When Chevrolet first introduced the SSR (Super Sport Roadster) as a concept car at the Detroit Auto Show in 2000, it was so ridiculous that few people thought that GM would actually build it. A flashy, retro-styled two-seater convertible pickup just seemed too crazy for series production, but Chevy did indeed build such a vehicle from 2003 to 2006.
Underneath, the Chevrolet SSR shared a platform with the TrailBlazer EXT. It also got the same 5.3-liter V-8 with 300hp, which was good enough for 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.9 seconds. The only available gearbox was a 4-speed auto.
The retro 1950s styling of the SSR and of course its retractable hardtop roof caused something of a sensation upon its introduction. Car and Driver said the SSR looked “part roadster, part truck, and part Van Halen, it’s a retro Yankee wrapped in concept-car spandex.” An SSR even served as the pace car at the 2003 Indy 500. Unfortunately, many customers and members of the press felt the SSR was lacking in the performance department, much like the similarly retro Plymouth Prowler and Ford Thunderbird.
Chevy addressed these concerns with the 2005 SSR, which got the LS2 V-8 also found in the C6 Corvette and Pontiac GTO. Power was up to 390hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, and a Tremec 6-speed manual was added to the list of options. Power was raised further still with the 2006 model, with 400hp for the manual-equipped SSR and 395hp for the automatic version. That was enough for the SSR to keep up with most mid-level sports cars – in a straight line at least.
While eye-catching and more than fast enough to have fun with, the SSR cost over $40,000 and wasn’t a sales success. It was too expensive and impractical for the truck crowd, and the typical buyer of a convertible performance car had little interest in a pickup. About 24,000 were built in total, but while not exactly rare and certainly not all that elegant, the SSR offers ample V-8 power and a sure way to attract attention all at a relatively modest price.