Today turbochargers on diesel engines are so common that you’d always think they were used together, but that wasn’t always the case. For that matter, diesels weren’t always considered to be the power option, but instead were thought of as a higher mileage alternative to the larger gasoline engine offerings. Let’s take a look at Ford’s earlier entries into the diesel truck market, and a Banks kit by the name of the Sidewinder.
Ford’s first entry into its long history of being in the diesel truck market (and diesel vans, too) was with the 6.9 liter Navistar engine back in 1983. This engine was far from the powerhouse that we know today and was… get this… naturally-aspirated (i.e. no turbo)! Horsepower was a mere 160 with 307 lb-ft of torque. That was followed up with a second non-turbo engine, the 7.3-liter, which produced roughly 185 horsepower and 338 lb.-ft of torque. As stated above both of these engines were not considered powerful alternative offerings from Ford, but mainly for gas saving. Banks Power saw these diesel engines as something different: a powerplant that could not only rival the power of the big V8s… but something that could even be more fuel-efficient than what was thought. In 1983 Banks introduced its first bolt-on complete turbo system for the 6.9-liter.
Aside from the extra power, the Sidewinder kit supplied (as much as 86 hp) the system had additional benefits. Bringing the extra air into the induction system cools both the combustion and the exhaust temperatures. Which increased the life of the engine’s components. The turbo also compensates for the low atmospheric pressure – power-robbing thin air – that tow rigs run into at higher altitudes. That extra power meant less downshifting, saving wear and tear on the tranny.
On a test using an F-250 6.9 liter and a loaded trailer for a combined weight of 12,520 pounds the results for that time (the early 80’s mind you) were pretty incredible. 0-60 mph acceleration improved by 36% and 40-60 mph improved by 41%! On a hill climb with a 5% grade, the stock naturally aspirated truck reached 45 mph in 43.8 seconds, while when equipped with the Sidewinder it sprinted up to the same speed in 17.35 seconds for a whopping 60% improvement. Other notable improvements were that fuel economy increased by 33%, EGT ran 18% cooler and the trans temp was actually measured is 12% cooler.
Over the years the kit made a transition to fit the newer (at that time) 7.3-liter non-turbo truck and in 1993 was redesigned for even greater efficiency with a better waste gated turbo, all while remaining emissions-compliant since its original inception. It’s also a product that has stood the test of time being still available to this day… just in case you find one of those pre-turbo Ford trucks… which still exist as well.