Twelve Days of Pre-Recession GM Christmas: GMT360’s Greatest Hits: The Chevrolet Trailblazer SS / Saab 9-7x Aero

What do you mean ‘Pre-Recession’?

After the year 2000, but before the economic recession of 2008, GM was making some weird cars. Retro styled cars, cars with high performance trims (for seemingly no reason), cars with LS motors mounted sideways, and of course, Saabs.

Why these cars came about is complex. If somebody is willing to offer a theory, I’m all ears. However, I’m not here to explore the roots of this issue, only what fruit it ended up bearing. While many of these cars may have continued production after the recession of 2008-2010, most if not all were born of the white heat of stupidity that lost GM $82 billion before this time. I say stupidity of course, because most of the following vehicles I would like to own one day.

The GMT360 Platform

Platform sharing is a common thing to do in the auto industry, especially in the United States. A good example is Ford’s Crown Victoria. A car that had two other nearly identical siblings sold by Lincoln and Mercury (three if you include the P71). I don’t think three cars on a single platform is unreasonable.

What about seven?

The GMT360 family is as follows:

  • Buick Rainer
  • Chevrolet Trailblazer
  • Saab 9-7x
  • Oldsmobile Bravada
  • Isuzu Ascender
  • GMC Envoy
  • Chevrolet SSR

Some of these cars stand out, primarily the SSR. It is the only vehicle that is not a mid-sized SUV. When I say “all of these cars”, I’m not going to include the SSR (it will get its own article). All of the other vehicles in this class are nearly the same. The only quirks that make a few of them stand out are the engine options.

All of these cars were available with GM’s LL8, a 4.2 liter, naturally aspirated, DOHC inline-six producing 273 horsepower, and about the same torque. All but one (the Olds Bravada (sad in both appearance an demeanor)) is also available with a 5.3 liter third-gen SBC, producing about 300 horsepower, and 330 ft/lbs (there were several updates to this engine over the course of it’s production, so I’m paraphrasing a bit here).

Although it’s cool you could get a small V8 in a mid-sized SUV at the time (I would kill for this now), it gets cooler. Available in two of these cars (the 9-7x Aero and the Trailblazer SS) was the 6.0 liter, four-hundred horsepower LS2.

The Trailblazer SS

Image result for trailblazer ss

“Back in the mid-00s, I was at a stoplight in my E30 325iS. A black Trailblazer SS was next to me, and inched up as the light was about to change. Guess he wants to race? Should be close I thought, because as far as I know the biggest engine the SUV got was the 5.3.

He destroyed me. Like, I gave up before the end of 2nd gear. And it sounded glorious. I went home and fired up Yahoo. Oh. 6L and mid-5s 0-60.

I just saw a TBSS this week and remembered that race. Still one of the most surprising drag races of my life.” -reddit user /u/ijustbrushalot

The Trailblazer SS could be had in either a base, 2WD trim (starting at $33,600), or a higher level 4WD trim (starting at $39,200). Unlike many other GM ‘SS’ vehicles of the Era, the Trailblazer SS does not look too different from it’s lesser counterparts. It gets lowered slightly in the front and rear, has only minor differences in the fascias, and gets a set of 20 inch wheels. No big wing? Lame.

The suspension underneath was reworked considerably, receiving stiffer shocks, springs, swaybars, and bushings. The brakes were also upgraded, with new front rotors, and pads off of the Corvette. Out back was a beefy limited slip diff, which helped this 4600 pound truck on its way to sixty in 5.4 seconds on the 2WD models.

There were so many great stories posted in this reddit thread that I’m going to list a bunch of them here before I continue.

“I was driving my TBSS and was approaching an intersection on a red and spotted a Mercury Marauder at the line. I pulled up and said “Mercury Marauder, eh?” and he looked over and said “Trailblazer SS, eh?” We both nodded at each other and when the light turned green we both went out separate ways. Just two car guys who knew what they had.” -/u/MegasXLRV

“I saw one repeatedly beat a V10 M6 a few years ago from red light to red light. The M6 was probably an auto and a bad driver but still.” -/u/Snuhmeh

“I was heading some where with my dad in his truck, a single cab 11 ram 1500 r/t which isn’t the fastest thing on the road but its certainly not slow, when a cammed tbss pulls out of a parking lot in front of us and is just chopping away idling at the light. Pops looked at me and asked if I thought he could take him, I laughed and told him that thing would probably gap this truck so bad you’d want to sell it.” -/u/yoscotti32

This was apparently one of the best done ‘SS’ models, up there with the Cobalt. Car and Driver’s review from the time is mostly favorable, only taking issue with the car’s stiff ride. I’m just not so sure about the looks though, and only if the interior was a little nicer…

The Saab 9-7x Aero

Image result for saab 9-7x aero

This is a cool truck. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve seen one in person, they look sharp. It’s a Saab. Even if you say that’s in name only, it’s still cool.

Although it was on the same platform(I believe it’s most closely related the the Bravada), the 9-7x Aero actually has a few mechanical differences to the Trailblazer SS. Unlike the Trailblazer, the Aero was only available in AWD, and it was engaged all the time. The crown jewel of this system is a Torsen center-diff. The frame was made stiffer, the steering was revised, and the front swaybar was thicker than that on the SS. They also got their own color; Carbon Flash Grey Metallic.

The downside of this car? They only made between five and seven hundred of them. The actual numbers were tough to nail down. However, this does not necessarily make them very desirable or expensive today.

Prices for the Trailblazer SS range from around $7k for an absolute beater up to $25k for low-mileage, spiffy examples. Here’s one for $25k:

The Saabs are much harder to get. First of all, Saab is now under the ‘other makes’ tab on Autotrader? Fucking slander if you ask me.

There’s only one for sale on Autotrader. Maybe there’s others on other sites. The only one listed only has like 81k miles on it, and is also only listed for $10k. Since there’s only one, I’m just gonna put a screenshot of the listing here.

Looks like a nice truck. If you live near Duluth, MN I would probably go swipe that shit up.

Please come back, Saab.

Happy Holidays, see you tomorrow.

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