It’s difficult to comprehend how a diesel could ever be sold naturally aspirated (turbo-less), because the words “Turbo” and “Diesel” flow together. Sure enough though, the 80’s diesel offerings were abominations or the road making for a definitely dark time in the diesel consumer history. There were actually over 70 different cars and trucks available with diesels at that time, with only a handful that had any turbocharging. Even those that were turbo were completely overmatched by their gasoline counterparts. One of the reasons behind the existence of these early offerings was fuel economy, but the trade-off was something that would tarnish diesel for decades. Diesels became synonymous with being messy, smoky, unreliable, smelly and horribly slow.
After creating the Sidewinder turbo kit for the incredibly anemic 6.2-liter GM engine, Banks introduced its second Sidewinder turbo system kit, this time for the Ford/Navistar light-truck and van diesel 6.9-liter engines. The 6.9-liter was a smoother running engine and was actually more reliable than the GM offering but was incredibly slow when put to heavy work. As reported in a test ran by Trailer Life magazine in 1985, the non-turbo diesel truck sped from 0 to 55 mph in 50.5 seconds with a test weight and trailer is 12,000 lbs. With the Banks Sidewinder turbo kit, that time was cut to 27.6 seconds! Fuel consumption was also affected by the non-turbo coming in at 9.8 mpg and the Banks Sidewinder returning an 11% improvement at 10.9 mpg. For anyone who was towing heavy loads the decision to install the Banks kit was an obvious one. As turbo technology evolved so did the Sidewinder kit, and the final iteration of the kit is still for sale to this date.
The Banks Sidewinder kits for the early types of diesel changed the perception of how people viewed diesel, paving the way for automotive manufacturers to create factory turbo options of their own to meet customer expectations for power, reliability, and better fuel economy. When these manufacturers did finally make their own factory turbocharged trucks, they had a well-established road to travel down, incorporating design features from the Banks kits.