The early to mid-2000s could be considered the peak of the high-performance pickup truck era.
Ford had its second generation F-150 Lightning powered by a blown 5.4 liter V8—and Dodge went even crazier when it decided to drop the Viper’s V10 engine into a pickup to create the Ram SRT-10.
Then there was General Motors, which offered the Chevy 454 SS and GMC Syclone pickups in the 1990s, but had remained on the sidelines of the next-gen high-po pickup wars, until 2003 when they introduced the Silverado SS.
The Silverado SS first appeared as concept truck at the 2000 SEMA Show, packing a 480 horsepower V8 and the rear-mounted manual transaxle from a C5 Corvette.
The production version for 2003 wouldn’t be nearly as radical or as powerful, but it would still prove to be a refined and well-balanced take on the performance pickup.
Power came from GM’s naturally aspirated 6.0L V8 Vortec that made 345 horsepower and 380 pound feet of torque, which was a fair bit less than the supercharged Ford Lightning.
Meaning that rather than smoking its rear tires as powerful trucks were apt to do, the Silverado SS delivered nearly double the traction. And that four-wheel grip was further enhanced by the Z60 suspension package that dropped the ride height and firmed things up.Quick & Refined
Large 275-width tires sat on each corner, and along with its wider wheels, the SS was differentiated from other Silverados with its more aggressive front fascia, grille and body-colored bumpers.
With 0-60 times in the low six second range, the Silverado SS wasn’t a monster machine, but it was quick for what it was. And the extended cab layout made it more friendly as a daily driver.The AWD system also made the truck a more refined alternative to the Ford and Dodge trucks, particular for those in areas with a lot of rain and snow.
And for those who didn’t want or need the added weight and cost of AWD Chevy added a cheaper, lighter RWD version of the Silverado SS in 2005. There was even a limited edition “Intimidator” Silverado SS released late in the run to honor legendary Chevy driver Dale Earnhardt, although its upgrades were all minor cosmetic ones. Future Classic?
Today, 20 years after it debuted, the Silverado SS doesn’t have quite the collector appeal of the Lightning or Ram SRT-10. Its refinement may have made it a better daily driver at the time, but as a collector or enthusiast vehicle today most would say it’s not quite special enough for many people’s want list.
With that said, used examples still are still in fairly high demand today and if you are looking for an older truck that’s quick and can still be made quicker the oft-forgotten Silverado SS still has a lot to offer.