Occasionally, when freed from the constraints that come with designing modern family sedans or SUVs, mainstream carmakers can surprise us with startling vehicles. Sometimes, such efforts score a hit that becomes an icon, like the Dodge Viper. Even when niche models fail to turn auto-show excitement into showroom successes, though, we still admire them for keeping the enthusiast flame burning.
The 2004-06 Chevrolet SSR is a perfect example of the latter.
Carmakers went on a California car culture-inspired nostalgia bender starting in the late 1990s that produced the 1997 Plymouth Prowler, ‘98 Audi TT, 2001 two-seat Ford Thunderbird and the SSR. The Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevrolet HHR brought the trend to volume-production models.
The Prowler and SSR stand apart for attempting to bring the hot rod aesthetic to low-volume production. The results, however, came with compromises that fated both vehicles to cult status.