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The Chevy HHR SS Panel Is One of the Weirdest Ultra-Rare Cars

I recently saw a Chevy HHR SS Panel on the road, which was quite a sight for me, because I’m a huge car geek and I freak out over things like turn signal placement. Everyone else in the area where I saw this particular vehicle did not seem particularly moved, especially my wife, who did not even realize which vehicle I was so excited about.

There’s a reason for this: the Chevy HHR SS Panel might just be the ultimate "car geek" car.

Allow me to first explain the situation with the HHR SS Panel. Back in the 2000s, Chevy wanted to tap into the success of the Chrysler PT Cruiser, so they hired away from Chrysler the person who designed the PT Cruiser, and they created the HHR. Unfortunately, while the PT Cruiser came out in 2001, the HHR took several more years to bring to market, ultimately debuting in 2006 — and by then, the trend of "high-roofed" hatchbacks was starting to die off. That’s a shame, because the HHR was a dramatically better car than the PT Cruiser in every way.

But I digress. With the trend dying off, Chevy decided to make some interesting versions of the HHR to spur sales — namely, a performance version, the HHR SS, and a panel van version, the HHR Panel, which was intended to be used as a substitute for a cargo van for businesses who wanted something a little more funky and eye-catching. Both versions were rare, but the SS was desirable for its impressively powerful engine: a 260-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder with an available manual.

Well, you can guess what happened next: some genius at Chevy decided they should offer the combination of the panel van — effectively a work-oriented cargo van — and the SS, which had big power. The result is that Chevy made some HHR SS Panel models, or, essentially, a retro-styled high-performance cargo van.

Of course, these HHR SS Panel vehicles are very rare, and most people would never pick them out as special compared to everything else on the road. But car geeks love weird models like this — and this is just about the weirdest of them all.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I almost bought a Panel HHR.  Something about the clean lines has always appealed to me.  If I could have picked up an HHR Panel SS, I probably would have.

    Regarding the PT; As soon as they added a turbo I picked one up and really loved it.  It was extremely comfortable for a tall person (6’3), had enough pep, and since I never used the rear seat, it was a great car for someone who was always doing projects at home.  I very much miss the amount of stuff I could pile into it.  
    For me, the thing that killed the PT was the ubiquity and other owners.  In the North East, it’s generally owned by people who do not care at all what kind of car they’re driving… or how they drive it.  
  2. I highly doubt that the HHR was a better car than the PT Cruiser.  For the time, the PT Cruiser was quite radical and had MANY quirks and features… some good, some not so good (who puts rear window controls on the floor??)  Ironically dealers where putting markups on these cars because they were such a hot commodity and difficult to find for a while.

    But in terms of sales success, I actually think the PT Cruiser was much more successful and sold more units than the HHR. 
  3. I do love insanely niche and rare cars like these, but I had an hhr as a rental car on vacation once and it was dreadful

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