Banks Sidewinder Rattles Bonneville

Truckin May 2003

Project Sidewinder’s goal is to break the Land Speed Record for any pickup, any class, gas or diesel…

Banks Sidewinder: The Inside Scoop
The Anatomy of the Sidewinder

Gale Banks is known for producing performance power systems for both gas and diesel engines. Banks engineering’s reliable performance products are tested and proven at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where Banks has captured many land speed records. Banks hoped to make the general public, as well as gearheads, gain a better understanding of the high-performance possibilities of diesel power in achieving high horsepower, torque, and fuel economy. So Banks decided to build a diesel-power pickup that would capture the “World’s Fastest Street Legal Pickup Truck” title at Bonneville. He further hoped his would be the first diesel pickup to break the 200 mph barrier at Bonneville.

Jump to image gallery »

Using a Dodge Dakota platform as a base, the team at Banks designed and built the suspension, engine, driveline, and so on to make it happen. After all the modifications, the Banks Sidewinder 24-valve 5.9L Cummins turbodiesel would make 735 hp and more than 1,300 lb-ft of torque.


The new front suspension was designed by Don Alexander and Sheldon Tackett to optimize Sidewinder’s performance for its dual role as a great-handling street sport truck and as a Bonneville record holder. The newly designed front suspension uses unequal length A-arms and coilover springs and shocks. They used coilover springs and shocks from The Progressive Group that feature threaded spring collars for ride height adjustment, enabling the Sidewinder to be easily raised and lowered for specific heights at Bonneville, the drag strip, or the street.

No acceptable dropped spindles were available, so Tackett machined two blank Stock Car Products spindles designed for NASCAR Busch Grand National stock car racing applications. Tubular steel upper and lower control arms were fabricated to provide extra strength and accommodate the dropped spindles. Heavy-duty Chrysler screw-in ball joints are used on the top and bottom A-arms. Oil-impregnated bronze Buschings provide free A-arm travel. The suspension’s pickup points were modified to reduce the camber gain during suspension travel. Snubbers from a ’92 Suburban are attached to the lower A-arms, limiting upward travel, while frame-mounted snubbers limit the front suspension’s downward travel.

Wilwood Grand National III six-piston calipers up front used with 12.3-inch od directional vaned rotors bring the front end of the Sidewinder to an abrupt controlled stop.

Because of the increased front weight due to the Cummins diesel, 1,200-pound front springs were used at Bonneville, with softer springs used on the street. A 1-1/4-inch front antiroll bar from Speedway Engineering is used to reduce body roll while cornering. The stock rack-and-pinion steering was relocated forward. Custom adjustable steering tie rod ends with spherical bearings were fabricated to eliminate bump steer, causing drag. Flaming River U-joints and D-bars were used to connect the steering rack to the stock steering column.

The rear back-half framerails were fabricated by Tackett. Then the four-link rear suspension was bolted up to the Quality Machine quick-change rearend stuffed with two quick-change spur gearsets of 39-24 teeth. The final drive was reduced to 1.89:1. a beefy 4-inch aluminum driveshaft from Empire Drivelines links the Quality Machine quick-change rearend to the six-speed New Venture transmission. A Panhard bar keeps the quick-change centered, allowing no lateral movement under acceleration, braking or cornering. Wilwood Superlite III four-piston calipers with 12.3-inch directional vaned rotors are responsible for stopping the Sidewinder’s rear.

Wheels and Tires

The Banks Sidewinder rolls on two different wheel and tire setups, one for the street and the other Bonneville. For the street, the choice was Yokohama rubber with Boyd Coddington wheels. On the front, 255/45R18 tires are mounted on 18×8-inch Boyd Coddington Stingray forged-aluminum wheels. Out back, huge 295/45R20 meats are mounted on 20×9.5-inch Boyd Coddington Stingrays. For Bonneville, the Banks Sidewinder calls for Goodyear Eagle Land Speed 25.0/4.5-15s up front and Goodyear Eagle Land Speed 8.00/8.20-15-inch on the rear. Both front and rear rubber is mounted on Circle Racing Wheels’ NASCAR super speedway steel wheels, 15×6-inch (front) and 15×9.5-inch (rear). These wheels and tires are speed-rated at 300 mph.


The modifications made to the 5.9L Cummins turbo-diesel were as follows:

Cylinder Head Work

Cylinder head expert Victor bangle performed the porting and polishing on the four-valve-per cylinder head. Optimum intake and exhaust valve sizes were developed to extract maximum flow from the head. The goal, of course, was to create maximum power output, but also driveability and low emissions and fuel economy for both street and competition.

