The compact truck category has always been on the toughest segments to compete in. Stalwarts like the Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier have dominated this category for decades while others have come and gone. One such compact truck was the Chevrolet SSR, a convertible, muscle-car pickup truck that existed in the early 2000s. Needless to say, it didn’t do very well and we suggest never buying one.
Not quite a truck
The Chevrolet SSR was a retro-styled truck that was produced from 2003 to 2006. Prior to its short run in the limelight, the SSR was actually conceptualized back in 1999 by Wayne Cherry, the vice president of the GM Design Centers.
When he first penned the SSR concept, Cherry wanted it to be a “halo” truck, or a totem that represented the company’s past while simultaneously giving consumer’s a glimpse into the brand’s future.
As you can imagine, the result was a hodge-podge of a compact truck that looked like it was better sitting on a showroom floor than a real-life motorway. At least that’s what most of the public thought when it was unveiled at the 2000 Detroit Auto Show.
When the Chevy SSR finally went into production in 2003, consumers and car reviewers alike were surprised that it remained true to its concept form.
They liked the bulging fenders and the overall retro styling, which made it into production. However, the 6.0-liter V8 that was in the auto show car did not. Instead, GM decided to put a 5.3-liter V8 with only 300 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque under the hood.
It was mated with a four-speed automatic and was good for 0-60 times of 7.3 seconds. That’s not bad for a truck, but the SSR was only able to tow 2,500 pounds and haul 1,300 pounds in its short four-foot bed. Which is pretty bad for a truck.
A little quirky
Non-truck-like performance aspects aside, the Chevy SSR’s quirks further set it apart from being the most practical cargo hauler on the road.
Thanks to a semi-permanent tonneau cover that was put in place more for looks and aerodynamics, the truck bed’s practicality was mostly diminished.
On top of that, the power convertible top was a great showpiece and it provided the two occupants in the cab easy access to the outside world. However, as far as pickup trucks go, it didn’t do much for actual rigidity.
It got a little better
For the Chevy SSR’s last production year, GM decided to up the ante and throw a 6.0-liter LS2 V8 under the hood and combine it with a six-speed manual transmission.
As one could guess, this helped the performance aspect greatly as the SSR was now able to get to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and down the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds, as opposed to 15.4 with the previous engine.
Furthermore, GM decided to quicken the trucks steering response by retuning the valve assembly with new bearings and seals. While this did help with the overall driving feel, Car and Driver noted that the trucks ride still felt bouncy. You know, like a truck.
Ultimately, the SSR was canceled in 2006 due to dwindling sales.
More show than go
It’s apparent that the Chevrolet SSR was much more of a showpiece and a great conversation starter than an actual bonafide truck.
And while you might be looking into getting one thinking that it could double as something useful, like a Chevy Colorado perhaps, you might be lead astray.
The Chevrolet SSR could be good for moving smaller items, enjoying the outside air, or doing smoky burnouts, but we wouldn’t suggest buying one for actual truck-like usability.