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Styling Misfires: The Chevy SSR

November 9, 2012 by Matt

Chevy Chevrolet SSR Hardtop Pickup Yellow

Nope. Nope nope nope.

If there ever was an instance where an automaker should have ignored the “auto show buzz” surrounding a concept and not put it into production, this is it.

Manufactured between 2003 and 2006, the SSR was Chevy’s attempt to capitalize on the retro trend pioneered by the 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird and 1998-2010 VW New Beetle. Only, in the Chevy’s case, its direct design influences weren’t that obvious. Was it reminiscent of a stepside pickup truck? Was it supposed to recall a hot rod? An El Camino? The SSR’s murky visual lineage dampened its appeal considerably.

Chevy Chevrolet SSR Hardtop Pickup Yellow

Automotive publications, for their part, were gentle in their criticism of its looks. A two-seat convertible pickup with a 300+ hp Corvette V8 under the hood, it was in a niche by itself, and the journalistic world seemed to let the lack of available comparisons spare them the delicate task of reviewing the car without gagging.

The SSR’s few buyers during its 4-year model run, however, remained utterly convinced they had bought one of the coolest cars on the road. That being absolutely not the case, what we have in the SSR is the physical manifestation of “body dysmorphic disorder;” in other words, the inability to conceptualize how one is perceived by others. It might be a bit much to say the SSR is the Michael Jackson of cars, appearance-wise, but it’s close. Again, every owner seems to think driving the SSR elevates them to a new plane of cool, but I can’t imagine a single true car person who would drive the car without a paper bag over his or her head.

Chevy Chevrolet SSR Hardtop Pickup Red Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

It’s not difficult to appreciate where I’m coming from. Try this: Whatever your thoughts about the SSR as a static piece of automotive sculpture, whatever its underhood prowess, imagine yourself ensconced behind the wheel, cruising down the main drag of your hometown. Yes, picture yourself at the helm of that tacky, cartoonish, bulky, eye magnet of a misshapen piece of quasi-retro schtick and I’ll wager you shudder a bit at the thought. Good riddance.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series wherein I discuss unsuccessful cars whose styling was their overlooked (or denied) Achilles heel. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Aesthetics, Chevrolet, Styling Misfires

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