Worst Car Wednesday: Chevy SSR Pickup-No Form Or Function

We sometimes kid about how at times GM seems like it is detached from reality. The Chevy SSR is the poster child for that detachment. It’s like it had a completely parallel reality leading it to make a car like this. One that looked like a mangled old truck with a pinhead and no hauling capacity. But hey, “It’s got a retractable top so that makes it super cool.” What the folks at Chevy were imagining we can’t fathom. This is why we celebrate the no form or function Chevy SSR pickup on Worst Car Wednesday.

That should have been the end of the Chevy SSR

In 2000 Chevy featured the SSR pickup concept at the Detroit Auto Show. It was a curiosity at best and completely removed from any product sense or business plan. Who would buy an ersatz reimagination of a 1950 Chevy truck? Especially with no power, no hauling capacity, goofy looks, and a retractable top that gave it a pinheaded look adding to its oddness?  

That should have been the end of it. But in an incredible disconnect from reality, Chevy forged ahead and put it into production. At $29,900 it was a high-priced toy. At least, that’s if it sold for that. But instead, Chevy was so sure it had a winner that the retail price was an astounding $40,000. For that, you got a two-seater cartoon.

Underneath the compromised SSR pickup body was a standard Trailblazer EXT

Underneath the compromised body was a standard Trailblazer EXT. A compromised mess unto itself there must have been something better in the GM lineup? A 5.3-liter V8 limped the SSR along. This was classic GM. Rather than starting out of the gate with a high-powered drivetrain to impress the magazine reviewers and make for a better car, it would inevitably stab in a stomach pump. Then, once it was thoroughly throttled in the press GM would come around and put something better into it. But by then it’s too late. Consumers only remember the weak engine and bad reviews.  

From a styling standpoint, there is much to discuss. And it’s all bad. The fender forms are mounted too low on the body. They’re also square-shouldered bonked onto an organic, round body. It’s car confusion 101. 

The SSR couldn’t have been a worse combination

Then there is the top. We’re sure Chevy was congratulating itself for its retractable top cleverness. But the problem is that it added more cost, more weight, and compromised the design. Instead of a top that tied well into the rest of the design, it looked like it did mostly to fold and nest when down. To do all of that it had to look like a tiny dome on a wide, beefy body. It couldn’t have been a worse combination. 

The tiny top and exaggerated fenders sticking out gave it a design goulash of competing forms fighting for attention. Nothing could save it. Not even the LS2 V8 that Chevy thought might save the SSR. It didn’t.

In production from 2003 to 2006, the SSR found 24,000 buyers. How, we’re not sure? In some circles today it is deemed a collectible. So is the Edsel. That doesn’t mean it is anything more than a curiosity and low-production flop. And that’s how it has ended up in Worst Car Wednesday.


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