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 HHR SS
The Chevrolet HHR, even without having an SS trim, is a weird car. Born of many automakers period obsession with retro styling, its looks were inspired by the more rounded, swooping curves of a bygone era. It resembles a minivan with regular doors, which may lead you to believe it would share a chassis with something like the Uplander, but it doesn’t. It’s on the Delta platform, which was shared with the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, and Saturn Ion. Production started in 2005 with a choice of two unfortunate naturally aspirated Ecotec engines, but things got weirder and more interesting in 2008.
Initially announced in 2006, The SS model shared its new, Turbocharged engine with the Pontiac Solstice GXP, giving it an honest-to-god 260 horsepower (at the front wheels). Now, that doesn’t seem like a ton, but for some context, the power-to-weight is almost identical to a modern Ford Focus ST, which is not a slow car. More interesting still, this not-quite-minivan could be had with a short-throw five speed manual transmission. It also came with ‘no-lift-shift’ which allows it to rocket to sixty miles-per-hour in 6.3 seconds. A limited-slip front differential was an option.
(Note: The vehicle only produces 235 horsepower in its automatic transmission guise.)
Just a heads up, this is gonna keep getting weirder.
The suspension was tuned at the Nurburgring, which I cannot really explain. Making an SS trim of your retro-styled pseudo-minivan is one thing, but taking it to Nurburgring is more than a little unorthodox. Bolted to the ‘race tuned suspension’ were bespoke 18 inch alloy wheels, and the car got new front & rear fascias, rocker panels, and a spoiler (which actually looks pretty sharp). Inside, the car got a smaller diameter leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and a (gasp) PILLAR MOUNTED TITANIUM BOOST GAUGE. I’m assuming every time one rolled off the assembly line an angel swooped down and screwed that into place. Thanks, Jesus!
The SS was also available in several colors that the feeble, peasant owners of non-SS HHRs could only dream of. Colors like Victory Red, Mystique Blue Flash Metallic, Sunburst Orange II Metallic, and Black.
I’ve been trying to think of a good transition at this point, because it get’s even weirder. What happens? Does an executive at GM like, get drunk or something? Does he do a line of blow? Does god speak to him? I’m not sure. I don’t know what they were thinking. I don’t think they knew, either.
They made an SS version of the Panel Van variant of the HHR. Not just a “full panel version”, but also a “half panel” version.
Let me present some information to you as frankly as I possibly can.
They made 7,980 HHR SS’ total. Of those 7,980, 216 were full panels, and 200 were half-panels.
What does this mean;
The HHR SS panel versions are rarer than Bugatti Veyrons.
Got that out of the way.
The doors on the full panel could only be opened from the inside, and the interior door panel looked like this:
Once sold new for $26,500, a squeaky clean HHR SS with around 100k miles can easily be had for around $7000, with prices dropping as the miles go up. The average price is around $3-5k for a non-panel SS.
The panel versions are a different story. One five-speed, full panel SS I found (216 made) has under 10k miles on it, and is currently listed at… thirty three… thousand dollars.
Another, with 80k miles, is only listed for nine thousand, so that that previous price just seems like some boomer-type, Corvette-owner shit to me.
I also found an extremely rare half-panel version (automatic), for an absolutely PALTRY $7k, so prices bounce around quite a bit.
For me, this car ticks all pre-recession GM boxes. An interior that’s a sea of plastic? Check. Honest-to-god high performance trim for no reason? Check. Stick available? Of course.
If you would like to own a car rarer than a Veyron, this is your chance.
Happy Holidays, see you tomorrow.