Car Feature: Thinking Different – With an HHR SS

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photos by: Kevin DiOssi

Robert Shumate Traded in his 4th-Gen for Something Much Different

In the world of late-model GM vehicles, which typically highlight the Camaros, Corvettes, CTS-Vs and occasionally, the GTOs and Firebirds, one can overlook some of the quirkier, oddball iron that The General had built during the last decade, prior to the economic apocalypse.

One of those vehicles that fall under that category was the HHR (Heritage High Roof), and more appropriately, the HHR SS. Packing 260 hp from a turbocharged 2.0L Ecotec 4-banger, known as the LNF, it was nothing to sneeze out during its tenure of production (2008-2010). Thanks to some determined individuals, however, it’s now common knowledge that they can become quite fast with some fine-tuning.

Enter Robert Shumate and his 2009 HHR SS Panel. Yup, they made such a thing, and although very rare that hasn’t kept Robert from modifying his. Now before you pass judgement on Robert and automatically assume he’s some foolish Millennial ricer with no idea of what “a real car” is, we should just stop you right there because he initially picked it up as a daily driver/work vehicle while his ’98 6-speed Z28 was his weekend warrior.

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Unfortunately, life had a different plan for Robert and he ended up selling his Camaro to Erik Bentley of Lashway Motorsports, but this life obstacle also allowed him to turn his attentions to his HHR. As in usual practice, the modifications came slow and small, by way of a HP Tuners tune, a ZZP/K&N cold-air induction kit and a few other tricks.

As time went on, and as much fun as Robert was having surprising plenty of Mustangs and stock LS1-powered 4th-gens, he decided to dig a little deeper into the bolt-on pool; keeping in mind that this is still his daily-driver and had to maintain 100% reliability and drivability. There wasn’t much info out there when Robert picked up his HHR back in 2011, so he had to scour the forums of the HHR’s platform sibling, the Cobalt SS.

After some research, a few phone calls and quite a few emails, the factory turbocharger was swapped with a ZZP-modified Garrett GTX2871R snail, paired with a ZZP front-mount intercooler, GReddy Type S blow-off valve and TiAL 38mm wastegate. The kit is set to crank out 27-psi. of boost — or roughly enough to put down 400hp and 380 lb-ft. or torque to the tires on a Mustang dyno.

Of course, helping the car achieve respectable power numbers in addition to the previously mentioned hardware are a set of ZZP camshafts (remember, it’s DOHC) and a 3-inch downpipe, along with a 3-inch diameter exhaust featuring Magnaflow mufflers and a killer-looking TTR sheetmetal intake manifold. Other than that, the entire engine is complete stock; down to the bottom-end, block and cylinder head. Even the ignition and fuel systems are stock.

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The boosted mill is backed by a 4.05-geared, limited-slip differential and manual five-speed gearbox with a TWM short-shifter and a puck-style KY Stage 3 clutch, paired with an OEM flywheel. The rows are short and precise, and help Robert achieve his current best 1/4-mile time of 13.3 at 112 mph. If you pay attention to the trap speed and factor in the 2.4-second 6-ft. time, you can clearly see the mid-12 second capabilities of this vehicle. Hey, for a FWD, 4-cylinder panel wagon that’s borrowed its styling from a mid-fifties Suburban, it’s not too shabby!

On the inside, the interior is left largely stock, including the factory two-tone suede SS seats, but the items that draw the most attention form us, is the NRG steering wheel, AEM wideband gauge, Cobalt fuel pressure gauge and the selection of Aeroforce gauges to help monitor engine vitals. Since the HHR is a panel, and since the panel versions never received rear seats, Robert felt inclined to add them for comfort and convince, although we’re not quite sure how his rear passenger feel about looking at absolutely nothing while the world flies by.

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Underneath the Delta-platformed wagon sit a set of ZZP sway bars and Megan Racing coil-overs, that not only lower the car, but improve handling and traction for the launch. We think the additional attitude is worth it in and of itself. With the body hunkered down lower than normal, Robert selected a set of 18-inch STR rollers on all four corners, wrapped in Nitto NT05 rubber in the front, with Nitto 555s out back.  The factory-installed Brembos reside where they were intended.

On the outside, probably the most standout cosmetic trait is that color scheme; obviously not a factory hue the metallic matte blue, it’s actually a wrap covering the actual (black) paint, and was executed well by our friends over at Superior Auto Design in Pompano Beach, Florida. Superior also added in little detailed touches; like the tinted windows and the blacked-out reflectors and accents.

Since we’ve shot this car a few months back, Robert has made a few changes; including new wheels and a few tweaks under the hood. Depending on far this HHR goes, you just might see it back here one day. In the meantime, we’re keeping our eyes peeled for other boosted Ecotec cars, since there’s certainly s lot of power to be had from the platform.

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TECH SHEET:

  • CAR: 2009 HHR SS Panel
  • OWNER: Robert Shumate
  • ENGINE BLOCK: Stock; LNF
  • CRANKSHAFT: Stock; LNF
  • PISTONS: Stock; LNF
  • CONNECTING RODS: Stock; LNF
  • CAMSHAFT: ZZPerformance; Stage 2 hydraulic, 224/218 duration, .438/420 lift
  • CYLINDER HEAD: Stock; LNF
  • COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.2:1
  • INDUCTION: ZZP cold-air intake, K&N filter, and TTR sheet-metal intake
  • POWER ADDER: ZZP; GTX 2871R turbo, GReddy Type S blow-off valve, TiAL 38mm wastegate
  • INTERCOOLER: ZZP; front-mount w/2.5-inch hot and cold tubing
  • BOOST: 27-psi.
  • IGNITION: Stock coil pack
  • EXHAUST: ZZP 3-inch downpipe, 3-inch dual exhaust, Magnaflow mufflers
  • OILING: Stock
  • TUNING: HP Tuners; Tuned by James Rakes
  • TRANSMISSION: F35 4.05 LSD
  • CLUTCH: KY Stage 3 (puck-style)
  • FLYWHEEL: Stock
  • DRIVESHAFT: Stock
  • DIFFERENTIAL: Stock; 4.05 gears
  • SUSPENSION: ZZP sway bars, Megan Racing coils
  • CHASSIS MODS: Stock
  • BRAKES: OEM/Brembo, cross-drilled/slotted rotors
  • WHEELS: STR; 18×8.5 (front), 18×9.5 (rear)
  • TIRES: Nitto; NT05 (245/45/18, front), 555 (265/35/18, rear)
  • HP/TQ.: 400/380
  • 1/4-MILE E.T.: 13.3 at 112 mph
  • 60-FT.: 2.4

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