Intake Manifold

A complete intake manifold system was fabricated for the Holset HY55 turbocharger. Bob Robe used his years of experience to design the Big Hoss intake manifold to accommodate the larger turbo that was installed in the tight confines of the Dakota engine bay. After removing the stock cast-iron airbox from the cylinder head, the intake port surface was machined flat. The new, high-flowing Big Hoss intake manifold is cast from aluminum.


The Banks Sidewinder uses a modified HY55 variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) for maximum horsepower. This variable geometry Holset turbo allows rapid changes in boost pressure. By using an axially sliding ring nozzle that varies the velocity of the exhaust gasses entering the turbine housing, there is constant alteration in the geometry of the turbo, which allows for the creation of a wide range of boost while controlling the turbocharger’s shaft speed. This virtually eliminates “turbo lag” and improves power, fuel economy, and noise levels.

Exhaust Manifold

Due to the increased airflow of the ported cylinder head, the Big Hoss aluminum intake manifold, and the Holset HY55 turbocharger, Banks Engineering designed a new high-flow exhaust manifold to channel the exhaust from the cylinder head to the turbine inlet of the turbocharger. Glenn Lirhus fabricated the stainless steel exhaust manifold with a 3/4-inch thick flange. Four stainless steel expansion bellows are welded into the manifold, allowing for the different heat expansion rates of the flange and the tubing. The turbocharger bolts directly to the exhaust manifold for maximum heat energy transfer to the turbine.

Turbocharger Control Electronics

The variable geometry tech of the Holset HY55 turbocharger allows the crucial parameters to be controlled. The Banks VGT controller automatically controls the variable geometry of the turbocharger for optimum boost pressure and turbo shaft speed.


Competition Cams provided a secret camshaft to develop the optimum power and torque from the engine.

Fuel System

The fueling system delivers diesel fuel from the 22-gallon Fuel Safe fuel cell. The No. 2 diesel fuel flows from the fuel cell through -10AN (5/8-inch id) lines to a Holley pump that flows 110 gallons per minute. That supplies the stock Cummins diesel lift pump in the engine compartment. The diesel fuel then flows through a stock fuel filter/water separator assembly, then to the mechanical high pressure fuel pump.

A common-rail fuel injection operates under extremely high fuel pressure. The system requires electronically controlled solenoids that inject fuel directly into each cylinder. Exact timing and duration of one-millisecond require state of the art electronic controls designed by Banks, Andy Johnston and John Sinz.

Oiling System

The Cummins 5.9L oiling system remains stock. The only modifications are to the oil pan for extra ground clearance and oil capacity. A remote-mounted high-capacity Moroso oil filter handles the filtering.

The Block

After the diesel received the Banks modifications, Big Hoss fully ported and polished the cylinder head, the intake manifold, the exhaust manifold, and the turbocharger, it was bolted up to the dyno equipped with Wyndyn software. After breaking in the Sidewinder engine, some pulls were performed. The engine produced 700-plus hp and 1,300 lb-ft of torque!


The New Venture Gear Transmission, (PN NV5600) is a six-speed manual shift, the same model found in the 2WD Dodge Rams with either the V-10 or the Cummins 5.9L turbo-diesel. The transmission was disassembled and completely blueprinted. Everything is completely stock, with the following gear ratios: 1st 5.63; 2nd 3.38: 3rd, 2.04; 4th 1.39; 5th, 1.00 6th, 0.73.

Clutch System

To harness 700-plus hp and 1,300-plus lb-ft of torque requires more than a typical street clutch. The solution was a 12-inch dual disc clutch.

Heat Exchanger

Turbocharging compresses intake air to high boost levels, which raises the temperature of the intake air. Project Sidewinder uses a unique air-to-water charge-air cooling system designed by Bob Robe and Sheldon Tackett. The high-performance turbocharger creates extreme intake air temperatures of approximately 480-500 degrees, while compressing it to over 50 psi of boost. The high intake temperatures greatly reduce the charge density and maximum power potential of the engine unless intercooling is used to bring the temperature back to manageable levels of 100-120 degrees. Robe and Tackett engineered a recirculating water system to intercool the compressed intake air. The system uses twin Cummins marine air-to-water intercoolers fed by dual Stewart- E.M.P. high-capacity water pumps. The ice water taken from a custom 40-gallon tank is located in the rear of the Sidewinder’s bed. The 300 pounds of water weight at the rear of the Sidewinder also helped rear wheel traction on the salt.

Conventional Cooling System

The cooling system for street use is a conventional radiator system. The heart of the conventional cooling system is a large high-capacity C&R aluminum radiator. Multiple thermostats ensure unrestricted coolant flow. Dual SPAL electric fans help move air through the radiator when the truck is stopped or moving slowly in traffic. These fans are mounted behind the radiator.


