From Concept to Reality
Text below from the scrapbook of Signature Series SSR #23, (PUBLIC DOMAIN) Copyright ©General Motors 2003; All photos and renderings (PUBLIC DOMAIN) Copyright ©General Motors 2000-2002
In June of 1999, Wayne Cherry, (then) Vice President of GM Design Centers, proposed his vision for the developoment of a Halo vehcile for Chevrolet -- a vehicle that would celebrate the company's rich automotive heritage and offer a glimpse at its future. For the vehicle to be a Halo vehicle for Chevrolet, he believed that it should take heritage cues form the company's successful truck division. He wanted the inspiration for the SSR design to come from the Chevy pickups of the early '50s. These trucks have become the quintessential choice for street-rod truck enthusiasts. They also capture the spirit of the SSR design philosophy -- a strong visual brand statement and V8 performance, two trademarks of Chevrolet's proud heritage.
Ed Welburn, who headed GM Design's Corporate Brand Center (CBC) at the time, guided a team of young designers through the initial brainstorming sessions, exploring a variety of design solutions.
Brand Inspired, Digitally Designed
The SSR was designed using advanced technology at the CBC. This digital design studio worked in a virtual world. Designers didn't use traditional scale models or clay. Instead, they used a math-based, computer-driven process to explore design options. This meant increased speed, greater design accuracy and improved integration with the studio's engineering partners to share data, study structural peformance and integrate design innovations.
Design reviews were held in the virtual reality studio where both Wayne and Ed viewed the progress of theme development on a daily basis. As the process developed, the benefits of their exploration paid off with the development of functional attributes like the SSR's patented retractable hardtop.
It's All About Speed
By July of 1999, only three weeks later, the first complete full-size virtual models -- created using only computer software -- were finished.
"With the design and modeling being done entirely in the computer, we could simulate and study light reflections of three-dimentional surfaces and create full-motion animations -- all at the same time."
--Glen Durmisevich, SSR Design Manager
With the selection proces narrowing the list of contenders, the SSR moved to the next phase of development and was made into a full-size physical model. Another milestone had been achieved -- from first sketch to approval in only eight weeks. The capability of digital design had proven itself, and with a window of only one month to build a full-size model for an internal Corporate Leadership Team review, digital design would continue to be an invaluable tool.
The model was completed on time in an orchestrated effort that required constant communicaion, a steamlined process and a steady stream of modifications and refinements. Accuracy was critical and getting it right was the priority, but it was all about speed.
Revealed for the first time to the Corporate Leadership Team, the SSR model prompted a spontaneous reaction and an immediate inquiry: "Can we have it for the North American International Auto Show in January?" The show would open in less than four months.
"From the start, the SSR concept was designed to be a viable option for production."
--Ed Wellburn, (then) Executive Director of Design
Lines of a Legend
The SSR generates a captivating, emotional response with a bold form vocabulary that's clean, simple and sophisticated. Overall, Chevy SSR fast forwards the classic, '50s-era pickups in a sweeping body design of voluptuous shapes and forms including an integrated box, tapering plan view and aggressive stance. And true to its heritage, SSR has sculptured, muscular fender shapes that flow into a visually clean central fuselage. The show car exterior was built using the original math data generated for the 3D virtual model.
Like the exterior, the interior design was created solely in a virutal world. Design harmony is achieved through tasteful touches like the body color that encapsulates the twin cockpit interior and cascades down, between the seats. Further interior and exterior harmony is achieved with the use of polished aluminium bars across the instrument panel and doors that graphically respond to a similar design across the SSR grille which displays the Chevy bowtie.
Interior of the 2000 SSR concept.
Unveiled at the 2000 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, reaction to the SSR concept car was instant and positive -- so positive, in fact, that while the press and public were experiencing the vehicle for the first time, GM designers and engineers were already looking to the future.
Bringing the SSR to Life
From a design perspective, the Chevy SSR moved into the production phase under the direction of (then) Vehicle Chief Designer, Bill Davis. Tom Davis (no relation to Bill), then Vice President of the GM Truck Group, assembled a team of engineers to work with engineering partner ASC, Inc. and to coordinate the SSR production engineering activity. The production team's orders were clear: Deliver the show vehicle. Their success was evident when, in
August 2001, a yellow production-intent show vehicle was built.
"Our challenge was to capture the essence of the SSR concept and carefully craft the production model to evoke that same level of passion and excitement."
--Bill Davis, SSR Lead Designer
The production version of the SSR made its public debut on August 17, 2001, when Rick Wagoner, (then) GM President and CEO, drove the Slingshot Yellow roadster onto Michgan's Woodward Avenue, joining the cruisers and commuters jamming the avenue on the eve of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. The original blue concept vehicle was also there, serving as evidence that the SSR concept had become reality.
"Our team's mission is simple: Build the concept vehicle. Just as they did in inventing the original concept, the design team has hit the mark. We said we would deliver the concept vehicle, and the production-intent show vehicle does just that."
--Tom Wallace, (then) Vehicle Line Executive for GM Midsize Trucks
The production-intent show truck, seen here in the 2001 Woodward Dream Cruise being driven by Rick Wagoner (then GM Chairman and CEO) .
Over the next several months, Chevrolet continued to develop and refine the SSR until the first Signature Series vehicle was produced in December, 2002. And all the while, the buzz around this extraordinary vehicle continued to grow. Among automotive magazines, trade publications and countless car aficionados around the globe, word was spreading; the SSR is here -- and it's destined to become the next hear pounding Chevy classic.
"SSR is both a truck and an open-air-sportscar -- a groundbreaking nod to the future and a tribute to our proud past. It's one of a kind, and it's pure Chevrolet. SSR is living proof that the automobile can still stir passion like no other consumer product. I'm sure everyone at GM is as proud as I am to see it launched."
--Rick Wagoner, (then) Chairman and CEO, General Motors Corporation
The Production Years: 2003-2006
Regular production of SSR began in August, 2003 and ran through March 17, 2006. Detail on each of the four model years can be found here beginning with 2003. Each forum details highlights of the specific year, including changes in available paint choices, options, accessories and, drivetrains. Perhaps the most signifigant change to SSR occured in model year 2005 when the all aluminium 5.3 litre Vortec engine rated at 300 bhp was replaced with the 6.0 litre LS2 powerplant, and a 6 speed manual transmission was offered as an addition cost option. In SSR's final model year (2006), the LS2 was rated at 400 bhp when mated to the optional six speed manual transmission, the high water mark for SSR engine performance during the truck's short production life.
In total, 24,180 SSR's were produced. See the SSR Production History forum for complete details.