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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, May 10, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Chevrolet SSR


Chevy has done what no other competing automaker has dared before - giving pickup truck enthusiasts a factory-direct, out-of-the-box pickup truck with bold hot rod looks and the power, performance and growl to back it up. Plus, this is the segment's first fully automatic, hardtop convertible. Pinch me because I think I'm in heaven.

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

"No other manufacturer has a vehicle like the SSR (Super Sport Roadster)" says Brent Dewar, Chevrolet general manager. "And no one has this much fun and function in one package. We've combined the heritage of the 1947-1953 advanced design pickup with the latest in product and manufacturing technology to enhance the Chevrolet brand."

The SSR features large, flared fenders, a sculpted hood and bold stance. The remote-controlled, aero-styled side mirrors are from the C5 Corvette, and the half-circle shaped door handles are real plates of aluminum. The rear features a fully functioning tailgate, a beautifully sculpted, flush mounted bumper, round tail and brake lamps, nicely spread dual, three-inch round, polished stainless steel exhaust tips and a golden bowtie mounted prominently in the center of the tailgate. All exterior body panels are of stamped steel. Power comes from a new aluminum block version of GM's 5.3 liter Vortec small block V8 that drives the rear wheels thorough a four-speed automatic transmission. Rounding out the sporty street machine's stunning appearance are giant 19x8 inch front, and 20x10 inch rear tires and wheels.

The most distinguishing feature of the all-new Chevy SSR is an ingenious power-retractable hardtop system that assures an open-air driving experience without compromising the vehicle's cargo carrying capacity. Also called a 'top stack', engineers working together from GM, ASC and Karmann USA designed it - and it's the first-ever applied on a pickup-styled vehicle. It's the only system of its kind where the roof panels move independently to 'stack' vertically behind the passenger compartment - a design that ensures quick operation and minimal stowage requirements. A single button on the console transforms the SSR from an enclosed roadster to a convertible in about 30 seconds, neatly tucking the roof panels rearward in a waterfall fashion between the passenger compartment and pickup bed. The unique vertical storage system is an important enabler for the vehicle's ability to emulate the utility of a pickup-even with the top down-the SSR's bed capacity remains unchanged. With the top up, there is virtually no outside noise detectable - just the joyous growls of the engine's gases out the dual exhaust pipes. Incredible!

You can use the SSR as a regular pickup by removing the weather tight, spring loaded, remote controlled, hard toneau cover. Inside the cargo box is a custom bed liner, and your dealer has options to better arrange and retrieve cargo when the hard toneau cover is on. Even the easy to use rear liftgate is lined with carpeting for a luxury touch. Chevy has thought of everything to make the SSR truly unique, and that includes the interior cabin featuring Chevy's twin-cockpit approach - with a horizontal cross-car bar and body-color accents bringing much of the vehicle's exterior theme to the interior. The billet aluminum-look used on elements of the exterior continues on the door trim, and instrument panel bezels. The clean instrument panel features gauges with bold graphics, audio controls hidden behind a moveable panel and a simple three-dial design for all climate controls. Big buttons for the power windows/door locks, traction control, and top up/down are found around the big, silver stick shifter on the center console. Just in front is an pop-out storage slot about eight inch long for special storage. All switches, dials and levers are within easy reach.

The bucket seats are six-way powered, heated and feature a power lumber support. The top of each seat back features a strong aluminum hoop to protect the head in the event of a rollover. The four-spoke, leather wrapped and tilting steering wheel features a full-length, real aluminum plate, and feels perfect in your hands. The left side of the aluminum plate contains buttons for the computer system that tailors your preferences when driving, and for all information about your trip, fuel mileage, distance empty, etc. The other side of the aluminum plate contains buttons for the powerful Bose AM-FM stereo RDS radio, in-dash, six CD changer, six-speaker system with a subwoofer. There is more storage space in each door and inside the glove box. The interior hits the mark with simplicity, style, comfort and function. The striking flared fenders linking the SSR to its innovative pickup past are the result of a process that very appropriately combines a contemporary forming technology with one used to produce the original 1947-1953 Advanced Design Chevy lineup of trucks-the inspiration for the SSR. The stamping process used to produce the dramatic fenders and quarter panels is unique. An inverted toggle draw-that is really a marriage between old and new: the original toggle draw stamping process and the most recent stretch draw concept. Without new Grade 5 deep-draw quality steels, the material wouldn't be forgiving enough to be drawn to those depths without splitting.

The SSR uses a body-on-frame construction - basically an upper steel unibody mounted on a frame. Fully hydroformed steel side rails provide the boxed frame with strength and stiffness, relatively low weight, and precise quality. The laser-cut, dimensional accuracy of the holes for suspension attachments permit maximum control of suspension components during manufacturing, providing consistent tuning for every vehicle built. A total of seven cross members, more than the traditional four or six, boost structural strength for ride quality, handling control, and reduced noise and vibration.

The upper unibody helps support the structure for the SSR's retractable roof system; it minimizes the loss of structure typically associated with convertibles and open-top vehicles by augmenting the stiffness of the entire vehicle with special cross members. You never feel any shakes, rattles or hear any squeaks from the SSR, even when traveling over poorly paved roads or at railroad crossing. Just the rumble of the V8 engine, and what a gem it is.

The rich heritage of the Chevy SSR is much more than skin deep. A peek under the hood reveals the latest version of the small block Chevy V8 that's been the legendary leader of the street cruiser scene since 1955.

