We've been watching the SSR's development for more than three years now, since it first appeared as a design concept at the Detroit auto show in January 2000. The "we're going to build it" announcement followed that August. Finally, it's here.

A brief primer on the SSR's makeup: Its body-on-frame architecture comes from the TrailBlazer EXT/Envoy XL (GMT370) hydroformed-steel platform, shortened 13 inches by cutting off the tips and tail of the framerails. For the most part, it retains the stock platform's width and track. Related hardware includes IFS, a live rear axle, and four-wheel disc brakes. The steel body panels are all new and evoke the highly sought late-'40s/early-'50s Chevy pickup. The sculpted fenders and supports are where a good amount of the added weight of the vehicle can be found. Aft of the cab is a large flat trunk, designed to house the fully-retractable two-piece hardtop--also quite heavy. Beyond the overall look, the SSR's hardtop is a design highlight, folding and fitting neatly into a bay between the rear bulkhead and the front of the small bed, hidden by a hard cover.

GM's midsize-SUV platform shares its all-aluminum 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 with the SSR, backed by the 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission. The engine's rated output was 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 will only come in rear-drive configuration.

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. In fact, we worried what sort of undersized wheel/tire combo was going to replace the original 19- and 20-inch rolling stock on the concept, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that 19s and 20s will stay. Our only beef is that all the original's brushed-aluminum trim became plastic in the transition, except for the exterior door handles.