The "Zimbra" Prius from Barris Kustom features vertical doors, rear spoilers, scoops and wheelwell flares to accommodate its 19-inch rims.

Biodisesel F-250s? E85 Hummers? Old news now. The future of the Green Revolution underway in the specialty-equipment industry is now all about lithium batteries, regenerative energy and George Barris.
That’s right, George Barris. The custom builder and industry icon himself might seem like an unlikely ambassador of green, but he says he doesn't care whether it's got eight cylinders or none, or whether it runs on kilowatts or gasoline.

"I was a trendsetter back in the old days," Barris told the audience gathered at the Making Green Cool Zone press conference during the 2008 SEMA Show. A special section set aside in the South Hall, the Making Green Cool Zone showcased alternative methods of motoring, ranging from biodiesel and ethanol power to waste vegetable oil and electrics.

"With green, we are having fun,” Barris added. “With lithium batteries, with vertical doors, we are having fun. And you'll see big growth in the green car culture.”

Barris belongs to a group of innovators and entrepreneurs who believe performance can be found from alt fuels and approaches as easily as from a carbureted V8. People such as Jonathan Goodwin, a Wichita-based mad scientist who transformed musician Neil Young's '59 Lincoln Continental into a 75-mpg electric cruiser.

Or Ahzar Hussain, creator of the TTXGP, billed as the world's first carbon zero grand prix. Or documentarian/surfer/adventurer Seth Warren, who drove from Alaska to Argentina in an old Toyota fire engine using no petroleum, only salmon oil and pig fat (see the story at

"The SEMA Show continues to prove that it is the birthplace of American customization and creativity," said John Waraniak, SEMA vice president of vehicle technology. "SEMA is uniquely positioned to make green cool, but as Beau Boeckmann of Galpin Auto Sports said, 'We don't need to make green cool; green is cool.'"

The SEMA Research & Information Center even challenged tuners and manufacturers to a fuel-efficiency test, seeking products that not only increased fuel economy, but also enhanced performance without increasing emissions. Winners included the Evolution flash programmer from Edge Products (1.0% gain on Ford F-150 V8); STS Turbo's turbocharger joined with DiabloSport Predator flash programmer (4.6% gain on Ford F-150 V8); cat-back exhaust, cold-air intake, rocker arms, springs, underdrive pulley and DiabloSport programmer from SLP Performance (4.1% gain on Chevy Tahoe V8); and Gibson cat-back exhaust (2.6% gain on Ford F-150 V8).

But it's not just about fuel economy. Corvette Racing displayed its American LeMans-winning C6.R powered by E85 ethanol. Galpin Auto Sports brought the 800hp '65 Impala biodiesel conversion it built for Earth Day 2007 (and unveiled on MTV by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger). Extreme Biodiesel's 2006 Chevy Dually makes 1,000 hp and 1,200 lb.-ft. of twist.

"The greatest thing about this industry is its ability to innovate," SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting told the Making Green Cool Zone audience. "This is the cutting edge. And thanks to the [Green Zone] exhibitors, and those paying attention to it, you helped us make a little history today."

Galpin Auto Sports set out to prove that you don’t have to sacrifice power to go green, and this ’65 Impala powered by an 800hp GM Duramax running on B-100 biodiesel more than makes the point.