Don’t let the appearance of this 1955 Chevy Stepside fool you. Beneath its classic skin is a truck as modern as anything rolling off the assembly lines today, including a GM Performance Parts 5.3L V-8 E-ROD powertrain that is supported by enough emissions equipment to make the Sierra Club say, “Hey, we don’t smell a thing!”

That environmentally friendly engine is nestled in a late-model TrailBlazer SS frame, which serves as the foundation on which the vintage body is mounted. To be more specific, it’s a vintage-looking body, because its panels weren’t originally stamped out in 1955. It is one of Dynacorn’s Chevy 3100 Series reproduction bodies, which carries its own vehicle identification number.

“The only actual parts from a 1955 Chevy truck on the entire vehicle are the seat frame and the brake pedal,” says Mike Copeland, operations manager at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering (lingenfelter.com), which built the truck in partnership with GM Performance Parts (gmperformanceparts.com). “Everything about this truck is brand-new from GM, GM-licensed reproduction vendors or aftermarket performance manufacturers.”

Indeed, marrying the E-ROD powertrain with the reproduction body answers the question many enthusiasts will face as they try to build hot rods in the future, particularly in California, where “special construction” vehicles with a new vehicle identification number must use a CARB-blessed powertrain that meets modern emissions standards. That may not mean much to enthusiasts with late-model trucks, but the increasingly stringent laws in the Golden State—and others around the country—are making it tougher to modify existing engines or install high-performance replacement engines.

“The tougher regulations are a fact of life, but the E-ROD systems demonstrate that performance and the spirit of hot rodding can co-exist with them,” says Dr. Jamie Meyer, GM Performance Parts’ product integration manager. “When Lingenfelter told us their idea for building a modern ’55 truck, we thought the E-ROD powertrain would be a perfect fit.”

Currently, there are no E-ROD engines that are certified for use in special construction vehicles in California such as street rods, Cobra replicas, etc., but Dr. Meyer tells us that GM Performance Parts is working on it. To date, they’ve secured CARB certification for an LS3-based E-ROD system for use in OBD-I-and-earlier vehicles (pre-1996). The less-expensive 5.3L version used in the Lingenfelter truck also received its CARB certification as we were writing this story.

What distinguishes the E-ROD package from other crate engines in GMPP’s portfolio is the full complement of emissions equipment, including catalytic converters and even an evaporative emissions canister to be incorporated with the fuel filler. The engine itself is based on the 5.3L LS engine (replete with variable valve timing) that is found in the Chevy Silverado, among other GM fullsize trucks and SUVs. It has an iron block and aluminum heads and the metric displacement is the cubic inches equivalent of the classic Chevy 327 small-block. It is rated at 315 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque.

By the way: Regardless of whether the E-ROD 5.3L package is immediately available, GMPP just released a new deluxe crate engine version of the same core, production–based 5.3L engine, with 326 horses and 350 lb-ft, that includes a calibrated engine controller, oxygen sensors and just about everything else you need to retrofit it in a pre-LS–era truck. No emissions equipment, though.

In the Lingenfelter truck, the E-ROD 5.3L is backed by GMPP’s 4L65-E electronic automatic transmission, which is controlled by the new GMPP SuperMatic Transmission Controller. For the do-it-yourself builders, the engine, as well as the 5.3L deluxe kit, and the transmission controllers are pre-calibrated and when installed without modifications, they require no further professional tuning. That means plug ’em in and turn the key.