Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Back to the Future: The 2006 Chevy SSR Marks the End of a Grand Automotive Experiment. the Upshot? Now's the Time to Get a Convertible Sports Car Pickup Truck-Cheap

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Back to the Future: The 2006 Chevy SSR Marks the End of a Grand Automotive Experiment. the Upshot? Now's the Time to Get a Convertible Sports Car Pickup Truck-Cheap

Article excerpt

If you think the Toyota Camry is America's best car simply based on popularity, fair enough. Personally, I like a machine with something more to say for itself than "toaster"--something like the Chevrolet SSR.

When it first arrived on the market in 2003, General Motors' two-seat hardtop convertible pickup truck, styled with a Corvette engine, was greeted with a resounding huh? But the SSR is a many-splendored, um, thing, and now, with the last SSR made, it's a good time to buy one.

The SSR's biggest problem was always its price--once as high as $45,000. Of course, that presumes you even bothered to consider cost. Let's face it, the SSR is not everyone's cup of Castrol.

The SSR is a rift on a classic 1940s Chevrolet flatbed. Or if you prefer, it's a Hot Wheels pickup truck writ large. Note the flared fenders and bulging arches; the SSR's sheet metal looks like something Morris Day wore in Purple Rain. And just in case you miss the SSR's cartoon-character cool, it comes in Tweety yellow.

The SSR's interior is equally extroverted, bedecked in body-colored, "wet look" metal-effect plastic. The radio head unit needs immediate extraction, but the big-ass shifter, massive central dials, rotary climate controls, and floor-mounted gauges (right where you don't need 'em) are worthy of a custom car and match the exterior's blatant exhibitionism.

Start it up and the SSR burbles to life with all the basso profundo menace of a genuine good old boy's muscle car ... mostly because it is. Unlike the pitifully underpowered PT Cruiser and the diseased hammerhead shark known as the Plymouth Prowler, the SSR holsters major firepower--a slightly watered-down version of the Corvette's 6.0-liter V8. The six-speed version of the LS2 power plant cranks up 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque. Translation for the non-technically minded: Holy shit!

Traction control keeps you from tearing the tires to pieces in a cloud of smoking rubber as the six-speed rips from 0 to 60 in 5.29 seconds. Of course, a Corvette-powered garden shed would probably go just as fast. So how does this sucker handle?

I know, asking how a pickup handles is like asking whether a Ferrari can tow a pride float (well, usually, anyway). In this case, the good people at Chevy decided the SSR should be able to corner at serious speeds without killing all concerned. …

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