GM Performance Division Chevrolet Bonneville HHR
Years 2006
Curb Weight 3,200 Lbs.
Drivetrain Front / Rear
Engine 2.0L Turbocharged i 4
Power 800hp (596.8kW) @ 8500 rpm
500lb-ft (675.0Nm) @ 7500 rpm
Performance Top Speed: 208.0mph (334.9kph)

GM Returns to Bonneville to Break New Ground
Text & Photos edited by F. de Leeuw van Weenen
Source: General Motors

Chevrolet So-Cal Bonneville HHR When GM Performance Division combines heritage with horsepower, the result is the Bonneville HHR – a radical race car with retro styling and rocketship speed.

The chopped and stretched Chevrolet HHR, powered by a 1,000-horsepower turbocharged Ecotec engine, is GM Performance Division’s most extreme Bonneville machine yet. Built-in partnership with So-Cal Speed Shop, its sculptured body panels cloak a fabricated tubular steel frame that mounts the engine midship and puts the driver in the back seat.

The Bonneville HHR made its debut in 2005 and topped 208 mph on the Salt Flats last year before heavy rains forced the cancellation of Speed Week. Attracting huge crowds in the pits and at the starting line, the HHR created quite a buzz around Chevy's latest crossover vehicle, which pays homage to the original utility vehicle – the 1949 Suburban.

For 2006, GM Performance Division is again aiming high with the Bonneville HHR as it targets the 226.835 mph record in the G/BFCC class (G Class/Blown Fuel Competition Coupe) record, which has stood for 16 years.

But why an HHR for the salt?

GM Performance Division executive Al Oppenheiser explained: "The message from GM's leadership has been very clear – 'Every employee needs to do what they can to communicate the energy and excitement of the great new products GM has to offer, such as the HHR.' At the GM Performance Division, we felt that there was no better way to contribute to the excitement of the HHR launch last year than to build an HHR race car that could set the world speed record in the very competitive G/Blown Fuel Competition Coupe class. Based on last year’s 208 mph pass, we’re real close.”

"The Bonneville HHR project grew out of our previous experience on the Salt Flats," said GM Performance Division engineer Mark Dickens. "We pushed the limits of front-wheel drive with the production-based Saturn Ion Red Line and Cobalt SS. Now we're taking a different direction with a tube-framed HHR that's been converted to rear-wheel drive to optimize traction on the salt.”

"We're running in a very tough class," he noted. "We have to execute perfectly to get the record. It will be a real test for us, but we're ready for it."

The Bonneville HHR began life on a GM assembly line in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico . The production four-door steel body was then chopped seven inches and its wheelbase stretched four inches by the craftsmen at So-Cal Speed Shop in Pomona , Calif. The shop also fabricated the drag race-inspired tubular chassis from high-strength chrome moly steel tubing.

The Ecotec engine in a production HHR is mounted transversely and drives the front wheels; in the Bonneville version, the engine is mounted longitudinally and powers the rear wheels. Occupying the space once reserved for the front seats, the Bonneville HHR's mid-mounted Ecotec delivers its torque via an air-shifted five-speed racing transmission and a quick-change rear end.

"The HHR's Ecotec is essentially identical to the engine we use in the Cobalt SS race car at Bonneville," Dickens explained. "It's turbocharged and intercooled, it burns methanol fuel, and it produces 1,000 horsepower at full boost. The ultimate speed of our front-wheel drive race cars is somewhat limited by the gear ratios that are available for their four-speed automatic transmissions. With the HHR's 5-speed gearbox and quick-change rear end we have the ability to optimize the gear ratios. The racing transmission allows us to change individual ratios to optimize the rpm drop during gear changes based on the engine's power curve. We can also optimize top speed for the conditions at Bonneville by changing the rear end's final drive ratio."

While the HHR's styling has retro elements, its aerodynamic attributes are state-of-the-art.

"We worked with the production HHR aerodynamicist and our in-house aerodynamic experts at GM," Dickens said. "All of the Bonneville HHR's aero development was done at the GM Aerodynamic Laboratory in Warren , Mich. , by people who understood our requirements for high-speed stability and traction.

"So-Cal Speed Shop brought its own flair to this project." Dickens continued. "Our engineers put together a list of items that would optimize drag and downforce, and the So-Cal crew members incorporated their specifications into a mold for the fiberglass front end. Working with an organization like So-Cal Speed Shop was rewarding because they are performance-minded stylists, and they produced a front end that pleased both the designers and the engineers."

"It's always a challenge chopping a modern vehicle," said So-Cal Speed Shop President Pete Chapouris. "The HHR's body panels are galvanized steel, and we had to chop four doors and fabricate a new tailgate to house twin parachutes. The roof incorporates NASCAR-style flaps and side rails to prevent the car from becoming airborne and to help slow it down should it spin. We installed a Funny Car-style escape hatch in the roof as an additional safety feature."

So-Cal Speed Shop fabricators Robin "Silky" Silk and Paul Rivera constructed the Bonneville HHR's tubular chassis. Inspired by the Pro Mod chassis used in drag racing, the HHR framework is a double-rail design. The engine can be easily removed for service by sliding it forward on the upper chassis rails. The front suspension incorporates lightweight MacPherson struts and the rear suspension is a four-link system with coil-over shock absorbers.

"GM Performance Division supplied the basic design points – the wheelbase, the track width, the driver location and the optimum weight distribution," Dickens said. "Then So-Cal Speed Shop's fabricators connected the dots."

GM engineer and Bonneville record holder Jim Minneker will again drive the HHR in the G/BFCC class for 2006. An accomplished road racer, Minneker got his first taste of the Bonneville salt in October 2003 when he piloted GM Performance Division's Saturn Ion Red Line coupe to a 212.684-mph record in the G/BFALT class (G Class/Blown Fuel Altered Coupe), earning his place in the prestigious “200-mph Club.”

"We love to be part of Speed Week," Minneker said. "GM Performance Division recognizes and appreciates the hot rod tradition at Bonneville. It's distinctly American grassroots racing, and that's why we're there."

Many unusual vehicles will race across the salt during Speed Week, but none has the unique combination of horsepower and heritage that GM Performance Division's HHR brings to Bonneville.

2006 Chevrolet So-Cal HHR Specifications

Body/chassis structure:
tubular spaceframe structure

Body material:
fiberglass composite front end, modified production sheet metal

Chassis material:
4130 chrome moly steel


Front: MacPherson struts

Rear: four link with quick-change axle

aluminum, 15 in x 4.5 in

Tire size

Front: 26 in x 4.5 in

Rear: 28 in x 4.5 in

Tire brand:
Goodyear Eagle Land Speed Racing

Brakes: 2-piston aluminum caliper front discs, 2-piston rear discs and parachute


Engine: turbocharged Ecotec race engine

Engine displacement (cu. in / cc):
122 / 1998

Horsepower maximum (hp / kW):
800+ @ 8500 rpm

Torque maximum (lb-ft / Nm)
500+ @ 7500 rpm

Jerico air-shifted 5-speed


Height (in / mm):
51.7 / 1313

Length (in / mm):
174.5 / 4472

Width (in / mm):
68.1 / 1730

Wheelbase (in / mm):
107.1 / 2720


Front / rear (in / mm):
front: 59.5 / 1512
rear: 60.9 / 1548

Weight (lbs / kg):
3200 / 1451

Source: General Motors

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