Back in June of 2003, ASC Inc. (now called American Specialty Cars) in Southgate, Michigan, and SO-CAL Speed Shop entered into a relationship to create an automotive design studio on the West Coast. The idea was to develop vehicles and products leveraging the vast history and experience of the two companies.
ASC had been deeply involved with the creation and development of the new Chevrolet SSR-that vehicle was the logical canvas on which to make the first splash. Debuting at the annual SEMA trade show in Las Vegas in November 2003, the Chevrolet SO-CAL SSR was an instant hit, garnering a coveted Chevrolet design award.
Once the SO-CAL team got their hands on a SSR, fabricator Rick Pearmain got to work engineering a prototype lowering kit that dropped the front five inches and the back seven. The next task was one of aesthetics and that was to tie the front and rear fenders together and disguise the frame which hangs below the body. The answer was to clay-up some swoopy integrated running boards that utilize the stock body cut lines as well as the stock mounting points. The running boards visually unite the two halves of the truck together and hide that frame.
The team then moved on to the front and rear fascias. The general consensus was that the truck could stand with more of a retro influence and even carry bumpers. Consequently, completely new front and rear aprons were developed in clay before temporary molds were taken. While the trademark horizontal bar was retained, the three lower grille bars were reconfigured, and the plastic honeycomb mesh behind was removed. The lower round driving lamps were removed and the holes used to mount the hand-formed, V'd spring-steel bumper.
Four rows of louvers were punched into the steel hood-no easy task because of the curved surface and the thin, high-strength steel used in its construction. The same louver treatment was applied to the tailgate onto which the license plate was relocated. The lower pan was shortened and reshaped to accommodate the new contoured spring-steel bumper and louvered aluminum pan. The rear fender openings were likewise reshaped.
In the planning process, it had been deemed that the truck would benefit from some beltline trim. Solid brass stock was hand-formed and incorporated silver SO-CAL badges just ahead of the doors, as well as a new third brake light. Trim was likewise formed for the license plate and the running boards. Meanwhile, for a cleaner appearance, the door handles were removed as were the gas filler door. (Gas is now filled through the bed.)
With the body reconstruction well under way, Pete Chaporis, President of SO-CAL, worked with Budnik Wheels to develop a new wheel based on their popular Muroc style. These Budnik SO-CAL Specials don't look like they're machined from billet because of their soft edges, rolled rims, and trick finishing-which gives them the appearance of early racing magnesium wheels (also used on the grille, bumpers, trim, and interior.) They're 19x8s in front fitted with 255/45R19 Goodyears and 20x10s in the rear fitted with 295/40R20 Goodyears.
After thousands of hours of bodywork, the SO-CAL team worked day and night to complete the SSR's paint in time for SEMA. PPG materials were used throughout, and the orange is a pure orange toner while the cream is a one-off color made to match the Gabe's Auto Upholstery all-leather interior. The blue pinstripe around the SO-CAL scallop was handled along with the layout by Dennis Ricklefs to match the handmade Chevy Bow Ties affixed to the grille and rear pan.
Just as everything was coming together, Kevin McMillan of Magnuson Superchargers arrived with a fully polished MagnaCharger to add the crowning touch to the engine. The blower adds between 110 and 120 hp at the rear wheels-a significant increase over the stock 300 hp.
There's still a little development work to do, but after just a 10-week thrash, the SO-CAL SSR is a driving reality that's turning heads wherever it appears.