Chevrolet’s ‘SS’ moniker stands for Super Sport, and once upon a time Chevrolet really meant it. Legendary SS cars include the first-ever SS car, the 1961 Impala SS, the bulging and muscular Camaro SS, the Chevelle SS and even the Monte Carlo SS. But it wasn’t long before Chevy lost its way, sticking the SS badge on everything from Malibus to Silverados and the nameplate lost its meaning. Now the company is looking to turn things around, and the first car with the new SS spirit is the HHR SS.

The badge won’t extend to Corvette, so those worried about Chevy’s ability to pull off the SS revival need not fear for America’s supercar. Chevrolet understands that the SS badge has suffered serious dilution at the hands of over-eager marketers seeking to drive up interest in otherwise bland cars by sticking the SS badge on the rear - the Caprice-based Impala SS of the mid-90s and the reborn 1996 Camaro SS among the less-than-satisfying uses of the nameplate. Nevertheless, Chevrolet says it really is committed to bringing the SS brand back this time. Superior power, braking and handling are the hallmarks of the SS models, and Chevrolet is placing the emphasis on these credentials for a car to be qualified to wear the SS badge.

General Motors may face some problems growing the SS brand’s recognition in Europe, since the historical significance of the SS acronym is so closely tied to the Nazi Schutzstaffel, Hitler’s protective squadron. The maker is planning on moving forward, confident that Chevrolet’s high-performance Super Sport branding will overcome qualms about the SS badging.

Chevrolet has tried to revive the SS badge before, claiming that the 2003 Silverado SS would “officially begin the SS revival.” Why they tried to bring the meaning back to Super Sport in the shape of a pickup truck is still boggling minds. Likewise, there is some reason for concern this time around. The HHR upon which the SS is based reminds some of the ill-fated PT Cruiser from Chrysler, and the hotted-up SS version looks like a milk van gone wild. Though it presents solid peformance figures and has received positive reviews, it’s barely a match for a Mazdaspeed3, especially once aesthetics are taken into account. The next car to get the SS badge will be the Cobalt, due out in early 2008, according to a report from The Car Connection (// It’s not exactly a looker either, and like the HHR it’s front-wheel drive, but GM’s performance tuners will do their best to make a solid overall package out of it.

Whether stodgy looks and adequate performance are enough to pump life and enthusiasm back into a brand that once housed the sexy, fire-breathing 1968 Camaro SS remains to be seen, but we certainly hope - for the sake of enthusiasts everywhere - that the brand with the bowtie manages to revive the glory that once was the SS.