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This should PRIME all of the future SSR owners:

"When You Drive The Chevy SSR, Be Ready To Turn Heads"

The Boston Globe
September 7, 2003
By Royal Ford

AMHERST, N.H. -- It showed the increasingly ravenous American appetite for new cars that evoke the enduring aura of cool rides from our past. I drove the 2003 Chevrolet Super Sport Roadster -- part hot rod, part pickup truck -- to the Amherst, N.H., Antique Auto Show last Sunday and parked it among 32 acres of hot rods, Model As, muscle cars, Phaetons, motorcycles, old pickups, and endless displays of automobilia. Never for a second on this Sunday morning was this new car not surrounded by admirers.

The SSR, on sale now, is the most attention-grabbing car I have ever driven. Drivers passed me on the highway, gave thumbs up on the way by, then cut in front so they could see the grille in their rearview mirrors. Scary scene: Some drivers then looked back and gave me two thumbs up!

Any store or gas station I stopped at meant a lingering delay as I had to explain what I was driving. A line of late '40s and early '50s pickup trucks, out for an afternoon cruise, passed me with drivers waving in recognition and kinship, even though the SSR is a half century newer than what they were driving.

This yearning for evocation, for a reaching back down the years, has evinced itself in several forms in recent years, and will continue to do so.

Volkswagen brought back the Beetle. Next it will reproduce the Microbus. Ford brought back the Thunderbird. The Mini Cooper has been reborn. And then there is the retro runner that created perhaps the biggest buzz, Chrysler's PT Cruiser, a vehicle getting updates in the future as a convertible, a street rod, and a woody. And General Motors is not done in this venue. The company recently announced -- obviously with an eye on the success of the PT Cruiser -- that it will build a station wagon, dubbed the HHR, that will look much like the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban with bits of SSR styling tossed in, and will sell it (to the tune of a hoped-for 100,000 per year) in the $25,000-range.

All share a few things in common. None are exactly what they seem. The new Beetle, parked beside an old Beetle, is far more stylized and modern looking. The Thunderbird may evoke the notion of hot '50s sports car, but it is really a cruiser, built atop a Lincoln/Jaguar platform. The Mini Cooper looks, well, mini, yet it is quite roomy inside. The PT Cruiser may stir memories of some long-lost car, yet I've never been able to figure out which one exactly, making me think it is nostalgia born of its own design. And while it may look like some car from which Bonnie and Clyde might have emerged, guns blazing, its interior is pure minivan (rear seats and passenger seat all fold flat for cargo) and is classified as a light truck.

The same goes for the SSR. It may look like a truck, and be classified as a midsize truck. It may look like a hot rod. Yet it is not exactly either. I'd call it a heavy cruiser, reaching into the past, yet raiding modern parts bins for its engineering underpinnings.

And that's not a bad thing, according to Ron Caron, a car buff from Manchester, N.H., who dropped by the SSR at Amherst.

"The design is obviously retro," Caron said, "and for those of us in our late 40s, early 50s, it brings us back, but gives us comfort, styling, and modern engineering."

"I grew up in the muscle-car era," he added. "It's nice to see them come back."

For General Motors, bringing back this roadster/truck/hardtop convertible meant innovative design -- all by computer -- and a stroll through the parts bins to keep costs ($42,000 to near $50,000) down. It's not cheap to build a specialty auto. GM hopes to sell around 3,000 SSRs this year, five times that next year.

The frame, shortened by more than a foot, is from the midsize TrailBlazer/ Envoy line. The suspension has independent control arms in the front and a five-link, solid rear axle design in the rear. The engine is GM's 5.3-liter, aluminum cast V-8. With a less restrictive exhaust intake, it hits 300 horsepower -- 10 more than the same engine in other GM products -- and 331 lb.-ft. of torque.

It sits beneath a gorgeous nose and behind a brushed metal, ribbed grille, that clearly recalls '47-'53 Chevy pickup trucks. That nose goes back to a sharply raked windshield, and the line flows up and over a humped hardtop convertible roof (raised and lowered in around 20 seconds with a single button at center console). It disappears into a bin between the rear ****pit and the 24-cubic-foot, covered, waterproof bed. The floor of the bed is carpeted and ribbed with glistening wood strips. You won't be hauling crushed stone back here.

Huge flared fenders give the SSR its hot rod appeal.

The SSR's stance is tall, and its crouch is accentuated by 20-inch wheels in the rear and 19s upfront. Inside, it has a true hot rod feel with touches of brushed aluminum-look plastic, silver encircled gauges, and firm bucket seats of tough leather.

The SSR was very smooth on the highway, remarkably quiet with the top down, and seemed to be at its best in pulling out for rapid highway passing. Off the line it was OK, but that may owe to a 4-speed automatic transmission that wanted to shift up quickly and, obviously, to the truck's 2 1/4-ton-plus curb weight.

It was a bit choppy on rough roads, owing to its stiff suspension, but if you owned one of these you'd have to take it for what it is -- a truck that is also a hot rod that is also a cruiser.

If lookin' good and cruisin' good are your thing, this could be the rig for you.

Just don't plan on running out to the local quick stop store without spending a few minutes in the parking lot jawing with the gaggle of gawkers that will inevitably surround it.
 
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