Although the term "green" has gained a great deal of popularity in the last few years, the term can be rooted back to the turbulent flower child era of the ’60s and ’70s. Even the efforts of the first Earth Day in 1970 transformed history but remain largely unacknowledged by most people. By definition the green movement is “the support of environmentally friendly products opposed to those that pollute or harm the environment.” Political pressure on car manufacturers has been one of the greatest accomplishments made by these earth-loving groups. An example of this political pressure dates back to when President Nixon formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in the early 1970s. With the EPA formed, states such as California spearheaded more regulation towards controlling harmful emissions expelled by our beloved vehicles. They enacted semiannual smog checks on all vehicles sold in the state, and formed a group referred to as CARB, or the California Air Research Board, which tests and mandates pollution-controlling equipment on vehicles to curb harmful particulate matter. Their hearts were in the right place, but their minds weren’t, as the new smog equipment restricted horsepower and torque numbers down to dismal levels, which forced aftermarket manufactures to put on their thinking caps towards regaining acceptable numbers back to the marketplace.
The next few decades were tough, as horsepower numbers fell as well as fuel economy, especially in trucks, which were viewed as strictly work vehicles. During that time period, most powerplant engineers were focused on passenger car efficiency and didn’t pay much attention to the performance of the engines. Manufacturers did try their best to hang onto the pre-smog glory days, but even their efforts fell short. An example was the famed 1990 Chevy 454 standard cab shortbed, nicknamed “the truck from hell,” that made a whopping 230 hp, which was half of the power of the original design from some 20 years earlier. Adding insult to injury, the fuel mileage hovered at around 10 mpg on a good day with the wind blowing in the right direction.
The problems of low horsepower and high fuel consuming engines needed answers, and with the implication of new powerplant technology made by General Motors, the new LS-series of engines produced more horsepower and better fuel efficiency than the larger, heavier truck engines that were used as standard equipment from the past. When introduced back in the late ’90s, the LS-series engines were viewed as the “computer wonders,” giving us a glimpse back to the glory days of power. At first, many turned away, viewing the package as something that NASA tunes with their “super computers.” GM engineers worked harder at refinement, squeezing bigger numbers while maintaining compliance, knowing good and well that if they could achieve more horsepower and fuel efficiency, the reward would be a lasting legacy of greatness.