We've been watching the SSR's development for about three years. It first appeared as a design concept at the Detroit auto show in January 2000, and a "we're going to build it" announcement followed that August. So everyone's had a lot of time to think about what the SSR is, and isn't.
Is it a truck? Is it a street rod? Is it a sporty convertible? Is it retro or modern? Does it matter? Irrespective of where you think it fits, two important questions come to mind as the production SSR comes to market: How does it drive? And will people line up to buy it? The first we can now answer; the second is up to you.
A brief primer on the SSR's makeup: Its body-on-frame architecture comes courtesy of the GMT370 (TrailBlazer/Envoy XL) hydroformed-steel platform, which is shortened 13 inches yet retains its stock width and track. Related hardware includes a live axle out back, independent suspension up front, and four-wheel disc brakes. The steel body panels are all new and pay obvious homage to the highly sought late-'40s/ early-'50s Chevy pickup. Aft of the cab is either a shallow covered truck bed or a large flat trunk, depending upon your perspective. Besides the heritage-inspired look, the design's other obvious highlight is its retractable hardtop, which fits neatly into a bay between the rear bulkhead and the front of the bed.
GM's midsize-SUV foundation also donates its all-aluminum 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 backed by a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine's stock output is 290 horsepower, but the SSR's less-restrictive intake and burbling dual-exhaust system bring horsepower to an even 300. There are no other engine offerings--yet--and the SSR is rear drive only.
Credit GM Design and the product-development team for a faithful job of "productionizing" the SSR. Most concepts change a lot during the journey from auto-show turntable to showroom, but put an SSR next to that original Detroit design study, and you know exactly where it came from. Unfortunately, almost all of the concept's brushed-aluminum trim became "plasticinum" in the process, except for the exterior door handles. We were wondering what sort of wimpy wheel/tire combo was going to replace the original's 19- and 20-inch rolling stock. We're happy to report that 19s and 20s they are.