Have you ever heard the expression “Everything old is new again?” This is especially true in the auto industry, where the current trend is to make new cars that look like old cars. This trend has brought about a wave of retro-styled muscle cars including the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger. But where did it all begin?
Let’s flash back to the year 2002 for a moment. Chrysler has a big hit on its hands with the PT Cruiser which has been on the market for two years. Designed to look like a 1930s gangster getaway car, the car sold like hotcakes and won Motor Trend’s prestigious Car of the Year award in 2001.
Ford had also joined the retro styling game when it unveiled the redesigned Thunderbird in 2002. With its oversize rounded taillights and two-seat configuration, it drew heavily on Thunderbird styling cues of the past. Though its styling was both admired and decried by the press, the car still went on to sell 19,000 units in its first year.
Chevrolet needed to get in on the retro craze – fast. The HHR was still two years away and the SSR didn’t go into production until 2003. What was Chevrolet to do? We know now that Chevrolet caught the retro fever big time and ended up producing the SSR in 2003, the HHR in 2005, and the 5th generation Camaro in 2009.
However, it’s interesting to look at what other ideas Chevrolet was exploring at the time. One of them was this 2003 Chevrolet SS concept car, seen here at the Arizona International Auto Show.
This car has a distinctly retro flavor while looking very modern at the same time. It’s got huge 20″ front and 21″ rear wheels filling the wheel wells, sort of like a puppy that hasn’t yet grown into its massive paws.
The pronounced front fenders are very muscular and evoke images of a hot rod. Meanwhile the long sloping roofline gives the impression of speed, even when standing still. In profile, the car resembles modern super sedans like the Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide, Maserati Quattroporte, and the Fisker Karma.
However, one of the car’s most striking design features is the lack of a B-pillar. Is this a throwback to the wide, spacious interiors of a 1960s era Cadillac or 1970s Impala?
My favorite part of the car is not the styling: it’s what’s under the hood. While the outside may be flashy, there is pure sports car DNA underneath. The Chevrolet SS concept is powered by an all aluminum 6.0-liter V8 engine which is longitudinally mounted in the engine bay. With 430 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque, this 5-passenger family sedan can really haul ass!In addition to absurd amounts of horsepower, this car was also designed with numerous safety features and amenities. These include Displacement on Demand which shuts off some of the cylinders when cruising to improve fuel economy, traction control, and large 14-inch disc brakes with six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear.
Even with all of these safety measures, the car still allows you to have some fun. It’s got paddle shifters, driver-adjustable suspension settings, and a couple of DVD players for backseat passengers. It would also be a practical car to use everyday, thanks to its built-in child booster seat and fold-flat rear seat.
It’s too bad that this awesome car never made it past the concept stage. Still, it’s neat to imagine how the automotive landscape might be different today had this car actually gone into production.