Pasadena Star News January 23, 2009
Gale Banks set to receive the Automotove Hall of Fame’s 2009 Distinguished Service Citation in New Orleans.
AZUSA – In the automotive world, few honors hold as much prestige as being inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
Gale Banks, founder, president and CEO of Banks Power in Azusa, will earn that distinction on Sunday when he receives the hall of Fame’s 2009 Distinguished Service Citation in New Orleans.
“I’m beyond humbled,” Banks said Thursday. “I just can’t tell you how this makes me feel. It’s unexpected… totally out of left field.”
The citation is the Hall of Fame’s oldest ongoing recognition and is presented each year to people who have had a significant impact on the automotive industry.
Banks – who this year is celebrating 50 years in business – is one of only five industry executives accorded this honor for 2009.
And he’s in good company.
Past recipients have included Charles Kettering, inventor of the all-electric starting, ignition, and lighting system for automobiles; Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.; and Lee lacocca, who revived Chrysler Corp. in the 1980s, among others.
“Those are all my heroes,” said Banks, 66, who lives in Bradbury.
Banks Power makes a variety of power-enhancing products for diesel and gas-powered light trucks, motorhomes, SUVs, Jeeps, and boats.
Banks Power is working on an engine for the boats that would make them better suited for the rigors the vesseIs must endure.
“They have to be quiet, they can’t have any smoke or emissions, they have to have low heat output and they have to be fuel efficient because range is everything,” Banks said. “And they have to be able to get the hell out of Dodge when things turn ugly.”
The vehicles also must he able to operate in sub-zero temperatures all the way up to 120 degrees.
“The engine has to start…at 20 below zero,” Banks said.
Mike Spagnola, president of Street Scene Equipment, a Costa Mesa maker of automotive styling accessories that also does car design, said Banks is deserving of the Hall of Fame honor.
“He really is a trailblazer,” Spagnola said. “I grew up in San Gabriel and he was an icon 35 years ago. I can remember riding my bike over to his shop and gazing in the window because I admired him so much back then.”
Spagnola said Banks’ award is all the more impressive because he operates in the after-market industry.
“The automotive after-market industry is sort of like radio to TV,” he said. “We’re not always seen as the premier guys, but Gale does engineering for some of the original equipment manufacturers.”
Banks has served as a consultant to such automotive heavyweights as GMC, Volvo, Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet and Robert Bosch LLC.
His company built Volvo’s first turbo-charged prototype engine, as well as a twin-turbo V6 engine prototype, a concept that led to the Buick Grand National.
Banks, whose accomplishments are far too many to list, has also set a variety of marine, automotive and even motorhome land speed records and national championships.
He set his first speed record in 1960 with a modified 1953 Studebaker at El Mirage, topping out at 189 mph.
A retrospective of the “first 50 years” of Banks’ career is currently on display at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona.
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