Chevy's SSR was born a concept car a few years ago. When it flowered into a production model for 2004, it looked as if the god of low-slung car/truck hybrids - who might be related to the mythical deity that created the platypus - had driven down from the mountaintop to grace us with one of his children. Make no mistake about it, however, this chimera is almost a truck, built, as it is, on the TrailBlazer frame. While it is quite the departure from the SUV that spawned it and the truck it is supposed to be, the SSR has attracted the attention of those who would change it even more. Introducing the SO-CAL SSR by SO-CAL ASC, a joint venture of American Specialty Cars, in Southgate, Michigan, and SO-CAL Speed Shop in Pomona, California.

Platypuses are cool, and so is this truck. The factory SSR had already grabbed our attention when we tested it for our 2004 Truck of the Year competition, so taking a gander at the SO-CAL SSR was a no-brainer. SO-CAL ASC had only six weeks to finish this job, but wanted this SSR to be a hit, since it was their first joint project. And a hit it was - the SO-CAL SSR won the Chevrolet Design Award for best exterior at SEMA.

A design studio often takes a very methodical approach to building its vehicles, and SO-CAL ASC is no different. Rather than treating the project vehicle itself as a blank canvas and designing as they go, the SO-CAL ASC team began with a blank canvas of sorts: a pre-production mule. It allowed SO-CAL ASC president Peter Chapouris, studio director and designer Alberto Hernandez, and fabricator Rick Pearman to plan and ponder before committing their ideas to the project vehicle. Then, the pre-production SSR went to the folks at Magnuson Products, who used it to design and build a fully polished, inlet-forward supercharger that gives the SSR a 110-120hp boost at the rear wheels, for a total performance of up to 420 horses.

Back at SO-CAL ASC, the real SSR had arrived, and the staff commenced the transformation. A prototype lowering kit kicked 5 inches from under the front of the truck and 7 inches from the back. This wasn't easy, because the TrailBlazer's front suspension used an upright shaped like a giant C to accommodate the driveshaft. This strange configuration wouldn't hamper the usual 1- or 2-inch drop, but SO-CAL ASC's more aggressive lowering forced them to come up with a one-off spindle and spring solution that worked well for this project. In the rear, the staff rewound the coil springs and relocated the shocks to get the height they needed. But SO-CAL ASC continued to work on the suspension. Specifically, a chassis notch and a Panhard bar was planned to make the lowered SSR driveable.

SO-CAL ASC recruited Alan Budnik, who created SO-CAL Special wheels based on Budnik Wheels' Muroc model. The custom finish on the wheels matches that of the grille, bumpers, trim, and interior, taking advantage of the SSR's aftermarket rake with 19x8s in front and 20x10s at the rear. The rear wheels are wrapped in P295/40R20 Goodyears, and the front wheels are fitted with Goodyear P255/45R19s.