- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

MILAN, Mich. — Like so many other people I was immediately taken by the good looks of the Chevrolet SSR concept truck that was introduced in 2000 at the Detroit auto show.

The idea for the SSR developed a year earlier, when design chief Wayne Cherry wanted to explore retro design in a truck. He thought of the earlier successful Chevrolet pickups and the final design was based on Chevrolet’s 1947-1952 Advanced Design pickup trucks.

But the concept also had to be a roadster with a retractable hard top, even though it would restrict luggage space and would be hard to produce. But when GM engineers teamed up with those of convertible specialist ASC and coach builder Karmann USA, a solution was found: to save space, the roof would be stowed vertically behind the cabin.

The SSR is built on the shortened frame of the long version of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The independent front-wheel suspension and live axle of the SSR are also taken from the TrailBlazer, as were a total of 30 percent of the parts.

Under the engine hood of the SSR lies the modern version of Chevrolet’s legendary small block, the new aluminum Vortec 5300 V-8.

It develops 300 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and a maximum torque of 331 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm. The power is transferred to the 20-inch rear wheels via GM’s Hydramatic four-speed automatic transmission with electronic automatic overdrive and torque converter. The SSR has 19-inch wheels with 225/45 tires in front; and in the rear, 20-inch wheels with 295/40 tires.

When I sat behind the wheel of the blue Chevrolet, I was both enthusiastic and skeptical.

Enthusiastic about its good appearance. Whenever and wherever I see the SSR, I feel like giving it a big, approving wink.

Skeptical about the idea of driving this heavyweight on the handling course on Milan Raceway in Michigan. Although normal driving on the public roads does not present any problem, a demanding handling course might be something else.

After the first lap, my reservations were forgotten. The pickup does not have a light weight or a very light steering, but it does not feel ponderous, either.

The SSR accelerates willingly, the transmission shifts smoothly and the truck does not hang too much in the bends.

The SSR Chevrolet gives you confidence and, if you use the throttle in the right way, there are no problems in keeping it on the road. To hear that marvellous V-8 sound — to me that may be the most retro feature of the SSR. Too bad that there is only limited time to have some fun.


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