The other day Jalopnik posted the question asking,"What was the worst car ever unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show." Among the list of nominees was the Chevy SSR, Plymouth Prowler, Jeep Renegade Concept, and the "new" Ford Thunderbird. You may be sitting there right now thinking, "Well yeah! That's because they suck!" In a way you are right, the cars from this list that made production had faults. BUT and this is a big BUT they were great cars and here is why:
1.) The X Factor
Like it or not when someone see's you going down the road in a different and obscure car they tend to look at you and take pictures or point and stare. The Prowler, SSR, and Thunderbird all grab attention as they drive down the road. They make the driver feel special. For a moment the driver can step out of his/her bland everyday desk job and cruise down the PCH or too their local car show and enjoy the day. People look over and ask, "Hey what is that cool car you're driving?" The cars have character, and character is something new cars all to often do not have anymore. They bring enjoyment and novelty to a bland biege midsize sedan world.
SPEED! SPEED IS GOOD AND SPEED IS GREAT MORE SPEED!!!!!! Wait a second. Hold your nitrous. Their is more to life than speed! "GASP" You might be saying, "There is more to life than speed? How can this be true?" Well let me tell you. With every car their is a certain amount of romance built into it. That is what gives the car soul and creates the bond between driver and machine. Sometimes like in a 1992 Ford Taurus it becomes almost impossible to find, but trust me it's there. The Chevy SSR and the other cars I mentioned have it in spades. They embody the freedom and weekend cruiser spirt of the late 50's Bel Airs and Cadillacs. Those cars were not fast yet they still sell for over 100k because they are cruisers. So you may continue to poo poo all you want that the SSR and Prowler were underpowered and dogs, but sometimes that is all it has to be to make a trip across the United States memorable and great. The SSR. Thunderbird, and Prowler are grand tourers. Least us not forget as well the SSR eventually got a 400hp V8!
3.) Risking it all
The purpose of every car company is at the end of the day to turn a profit. They do not have to build cars like the Renegade, SSR, or Thunderbird. Yet they choose to build them. Why? Because deep down like us they are car people. The companies risk everything retooling plants, investing time and money, and engineering these cars in the hopes that the public will like them. Sometimes they drop the ball and put in a underpowered V6 or V8. Yet even then, we the enthusiasts should not laugh and degrade these special "risk" cars like the SSR. The Mustang was a perfect example of a "risk" car that worked. As Carroll Shelby so famously put it, "It's a secretaries car." Ford made it work though with the help of enthusiasts and the public alike. So vehicles like the SSR and Mustang are the best defense against a relentless march of beige, soulless cars. We should support the risk cars like the SSR, Thunderbird, and Prowler because without them the world would be a lot more beige.
Continue to hate these cars if you must, however in the end they will all be classics. The American swagger, freedom, romance and soul were loving put into these cars and for that, one day they will be remembered as great. They were not Detroits worst cars ever reviled. The Prowler, SSR, Thunderbird, and Renegade were some of Detroits best cars. Speed is not always everything after all.