Twelve Days of Pre-Recession GM Christmas: The Chevrolet Cobalt SS

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 Cobalt SS

The Chevy Cobalt was introduced for the 2005 model year to replace the Cavalier. Everybody agreed the Cobalt was a step up from the mighty Cav’, which magazines did not like (fuckin’ slander if you ask me). Nobody however, was expecting how much of a step up the ‘SS’ variants would be from any other passenger car GM made at the time.

GM, in typical pre-recession fashion, decided the Cobalt needed an SS trim. This is not the GM we know now, though. They weren’t just going to put some red plastic on it and call it a day. This was the GM that had money to burn, plenty of strange ideas, and no perception of the impending financial doom to come.

Lets start with the basics. The Cobalt SS actually had three trims, covering every possible method of aspiration (this was not intentional but just kind of happened). There was a supercharged version, a turbocharged version, and a naturally aspirated version. The supercharged variant was only available as a coupe. The other types were available as a sedan as well.

The first Cobalt SS I’ll cover is the supercharged version, which is definitely the most interesting. Rated at 205 horsepower, it was equipped with an Eaton M62 roots type supercharger, providing 12.5psi through a water-air intercooler. The motor sends all of its power to the front wheels, where a limited slip differential was optional. Also available in the same package as the LSD were Recaro bucket seats.

So far, we have a supercharged Cobalt with a 5 speed manual, recaros, and a front LSD (Imagine if GM did this to the fucking Cruze). This is all in character.

The car came standard with new lower and more aggressive front and rear fascias, polished 18 inch wheels, new rockers, a coveted boost gauge mounted on the A-pillar, and General Motor’s finest FE5 sport suspension.

Initially, a very large rear spoiler was standard on the SS, which later became an option. I just refer to it as “the big wing”. Several auto journalists complained that it obscured the vision out of the back of the car. That’s badass.

This, again, seemed pretty normal for GM at the time, but as you might expect, they took it further.

Available from the dealership (on the supercharged car) were three performance packages covered under warranty. They are as follows:

Stage 1: New injectors, re-tuned ECU, and a redline that now touches seven thousand. (+30hp over stock)

Stage 2: Carries over the same injectors and re-tune as stage 1, also adds a smaller pulley on the supercharger. Redline remains at 7k. (+36hp over stock)

Stage 3: ECU is completely replaced. Air conditioning is disabled. Redline adjustable up to eight thousand RPM, and there’s an even smaller pulley on the supercharger. The ECU also allows for the use of a 50 shot of nitrous. (+55 hp over stock on 100 octane fuel).

Stage 3 should’ve been called something cooler. Fuck “Stage 3”, should’ve been like ‘defcon 0’ or ‘dragon mode’.

In 2008, it was announced this version would be discontinued because the engine (the LSJ) would not meet new emissions regulations. That’s when you know that motor is a keeper. Getting canned because you don’t meet emissions is a valiant death for an engine. If I was an engine, that’s how I would wanna go.

There was a little awkward period between generations where no SS existed, but that was soon to change.

The most powerful of the Cobalt SS’ are the turbocharged versions. The turbocharged Cobalt motor is no slouch. It produced 260hp right out of the gate, being the same engine found in the Ion Redline, Sky Redline, Solstice GXP, and HHR SS (the LNF).

Bolted to the 2.0 liter block via a stainless steel cast manifold is a twin scroll turbocharger. To contain the fierce boost, both the rods and crank are forged steel. A stage 1 kit was also available for this edition of the SS, boosting performance to 290hp and 340 lb/ft. No-lift-shift was also available this time around.

The worst version is the NA variant, and wasn’t really a true ‘SS’, but I’ll throw it in anyway. It got the inferior FE3 sport suspension, which was an upgrade from the base, but not as good as the FE5 setup that the turbo and supercharged cars got. The tires were narrower (205s vs 225s), and it only had 173 horsepower. In fact, it was basically a Pontiac G5 GT with a different grille. Pretty dumpy.

All of the good SS’ started at around $20k new, so prices today are very reasonable.

The cheapest ones have around 200k miles, and cost about $3k. Most of them don’t make it over $10k, and those up around that price-point typically have between 30k and 60k miles. The mintiest one I found?

https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?listingId=536717498&zip=19144&referrer=%2Fcars-for-sale%2Fsearchresults.xhtml%3Fzip%3D19144%26sortBy%3DmileageASC%26incremental%3Dall%26firstRecord%3D0%26marketExtension%3Don%26modelCodeList%3DCOBALT%26makeCodeList%3DCHEV%26searchRadius%3D0%26trimCodeList%3DCOBALT%257CSS&numRecords=25&firstRecord=0&modelCodeList=COBALT&makeCodeList=CHEV&searchRadius=0&makeCode1=CHEV&modelCode1=COBALT&clickType=listing

This Cobalt SS is right around $8k, and has 22k miles on it. It doesn’t have the big wing, but it does look like you could eat off of it.

Although not necessarily rare, the Cobalt SS is still very desirable, and a ‘no-shit’ good car if you can forget about the Fisher Price interior. It held the FWD record at VIR until the new Civic Type-R came around. Here’s a little chart reddit user /u/AlwaysTalkToTheCops put together to better illustrate just how fast this car is.

cobaltsschart

/u/Seeker80 also tells me that, “The turbocharged SS held the FWD record at the Nurburgring until the Renaultsport Megane R26.R took the top spot. Even better, the Focus RS came along, with with its mighty 305hp…and didn’t beat the Cobalt SS.”

The turbocharged version is the quickest, but there’s just something about having an 8k RPM, supercharged Chevy Cobalt that makes me weak at the knees. That’s the one I would have. I’m certain this particular car isn’t stock, but just listen to it. (https://youtu.be/snjGjQw0OJg)

I’ll end this post with a funny story from reddit user /u/777-300ER.

“Buddy of mine had an 06 supercharged non LSD model. Paid chump change for it at 18 with a rebuilt title after going under a semi trailer. Car later on in life was sideswiped hard in a parking lot and was fixed. The last thing he did to it was get it caught in a flash flood. Borrowed my dad’s truck to yank it out of a small lake that had formed after he had called me to come get it. It was floating when I waded out to hook it up with a yank strap. In all its glory.

I pulled it out of the water and dragged it down the street backwards with the yank strap hooked up to the trunk latch to our small garage out of a storage unit. It sat there for 2 weeks waiting for insurance to decide what they wanted to do with it. He bought it back for $400. We got bored one day, popped the drain plugs out of the trunk and the cab, and threw a battery in it. BCM was shorted out but we had life, no crank. Pulled the plugs, shot all the water out of the cylinders, drained it of 5 quarts of oil and about 2 gallons of water and filled it with waste oil. Hot wired the starter relay and fired it up.

We beat the snot out of it for about 3 hours around a small parking lot. Within 30 minutes it wasn’t smoking anymore.

He traded to another friend of mine to get his shit box Foxbody back. The new owner [of the Cobalt] replaced the plugs, changed all fluids, replaced the carpet, steering wheel, and seats. Also had a hookup at a local Chevy dealer code-in a used BCM. Runs like a top, still drives it to this day. He put a WOT box on it and deleted the cats, no lift shifting results in huge fireballs.

These cars just do not die.”

Please come back pre-recession GM, we all miss you.

Happy Holidays, see you tomorrow.

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