With the interior finished, it looks nearly stock at a glance, except for the rollcage, Cerullo seats, and five-point Deist safety harness. In racing trim, the Cerullo driver’s seat is removed and replaced with a Kirkey aluminum racing seat is for extra support and safety. A racing-style steering wheel with collapsible steering column was installed. The floor is carpeted with the stock door panels to complete the stock appearance. The power windows are operational, and air conditioning cools the driver and passenger while they’re cruisin’.

A dual 10-pound Flame Out fire system is used in the driver and engine compartment. A chassis 12-point rollcage protects the occupants from any rollover or sudden impact. The Deist window safety net keeps the driver’s upper extremities inside. A clutch/flywheel scatter shield protects the occupants from any components of the driveline in the event of a clutch explosion.

Ram Air Ducting

Sean Torres designed, shaped, and molded the lower frontal leading edge of the Dakota to achieve significantly more aerodynamics by pushing air to the sides of the truck, instead of underneath. Two carefully contoured inlets scoop air and direct it to the turbocharger inlet.

Click on the images for larger views…

Banks GMC Syclone


In 1990, Gale Banks Engineering built the Banks, GMC Syclone pickup, which became the first pickup to exceed the 200 mph barrier. It did it with a land-speed record of 210 mph.




design engineer Bob Robe



Bob Robe was one of the design engineers involved in the innovation of the Sidewinder project. His flawless blueprints of the entire project are done the old school way, using slide rules and protractors.




stock trim and Banks Sidewinder trim


A&B These are profile drawings of the Dodge Dakota in stock factory trim (A) and Banks Sidewinder trim (B). the Banks air dam was designed and created by Sean Torres. It serves two functions; deflecting air to the side and eliminating air traveling underneath the chassis, which upsets the suspension and causes drag. Also, the two air ducts are designed to direct the high speed airflow to the turbocharger inlet.



front suspension


The front suspension used a pair of NASCAR Busch Grand National spindle blanks and hubs that were machined by Sheldon Tackett for the Sidewinder’s application. Heavy-duty Chrysler screw-in ball joints are used at the top and bottom A-arms. Progressive Group coilover shocks and springs help maintain ride height and control the front suspension damping.xxxxxxxxxxxx


rear subframe



A custom-built rear subframe was fabricated by Tackett to hang the rear four-link suspension and Panhard bar to the Quality Machine quick-change rearend.


coilover shocks


A pair of Progressive Group coilover shocks and springs allows the ride height to be adjusted by threading and unthreading the spring/shock collar. The nitrogen gas-filled shocks control the rear suspension.







Wilwood Superlite III four-piston calipers with 12.3-inch directional ball-milled rotors are responsible for stopping in the rear.




porting and polishing



Much of the increased horsepower came from the porting and polishing of the Cummins cylinder heads.




valve seats



The valve seats- four valves per cylinder – were remachined to gain that all-important horsepower.




exhaust ports



Cylinder head exhaust ports were polished and match-ported to the custom stainless steel bellows exhaust manifold to create optimum exhaust gas flow.



flow bench


They used a Superflow flow bench to test the custom-fabricated “Big Hoss”, a cast-aluminum intake manifold that flows a high volume of air to accommodate the larger turbocharger.



variable geometry turbocharger




The major contributor to the horsepower increase is the Holset HY55 variable geometry turbocharger, which eliminates turbo-lag and improves fuel economy.







Superflow dyno



The Sidewinder Cummins 5.9L 24-valve diesel engine is bolted up to the Superflow dyno, ready to be tested. The final results put a smile on everyone’s face: 700-plus hp and 1,300 lb-ft of torque.



firewall accommodations



To accommodate the larger inline six-cylinder Cummins diesel, a 14-inch deep notch was made in the original firewall.



snug fit


With modifications to the firewall, engine mounts, and steering rack, the larger Cummins diesel fits snug.




finished engine



On the finished engine, you can see the aluminum-routed turbocharger plumbing.



turbo intercoolers


These massive custom-built turbo intercoolers keep the Cummins at a controlled, safe operating temperature.





firewall and trans tunnel



Here’s Sheldon beginning to install the firewall and transmission tunnel of the cab’s interior.




cab interior


The interior of the cab remains stock, with the factory dash, stereo, air conditioning, door panels, and headliner. For safety, they added a Kirkey wraparound aluminum racing seat, a Deist five-point harness, Deist safety window netting, and two flame-out bottle systems to instantly extinguish fires in the engine compartment or cab. A 12-point rollcage keeps everybody inside safe in case of a rollover or sudden impact.



ram-air ducting


Sean Torres carefully forms and carves in clay the new aerodynamic ram-air ducting that will redirect the airflow directly to the Holset HY55 turbocharger inlet. The design of the ram air dam will also keep high-speed airflow from entering underneath the Dakota, causing lift and drag.




Be sure to visit the Truckin’ website »


Leave a Reply