunities to feature SSR prominently in their publications, events or television shows to gain national media exposure. The pedigree would include materials from the creation of the feature or event such as writer notes, photos, autographs, etc.

"Rock & Roll" is the eighteenth SSR. This lucky No. 18 will find its home at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It will be seen by thousands of guests and visitors as well as the many high-profile musicians who perform there. Guitar straps or drumsticks might be part of this scrapbook in addition to the obvious autographs and photos that are sure to be included with this Rock & Roll SSR.

Truck Nos. 19 through 25, which conclude this special production run, will be known as "Media Review." These trucks will be evaluated by the automotive press. These are the ones used for drive reports and road-test evaluations.

This group of vehicles has been delegated to fulfilling requests by the enthusiast media, newspapers and electronic news outlets throughout the country. Documentation for each vehicle's pedigree will range from unpublished photos to author-autographed copies of the publications featuring their SSR stories. If you eventually bid on one of these numbers, don't say you weren't warned.

Ultimately, all of the Signature Series SSRs (with the exception of VIN No. 1) will be offered for sale through public or GM dealer auctions.

The scrapbook and memorabilia collected in association with the use of that particular vehicle will be included as part of the auction package, adding to the authenticity of the vehicle's pedigree.

Start of SSR regular retail production and shipment to Chevrolet dealers is scheduled to begin in the summer.

Auto enthusiasts and almost anyone attending a new-car auto show in the past year or so are aware of this pickup truck from Chevrolet that is reminiscent of an early 1950s model. This part roadster, part pickup is like nothing else on the market today. In addition to the heritage appearance, the highlight of SSR's design is a unique power-operated retractable hardtop that stores vertically in a compartment behind the seats.

The frame and chassis of the SSR are similar in design to Chevrolet's midsize TrailBlazer family of sport utilities.

Power comes from a new aluminum block version of GM's Vortec 5300 (5.3-liter) small-block V-8 and drives the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. This sporty street machine features 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels and tires.

No matter whether you wait for a regular production unit or opt to try for a Signature Series, this truck should be a lot of fun to drive and cruise the local car events. The first 25 special vehicles have a mission and undoubtedly will be very high-profile. My bet is anyone owing an SSR will feel just as special and high-profile. This really is a "Star Car."

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