Chevrolet SSR

When you think of car oddities, those strange vehicles that last but a few years before being scrapped, the Chevrolet SSR stands out as a key example.

More on the Chevrolet SSR
Chevrolet SSR Origins

The SSR was released in 2003. SSR, standing for Super Sport Roadster, has a retro roadster feel, harkening back to the time of modified trucks with low ground-to-body clearance.

The SSR was famously introduced in a television spot directed by Michael Bay with Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride playing in the background. It started as a concept car that won rave reviews, but failed to gain traction in the marketplace when it was priced similarly to the much higher-performance Chevrolet Corvette.

About the Chevrolet SSR

The flash of the commercial hides what is truly a strange looking car. Part Volkswagen Mini, part pickup truck, part convertible the car design is something to be admired, if not horrified by.

The SSR has the shape of a truck but lacks the kind of hauling power a pickup might have. Add to that the lack of passenger room (there are only two seats), and the market for this oddball vehicle shrinks considerably. The sporty audience wanted a bit more power than the SSR could produce, which was initially 300 horsepower linked to a four-speed automatic transmission. The custom retro feel of the car also fails to impress consumers. The engine is culled from the Chevrolet SUV line; this makes the car heavier than necessary and, although the car performs better than some of the previous power players in the Chevy line up, the added weight affects its speed. Later models were improved to a 6.0-liter, 390-horsepower V-8 with the option for a six-speed manual transmission. But this did not drive bored consumers into the showroom.

Add to that the huge price tag for the SSR at its release, a staggering $41,000 plus, and the car was bound to fail.

Outside of the consumer world, the Chevy SSR was used as a pace car in the Indianapolis 500, in 2003.

The SSR also entered the Utah Salt Flats Bonneville National Speed Trials, but it failed to place against better cars.

Due to abysmal sales, and a panning by automotive critics, the Chevrolet SSR was discontinued in 2006 with no named successor to the model and no intentions by GM ever to produce the model again.

Chevrolet SSR Evolution

The first models, in 2003 and 2004, used a General Motors Vortec 5300 engine. This 5.3-liter V-8 propelled the vehicle from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds–not bad for a pickup truck. However, the curb weight of the car (mainly due to the SUV-based frame) kept the vehicle from maintaining its full potential. In 2005, the engine was updated to a LS2 V-8, 6.0-liter engine that outputs 390 horsepower. This is the same engine that the C6 Corvette and the Pontiac GTO contain. A six-speed manual, Tremec T-56 transmission is offered in this model, vastly improving performance from the early 2003 and 2004 models.

2006 saw some tweaking of the engine, boosting performance to 395 hp on the automatic transmission and a 400 hp output on the manual Tremec T-56. The interior also boasted improvements for the 2005 and 2006 models.

The SSR was only offered in its original, basic trim model. The convertible hardtop is quite attractive during the summer. The interior comes equipped with leather. Keyless entry is also standard on the vehicle. Upgrades included improvements to the audio system and featured such as heated mirrors, stripes, and chrome.

All models have front and side airbags that protect passengers pretty well. ABS comes standard along with traction control. These features keep the heavy machine grounded.

Handling is surprisingly good for a vehicle of its size and weight. The stability control keeps the vehicle from spinning out in poor driving conditions and makes the car feel rock solid on soft curves. Controlling the SSR once it is in the turn proves to be a bit tricky. Slightly smaller wheels in the front help the car hug the road, but the steering sometimes feels loose and undercuts the stability by being a shaky. The weight of the machine (nearly 5000 pounds) can make even the most seasoned driver a bit nervous.

If you are 100 percent smitten with the flashy design of the SSR, and unique style outweighs performance drawbacks, this may be the car for you. The SSR has a somewhat attractive package. It sure is different. If you’re looking to purchase a sport vehicle or convertible, there are many other cars out there that have a lot more power, weigh less, and provide a safer performance driving experience than the Chevrolet SSR, especially at the price you will pay for a used one.

Select a Chevrolet SSR Year

2006 Chevrolet SSR

Convertible, Truck, Utility/Offroad

The 2006 SSR classifies as a retractable hardtop convertible pickup truck by Chevrolet.

2005 Chevrolet SSR

Convertible, Truck, Utility/Offroad

The 2005 Chevrolet SSR, which stands for Super Sport Roadster, provides the style of a sports car with the power of a truck.

2004 Chevrolet SSR

Convertible, Truck, Utility/Offroad

Chevrolet says its 2004 Chevrolet SSR will deliver a ""boulevard-cruiser ride and refined roadster handling.

2003 Chevrolet SSR

Convertible, Truck, Utility/Offroad

The 2003 Chevrolet SSR introduces a brand new breed of car, bringing together part sport truck and part roadster.