Drivelines Chatter: Gale Banks, Gale Banks Engineering

4-Wheel & Off-Road March 2007

Gale Banks knows how to make power, whether he’s land-speed racing or improving the performance of an anemic motorhome.

(Editor’s note: Gale Banks knows how to make power, whether he’s land-speed racing or improving the performance of an anemic motorhome. Light-duty diesel truck engines are a big part of Banks’ business, so we asked him about the current, and future, state of the diesel marketplace.)

Drivelines: Have you received any feedback from customer as to how their diesel trucks are running on the new ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel?

Gale Banks: The change to ultra-low-sulfur diesel is seamless. At Banks, we have been running ULSD for more than two years. Our test results have shown close to a 1 percent power gain at higher engine speeds when tuned for this fuel. The ULSD fuel has a higher cetane rating, which speaks to volatility and burn rate improvements. Those improvements become important as engine speed increases, leading to the improvement in power.

DL: How has the new diesel fuel impacted your product planning?

GB: ULSD is important to our planning as regards upcoming diesel engine for racing and military usage, as well as our upcoming line of Gale Banks Marine Diesels. Based on the new Duramax LMM engine, the racing versions will take engine speed to 6,000 rpm or more. ULSD fuel is very important for these high-rpm builds. I have a personal quest to further the concept of lightweight, high-speed diesel engines for American vehicles—1/2-ton trucks and lighter, plus all SUVs, SUTs, crossovers, and cars. Diesel has the opportunity to become the automotive performance option, the status engine type. Diesel engines cost more, but they do more—power, performance, mileage, and durability all in one. We’re calling it “Guilt Free Performance®.”

DL: Is bio-diesel popular with your truck customers?

GB: Bio-diesel is way behind its buzz. Most bio-diesel press coverage involves aging hippies brewing the automotive equivalent of moonshine. A new front seems to be hipters converting tired Mercedes Benz diesels to burn commercial vegetable oil. And the latest hot item is chicken fat. The problem with all this is that most of this “high visibility” bio-diesel is manufactured to no common standard. The long-term drawbacks to running this stuff are never explored by the press. But the drawbacks are there. Running this stuff is automotive Russian roulette. Just because the hammer keeps falling on an empty chamber is no insurance that it won’t hit the live round sometime soon. Some dude who has run his 6.2 Surburban on diesel moonshine and avoided the bullet is no test of modern diesel durability.

DL: We hear rumors about the OEs developing “light-duty” 1/2-ton diesel powerplants. Do you see this as a viable market for Banks?

GB: Light-duty 1/2-ton diesels are a fact. GM, Dodge, Ford, Nissan, and Toyota all have diesel 1/2-tons in development or just around the corner. I have been in consultation on one of them for a number of years and recently was shown full-scale mockups of another in Detroit. The 2007-year diesels have a new suite of emissions solutions that complicate the aftermarket enhancement of these powertrains. No longer will the “smoke boys” be able to sell their “gross polluting” products. It’s going to take some smarts to design products that do not violate these emissions systems yet improve performance. Of course, the “smoke boys” will try, and may even cheat. But I predict only those with the technical and engineering knowledge will survive. Old-school hacking and overfueling was stupid in the past and idiotic in the future. As for Banks, this is a market we will produce products for.

DL: What’s the status of the Sidewinder diesel Dakota these days?

GB: The Banks Sidewinder Dakota remains the World’s Fastest Diesel Pick-Up at 222 mph, and it got 24.5 mpg on the Hot Rod Power Tour. We plan to freshen the truck, install an automatic transmission, update the engine management, and drag race it. We have the world’s fastest diesel pickup and it’s street driven. I would like to see if we have the quickest as well.

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