The SSR is powered by an all-aluminum 5.3 liter Vortec V8. It's the latest iteration of Chevy's small block that's been the performance benchmark ever since it debuted October 28, 1954, in the 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The use of cast aluminum 319-T7 alloy reduces the overall weight of the engine by 100lbs. compared to the cast iron version. The engine capitalizes on the lower mass and superior thermal efficiency of aluminum, enhancing both performance and fuel efficiency over its proven cast-iron counterpart. Aluminum's improved head rejection also results in cleaner emissions from faster catalytic converter 'light off', faster heater core warm-up for vehicle occupants, and cooler piston and oil temperatures for improved durability. The new quiet-profile pistons are polymer-coated to reduce cold scuffing and engine noise. Polymer-coated pistons, along a mainstay in luxury car engines, enable tighter bore clearances, providing enduring wear surfaces between pistons and cylinder walls, and further reduce piston motion. This new, all-aluminum 5.3 liter small block V8 generates 300 hp at 5,200 rpm and 331 lb.ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Just as the small block V8 provides a heritage of power, the SSR's transmission is a proven performer. It's GM's Hydra-Matic 4L60-E, an electronically controlled, four-speed rear-wheel-drive, automatic overdrive transmission with a torque converter clutch. The 4L60-E is the same transmission found in the C5 Corvette and V8 powered Silverado pickups. The electronic controls are calibrated to give the dependability of a pickup and the performance of a super sport vehicle. The SSR's vertical stiffness (vertical bend in the total structure), targeted at 17.5 Hz, exceeds that of most other convertibles (whose ratings can be as low as 9 or 12 Hz). Torsional frequency with the top up is approximately 16 Hz, with the top down, it is approximately 13.8 Hz. These ratings are highly competitive with those of unibody construction convertibles. With its boulevard-cruiser ride and refined roadster handling, the all-new Chevy SSR's road manners are a perfect complement to its heritage and unique sporty truck design.

The 116 inch wheelbase is optimized to maintain truck functionality and to offer exceptional passenger room, yet it also allows for a tight turning radius generally associated with a smaller-sized vehicle. In another innovation, the battery is relocated to the rear, helping to create a better overall weight distribution, while preserving the front styling. The rear mounted battery emulates what street rodders have done for years and - since it is located away from the heat of the engine - the battery lasts longer. A world-class independent front double A-arm/five-link, live axle rear suspension is specifically tailored and tuned for the SSR's ride and handling characteristics, while providing robustness and durability for on-road truck use. The front suspension incorporates monotube shock absorbers, steel coil springs, upper and lower control arms, and stabilizer bar for superior kinematics, damping, and stability, which-when combined with hydraulically assisted rack & pinion steering-provide smooth, precise control. The rear suspension includes monotube shock absorbers for superior damping, plus the shock absorber mountings are outboard of the frame to enhance body and wheel control, steel coil springs for consistent ride height, and a micro cellular urethane auxiliary spring for enhanced ride comfort and stability in fully loaded conditions. Standard electronic traction control, a Torsen differential, and huge Goodyear 295/40R20 Eagle RS-A (Rally Sport-Asymmetric ) all-season performance tires, wrapped around 20x10 inch aluminum alloy wheels, on the rear axle, ensure the Vortec's great power will get to the ground with exceptional traction and control. The front tires are Goodyear 255/45R19 Eagle RS-A tires wrapping around 19x8 aluminum alloy wheels.

The Torsen differential, a true performance car-proven system, works seamlessly with the traction assist to maximize performance in driving maneuvers such as aggressive acceleration and cornering and over differing road conditions. It's a close relative to the rear differential developed for the Chevy Camaro and the technology of choice for many race teams.

Big 12 inch front and 13 inch rear vented disc brakes with four-wheel ABS, and Dynamic Rear Brake Proportioning, provide outstanding stopping performance and world-class levels of brake feel, wear resistance and low noise. The brakes are sized to the SSR's weight, trailering and cargo-carrying capabilities. Their non-asbestos organic compound lining extends brake life to 40,000 miles, depending on how the vehicle is used and at what payload. The large 25-gallon fuel tank provides a long driving range between fill-ups. The all-new Chevy SSR is very safe with a super-strong ladder type, hydroformed frame, front/rear crush zones, side impact beams in each door, 3-point safety belts with load limiters and pretensioners, thick, strong, aluminum hoops over the seat backs, front supplemental airbags and side airbags. Chevy has clearly hit the mark squarely with great hotrod looks, adequate power, the first power convertible hardtop, a stunning and simply designed interior with pickup truck functionality. This limited edition pickup truck from Chevy will go fast. If this is what you have been waiting for in a pickup truck, I'd advise you to get to your nearest Chevy dealer as soon as possible. Prices start at just $43,000.00.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Chevrolet products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle Chevrolet SSR (Super Sport Roadster) Price: $43,000.00 Engine type: 5.3 liter OHV, all-aluminum alloy block & heads V8 Horsepower 300 at 5,200 rpm Torque 331lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm Drive configuration Front engine/rear wheel drive Transmission type 4-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission Front suspension Double-A-arm independent front suspension with steel coil springs, monotube gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar Rear suspension 5-link, live-axle with monotube gas-charged shocks, steel coil springs, and a micro-cellular auxiliary spring Wheels/Tires 19x8 front aluminum alloy wheels. 20x10 rear aluminum alloy wheels 255/45R19 front and 295/40R20 rear Eagle RS-A Rally Sport Asymmetric tires Brakes power-assisted 12 inch vented front, 13 inch rear vented discs with ABS and Dynamic Rear Brake Proportioning Overall length: 191.4 in. Overall width: 78.6 in. Overall height: 64.2 in. Curb weight: 4,760 lbs. . 0-60mph: 7.6 sec. 1/4 mi. in 15.9 sec. at 90 mph 50-70 mph in 3.85 sec. 60-0 mph: 122 ft. 300 ft. slalom speed: 63.1 mph

EPA-rated fuel economy: 16 city / 19 highway

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