2003 Chevrolet SSR Hybrid

2003 Chevrolet SSR Hybrid

 

Owner: Brian Stafford

 

Now that's a real Hybrid!


There are Hybrids and there Hybrids. When we use the word, you can bet it has nothing to do with battery-powered econo-boxes When Chevy designers went to work on the retro-looking SSR, they took much of their styling inspiration from the early '50s "Bull-Nose" Chevy pickup trucks. But to some, like Brian Stafford, the designers of the SSR did not take the idea far enough. So he decided to celebrate 50 years of Chevy trucks by grafting the fenders, hood and grill of a 1953 Chevy 3100, to a 2003 Chevy SSR. The SSR has a very cool-looking and comfortable interior--much more comfortable than any truck built in the '50s.

A 5.7 liter LS1, 346ci with aluminum block and heads, make this a pretty sporty little vehicle. The convertible hard-top retracts with a touch of a button. Features like this will remain unchanged. Modifications will include rear fenders and bumper, so they will come off, too. The inner fenders will remain and provide support for attaching the modified '53 fenders. Anyone out ther need some slightly used SSR fenders? Once you get the fenders off, we were impressed by the robust construction up front. A Chevy pickup just wouldn't be the same without "Chevrolet" stamped into the tailgate, so we're going to rectify that.

In case you're wondering where we got the "Chevrolet" panel with the classic lettering, it came out of an original 1953 tailgate (new/old stock). Two things need to happen here. First, the fender needs to be longer by 4-inches overall. Second, the wheel well opening needs to be longer to accomodate the SSR's tires and wheels. By sectioning the fender we can kill both birds with one stone Now that the fenders have been chopped and fit, it's time to start on the hood. Both the stock SSR hood and the stock '53 Chevy hood will used (in part, at least). First, the '53 hood has to be narrowed so it will fit the SSR. This is done by cutting it up the centerline.

Once the width is determined, we have to lower the profile in front. The green tape line indicates where the hood will be sectioned once again. The inner shell of the SSR hood will be grafted to the outer shell of the '53 Chevy hood. This will allow the use of the SSR's hood hinges and latches without modification. The original 2003 SSR hood was kept open by a hood prop (the only year they used such a flimsy set-up). We got rid of it and retro-fitted an '05 hood kit that has a pair of pneumatic pistons which are much easier to use and less likely to bring the whole thing crashing down on your head Meanwhile, its time to get the bumper in place. We don't want any fender benders (considering how much work went into them), so a real bumper that can withstand more than a gentle tap is in order. In this case a stock Chevy truck bumper will do the trick.

Since the 3100 Series Chevy truck came equipped with a splash apron for the front bumper, it was decided that one was needed here as well. Not only do they look good, they cover up those bumper brackets pretty well. And, if the truck ever does splash through anything wet, it will help keep the grill clean. One problem though... original 3100 splash aprons are asymetrical, with one side shaped differently than the other. The solution, of course, was to fabricate out own.

The SSR comes with a remote operated tonneau cover lift and tailgate release. The control unit for all that is factory located back up under the left rear fender well. In order to get the new sheetmetal and fender in place, we had to move that control unit and built a new mount for it. Another thing about the Chevy SSR is that it's not square. The body/bed narrows, going back from the cab to the tailgate (unlike the original '53 3100 which was essentially a rectangular box). This means the stock fenders will need to be sectioned so that their outer edges will line-up parallel with the front fenders. In other words, the front portion of the fender need to be narrower than the rear portion.

No aftermarket tail light housings were available that would work for the trucks design concept, so Scott had to fabricate them from scratch. On the SSR, the tail lights are molded into the back of the fenders. On a stock Chevy 3100, they are attached to the risers at the rear corners of the bed. On this project the design calls for mounting them to the outer bed panel. The housing is hand fabricated and incorporates the bezel, lens and guts of reproduction Chevy tail light.

Both the SSR and the 3100 came with running boards. While stylish, the SSR boards will not work with this conversion. This conversion just wouldn't be complete if we did not add an authentic wood bed to the SSR. To do that we ordered a wood bed kit from MAR-K. Normally, these kits are used to replace the original wood be that came with the truck. Since cutting out the sheet metal truck bed is not really an option, we are going to place the wood kit over the top of the metal bed surface. The stock 5.3-liter Vortec V8 was rated at 285+ horsepower. Not nearly enough. So we're replacing it with a 427 cubic-inch LS2. The first step is to peel away the layers of wiring harness, etc. These new-fangled modern automobiles have just way too much of that stuff if you ask us.

Some things never change though... Leave any car sitting long enough (new or classic barnyard find), and some critter will make a home in it. When the intake manifold was removed we found evidence of rodents having made a home underneath it. Nuts anyone? No we didn't change the color. Depending on the lighting when we took pictures of the SSR, it seemed to change from green to turquois blue. The paint (from PPG) is actually a stock color that you could get on the 53 Chevy called Ocean Green.