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GM's E-Rod 1955 Chevy - Road Test E-Rod

We Go To GM's Historic Milford Proving Grounds To Drive The E-Rod '55 Chevy, The Car That May Be The Future Of Hot Rodding.

By , Photography by John Moore

If Bob Falfa was the good guy in American Graffiti, he would have driven the GM Performance Parts E-Rod '55 Chevy. The E-Rod, as you may know, has the emissions-legal heart of a new Corvette-a 430hp LS3 with electronic fuel injection, catalytic converters, and all the other hardware that'll not only make you a hero with your car buddies, but might not get you banned from the local Greenpeace meeting.

In George Lucas' 1973 cinematic classic, Falfa, played by a young (pre-Star Wars) Harrison Ford, was out to wreak havoc on the town of Modesto, California. He was looking for John Milner and his small-block Chevy-powered '32 Ford deuce coupe. Milner had the fastest car in the valley and Falfa was itching for a showdown. Falfa was the antagonist, running a black '55 with chrome-reverse rims and (truth be told) a big-block Chevy under the scooped hood. He was reckless and wild, going through women and gas in search of street racing glory.

(For you movie trivia buffs, the Falfa '55 in American Graffiti was the same car James Taylor and Dennis Wilson drove cross-country in Two-Lane Blacktop a couple of years earlier.)

But what if the hero was Falfa? Surely, the E-Rod '55 would be more his style than that scary black '55 with the roll bar in it and the skull hanging from the rearview mirror. The E-Rod's white paint (with a hint of green pearl) and metallic green two-tone combo is far less threatening, almost effete. So are its bench seat and eco-friendly color scheme on the interior.

After driving the E-Rod, though, we're pretty sure Milner's '32 would have been toast. Alas, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

I was among a select group of journalists in Michigan recently to drive the E-Rod '55 at GM's historic Milford Proving Grounds (MPG). When the MPG opened in 1924, it was the first facility of its kind in the world, designed and developed specifically to develop and test new automobiles. In this controlled environment (one that can duplicate virtually any street or driving condition imaginable), GM's engineers can test anything from crash-worthiness to handling traits to how well an emergency brake holds on a steep incline. The Milford Proving Grounds are built on 4,000 acres outside of Detroit, house 107 buildings, and have the equivalent of 132 miles of roads. They're home to what is known as "Black Lake" (it's actually called the Vehicle Dynamics Test Area), a 67-acre pad used for testing vehicle dynamics, among other things. While the speed limit on the road we used was 55 mph, it was long, smooth, straight, and often far away from the prying eyes of security-if you know what I mean.

Why E-Rod?
Since its introduction in 2009 at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, the biggest question we keep getting asked is, "Why would anyone want to add all that emissions stuff to their hot rod?" In theory, there are three answers to that: 1. You wouldn't. 2: You live in a state where emissions laws are stringent and/or you need them to legally register your street rod. Or, 3. You actually care and think by building an emissions-legal toy you are doing the right thing by Mother Earth.

Let's face it, we live in a rapidly changing world where environmentalists are gaining power rapidly. If you live in California, the laws are such that if you build a street rod from scratch, you need this stuff just to legally register your car if you are putting LS power in it. For those who are building cars, like an '80s Monte Carlo SS, and want significant horsepower but are bound by strict emissions standards, they need this package to keep from running afoul of the law.

The E-Rod package includes a complete LS3 engine, emissions equipment, and supporting components that enable classic cars to pass California's stringent smog tests. Available through GM dealers, authorized GMPP retailers, and via the GMPP Web site, www.gmperformanceparts.com, the list price for the LS3 E-Rod package is $9,375.

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