The Weekly Driver

Website • Podcast • Newsletter

Est. 2004

Chevrolet SSR: Odd, defunct truck, passionate owners

They haven't been manufacctured for 14 years and they're not seen often. But the Chevrolet SSR has a cult following.

(As a contributor to RVTravel.com, I recently posted the following article about the Chevrolet SSR to the RV industry’s largest site. It attracted a lot of attention from readers, most of it from SSR owners.

A few letter writers sent “nasty grams.” The remaining letters were from SSR owners, who forwarded opinions, suggestions and general praise for writing about the vehicle they enjoy.

The audiences of RVTravel.com and TheWeeklyDriver.com are different, thus the reason for the re-posting. I’ve also posted two comments from readers, and, of course, readers’ comments are always welcomed.)

                                                                                       ***

The Chevrolet Super Sport Roadster (SSR) may be the weirdest pickup ever made. The carmaker had elaborate marketing plans and anticipated success for the retro-styled machine.

But overt failure occurred instead. Less than 20 years since its debut, it’s rare to see an SSR on the road.

The Chevrolet SSR was only made for four years and it's odd look and brief tenure had made it a "cult classic."
The Chevrolet SSR was only made for four years and its odd look and brief tenure have made it a “cult classic.”

Among several cars style in the early 2000s with retro styling, the SSR was inspired by Chevy’s late 1940s Advance design trucks, notably from 1947-1955.

Originally built with a 5.3-liter V8 with 300 horsepower in 2002 as a 2003 model, the SSR was upgraded in 2005. The truck then featured a 390-horsepower 6.0-liter LS2 V8.

But the Chevrolet SSR wasn’t just a pickup. It was also a hardtop convertible. The vehicle rode on a GM368 platform and featured a steel body retractable hardtop designed by Karmann and built by ASC.

Chevrolet SSR: Owners Embrace It

The truck’s front fenders were made with deep draw stampings, a forming technique that hadn’t been used in decades. The production model was based on the SuperSport Roadster concept car shown at the 2000 Detroit Auto Show.

Chevrolet was so optimistic, an early-production SSR was granted pace car status for the 2003 Indianapolis 500. The SSR was priced at $42,000. But the public didn’t get and it didn’t buy it. Only 9,000 were purchased in the truck’s 2003 debut year.

In the next three years, only a combined 15,000 more models sold. Much to Chevy’s chagrin, it recognized the failure stopped the SSR’s production.

Yes, the Chevrolet SSR was a truck and it had performance. But it didn’t have the versatility of a traditional pickup. It advanced from 0-60 miles per hour in 5.3 seconds and had a top speed of 126 mph. It weighed 4,711 pounds and had a lowly towing capacity of 2,500 pounds. It had only 22 1/2 cubic feet of cargo space.

Chevrolet, of course, has had its share of successful cars and trucks. But the SSR was one of the manufacturer’s blunders.

Rod Kenly commented:

“Since the SSR was only made for 4 years, there aren’t a lot of NOS (New Old Stock) parts available.

And there are a few known issues. These issues have created areas for owners to build parts and components to make our life better. Two specific areas include a weak cooling fan and a shift linkage piece made from plastic. It breaks for no known reason.

During our run to Mt. Rushmore, we had one of each fail on various cars. But what’s better, is that among the group, we had a spare fan and a metal replacement linkage piece. And the knowledge that we were able to fix and replace the issue in just a few minutes.

It is also interesting to see the difference in mileage. We have a couple of guys who have 200k+ miles on their SSR’s. A lot of us are in the 80k+ and a few are in the 20k mileage areas.

As a group, we are now starting to see turnover in the owners/club, as the first wave of owners are starting to age out. Not many young people could afford a $45k vehicle back in 2005. Even now, they are reselling for $25k or more.”

To your original point of not seeing them a lot, we almost always get questions when refueling as to what is the year, horsepower and fuel mileage. And we get questions from all age groups. We had a couple in their 70s come to talk to us in the gas station before they refueled their car. And then at the next stop, teens asked questions. I’ve never had someone call my SSR ‘goofy.’ ”

Chuck Magaw commented:

“As an owner of a 2005 SSR with 227,000 miles, I agree with your assessment of GM’s decision surrounding the vehicle. However, ‘gone’ is not a reference we enthusiastic owners would use. Scarce would be more appropriate and we like that aspect of having one.

“Suggest you check out the SSR Fanatic website to see how thousands of us interact and assist each other. We are having a rally in Cincinnati in early September. Why not stop by and then you may write a piece about the pleasure we get from our decision to own this unique ‘Perma Grin’-producing vehicle.

RELATED CONTENT

Chevrolet Colorado Gets Cheapest Truck Honor

Subscribe!

To get our weekly newsletter with automotive news and commentary delivered to your email inbox.