To call Gale Banks an engineer would be an understatement, scientist would be a more accurate term. For those who have seen him work his magic with internal combustion and technology, a mad scientist might even be more appropriate. As president of Gale Banks Engineering, an automotive aftermarket and performance equipment manufacturer, Gale Banks has spent more than half a century improving internal combustion technology in the development of modern motor vehicle engines. As a teenager growing up near Los Angeles in the 50s, blessed with a talent for things mechanical, Gale Banks was naturally drawn to the Southern California Hot Rodders, the do-it-yourselfers who would race their machines in the desert, the dry lakes, and the salt flats. It was all about power and speed, two characteristics that would define Gale Banks his whole life.
Banks sold his first engine in 1958, as a 16-year old. He opened a speed shop so he could pay his tuition to California Polytechnic University. His education was with equal parts in the classrooms and in the garage. He counts among his many mentors PhDs, government research scientists, even Nobel prize winners, plus a whole host of grease monkeys and car enthusiasts.
His development and promotion of his twin-turbocharging technique for both gas and diesel engines have made his name synonymous with high-performance, both on land and on water. Many vehicles of his design have set numerous national and international speed records.
Since 1976 Gale Banks Engineering has been involved in building and supplying engines and systems to defense contractors and directly to the Military, as well. Over those 38 years, every military Gale Banks Engine has had one dominant feature; they’ve all been turbocharged. At first, their Twin Turbo, Intercooled Marine Engines, ran on gasoline, more recently, their marine and wheeled vehicle military applications all run Diesel. And, currently, the tactical military fuel requirement for all engines has moved to JP-8, high-performance jet fuel.
Most of his company’s work on special fast attack marine engines for the Navy is still classified as are a few other such projects aimed at radically improving both the power and reliability of existing and new engine designs.
On the aftermarket side, Banks Power designs, manufacturers, and markets cold air intake systems, turbochargers, intercoolers, electronic gas and diesel programmers, instrumentation, transmission controllers, exhaust systems, torque converters, and complete power systems for commercial and motorsport applications plus some interesting military applications that he will not discuss.
Banks holds eleven patents, hundreds of copyrights and received numerous industry commendations over the years. He has served on the board of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, advisory board of the Automotive X-Prize Foundation, and on the Board of Directors for the National Hot Rod Association Museum Board.
In December of 2008 the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, at the Pomona Fairplex, opened a special exhibit celebrating ‘The First 50 Years of Banks Power.” The exhibit takes up one full exhibit hall of the museum and features record-breaking Banks vehicles, engines, and a 65-foot long “timeline” which covers the highlights of Banks’ company from it’s earliest “one-man-shop” to the corporate entity that it now is.
In March of 2009 Banks was honored with a Distinguished Service Citation from the Automotive Hall of Fame, a distinction that has been given annually since 1940. One of only five people to receive such recognition this year, he was also the first-ever awardee from the aftermarket industry.
Today, Gale Banks Engineering is located in Azusa California on a 12-acre campus. He consults with various OEM companies on a variety of issues including turbocharging, fuel injection, engine efficiencies, and clean-burning alternative fuel technologies.
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