Someone Tried Making A Chevy HHR Look Retro And I Think It Worked: Afternoon Cold Start

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Do you remember how, when the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer debuted, everyone wanted it to come with a wood-trim option like the old Grand Wagoneer? But then people started photoshopping the vinyl on the new Jeep, and something didn’t quite work. The fact is, old-school styling elements just don’t look right on many modern cars. But one modern car that can seemingly handle retro styling bits is the Chevrolet HHR, as demonstrated by this machine spotted in Michigan.

[Editor’s Note: Cold Start is running in the afternoon because I forgot to publish it this morning. Sorry! – JT]

My friend Brandon sent me some photos of an HHR he spotted in a parking lot in Michigan a few weeks back, and I have to admit that my initial reaction was to recoil. Look at all the cheesy badges just glued to that sheetmetal! Yikes! But a closer look brought me into the light, because I don’t hate this HHR. Actually, I kind of dig it:

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The two-tone paint, steel wheels with dogdish center caps, the old-school stainless steel trim just below the beltline, the (Mercury?) hood ornament — it melds well with the HHR’s body shape and overall design. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise because, like its PT Cruiser competitor, the HHR was designed with retro styling queues; in fact, the old-school design was among the vehicles’ main selling points when the car hit the market in 2005. Still, I wasn’t expecting it to be possible to simply take parts off of 50+ year-old cars and just graft them on; the fact that this HHR pulls it off is just cool.

Unrelated to the car above, I was curious to see if an HHR can pool off the woody look, so I googled it and found, on a site called PT Woody, that there are wood-trim kits available. I think it sort-of works, but the white/light blue two-tone car works a bit better in my eyes.

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Anyway, as a big fan of the reliable, practical, reasonably-efficient, and and available-with-a-stick HHR I figured I’d show you that.

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30 Responses

  1. I hate this car. I had it as a rental once (over 10 years ago, now). I had to drive it around San Francisco, and the stupid A-pillars are so big that I couldn’t see anyone in the crosswalks. It was rather terrifying, and I’ve hated the car since.

    Now, it’s likely that the A-pillars are small-normal compared to today’s cars, but they were certainly big at the time.

    1. Honestly, that’s been about every GM car I’ve been in since the early 2000s, and not just at the A-pillars either. They seem to delight in making it hard to see out of their vehicles for whatever reason.

  2. Solid treatment of a questionable car.

    There are a couple dealerships in the midwest applying wraps to the newer F-series trucks that give them the two-toned look of the 90s, and I’m not talking about the stock Ford Heritage look that came out. If you haven’t seen them you need to google it. They hit the nostalgia button so hard it hurts.

    Here’s one
    https://www.kochfordlincoln.com/blogs/blog/ford-dealer-retro-truck-package-for-f-150

  3. I think some cheap China self-adhesive “chrome” strips around the windows would make it even better. Maybe try and make the bumpers look metal’y too somehow, maybe just with some silver paint?

    But nice job, it reminds me of those cheap Fords from the fifties with cardboard door cards and rubber mats and minimal chrome.

  4. I like how the two-tone colors look. It’s tough to make a two-tone paint job look good on a modern car (although the SSR’s styling is meant to *not* look “modern”). I’d want to do something with the bumpers. Wrapping them in fake chrome or even just painting them a contrasting gray color would help to set them apart from the rest of the car.

    The “woody” look isn’t to my taste, but it looks on on this car. I’m not crazy about the bit that extends in front of the headlights, but it’s fine on the doors and the aft section.

    1. This is almost exactly what I was going to say. Needs the sealed beam headlight fender work, and some kind of chromed bumper treatment. (Those plastic bumper covers were and are a sin against our Automotive Father in the Sky.) But I’m getting a very nice ‘old AMC’ vibe out of that paint job. This thing actually has potential. And I HATE this model. Like viscerally.

    1. This is correct, although it feels like it needs to go through the door handles which would be ok if it wasn’t for the divot. They also need to fix the angle of attack of the hood ornament so the plane is level. I also agree with others that chrome wrapped bumpers would be good. Maybe one less tchotchke on the side.

  5. This looks like something a small regional dairy would use to deliver ice cream.

    I think I recall Steamwhistle Brewery had some of these in their fleet. Much of their marketing and ‘look’ is about nostalgia for aging boomers.

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