Simply The BeSSt: Chevrolet SS Performance Car

Written by: Automobile Staff on May 18 2012

Chevrolet’s SS badge has a long and storied history — many cars have been worthy of the legendary “Super Sport,” while others (remember the Malibu Maxx SS?) were certainly not. In honor of the revival of the SS badge for the 2014 Chevrolet SS rear-wheel drive sedan, we have rounded up our favorite 10 SS-badged Chevys from over the years. Check them out below.

1957 Corvette SS

What a coincidence: the first and only Corvette to officially don the Super Sport/ SS nameplate also managed to be the first Chevrolet to use the name. But despite its toothy grin and small-block V-8 power, the Corvette SS shared little with the road car that shared its first name.

Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus Duntov yearned to field a Corvette in international motorsport as a means of promoting the vehicle, but he – along with other managers – knew the stock Corvette wasn’t exactly competitive against the likes of D-Type Jaguars, but perhaps a new, purpose-built machine would do the trick. Work began in secret on the XP-64 racer in the summer of 1956, with the goal of having the car ready to race at Sebring the following March.

The Corvette’s standard ladder frame and fiberglass bodyshell were eschewed in favor of a complex tube-frame chassis (which some allege was inspired by that of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL), wrapped in magnesium body panels. An independent rear suspension was once considered, but a de Dion setup – complete with inboard drum brakes – was ultimately fitted. Power came courtesy of a fuel-injected 283-cubic-inch V-8, which also received aluminum cylinder heads and a magnesium sump in an attempt to shed weight.

Though the finished product looked stunning and was technically fascinating, it failed to live up to expectations in the real world. Drivers John Fitch and Piero Taruffi tried their best to coax the car through the grueling 12-hour race, but issues with brakes, ignition, and temperature (the SS was keen on roasting drivers’ feet and shins within the cockit) proved troublesome, but a broken suspension bushing ultimately forced the car out of the race. Duntov hoped to regroup and perhaps field the car at Le Mans, but GM’s adoption of a company-wide ban on racing prevented that dream from happening.

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