Banks Power – Investing in Performance Pays Big Dividends for Off-Roaders

By Steve Temple

Gale Banks has become synonymous with high performance. Since the late ‘60s, Banks has been servicing off-road and dune buggy enthusiasts with parts to enhance performance and maximize off-road capabilities. Plus, he is renowned for powering drag trucks, showing great versatility. In fact, in the spring of 2008 he clocked 7.72 seconds at 179.21mph with his diesel-powered Sidewinder Chevy S-10. It’s this kind of power that has singled out Gale Banks as a leader in high-performance engines. Yet what makes them truly stand out is that they simultaneously provide optimal efficiency, making Gale Banks Engineering a master of both speed and practicality.

At a spry 12 years old in ‘50s south central Los Angeles, Banks decided that not having a key to his Mom’s 1931 Model A was hardly a deterrent to making some improvements on it – hot wiring worked just as well as any key. His work on the Model A was soon transferred to a ’41 Chevy, which became the first vehicle to have a Banks-crafted intake. From there, he souped up a ’36 Buick to become a standout racing vehicle. This inspired him to make a business out of his talent, starting with machine work and valve jobs in his very own family garage.

Some may say that the impetus of his success was the environment in which he grew up. In just his neighborhood alone, he was surrounded by the influential minds of the Barris Brothers, Gene Winfield, and Vic Hickey, all known for their great contributions to performance engineering. Yet this cannot discredit the obvious talent with which Gale Banks was born. Perfectly balanced somewhere between a science geek and a gearhead, Banks continued to thrive. As a student of engineering at Cal Poly, he was able to gain more scientific knowledge while furthering his practical knowledge by selling parts out of the trunk of his car to powerboat owners.

After graduating, he opened Gale Banks Racing Engines in 1967 and continued to be surrounded by powerful minds, including Nobel Prize winning rocket scientists who were working with Banks to build hydrogen cars. (For more on this fascinating part of Banks’ history, please read the “Power Guru” article at

Similar to today’s climate, the ‘70s presented a difficult gas crisis with doubling prices and people waiting in lines around the block just for a few gallons of gas. Banks recognized the need to shift from a focus on speed to a focus on efficiency, designing performance packages that could increase mileage by 40%, a feat that was not to be overlooked in those desperate times. In fact, those packages – which have become known as the Banks PowerPack system – are still a standard today for workhorse gas and diesel trucks and RVs.

One of the reasons Banks’ performance packages became so popular was the offer of an integrated system. Others around him were offering individual parts that increased performance in a specific area, which was not only limiting but would also require further upgrades in other areas to handle the demands of the new component. In contrast, Banks focused on creating an entire package that would improve performance in a number of areas. The PowerPack, for example, lowers exhaust gas temperatures with no backpressure, increases fuel economy, allows sudden power adjustments, boosts horsepower up to 100 hp, and increases torque by 193 lb/ft at the rear wheels.

Highlighting a few components of the system, first there’s the PowerPDA command center. This records performance runs and scans, clears codes, controls the 6 functions of OttoMind, and performs general PDA tasks. The Techni-Cooler intercooler system provides 34% increased flow volume, and the Ram-Air intake system offers an increased flow of 57% over stock systems. Plus, get 176% increase in flow with the four-inch constant-diameter Monster exhaust.

Gale Banks Engineering became a full force to be reckoned with in the 1980s by manufacturing customized performance systems and upgrades for both diesel and gas engines. Improvements in exhausts, air intakes, headers, and tuners for Jeeps with an inline sion-the-fly revolutionized the industry.

Amongst the standout products is the Six-Gun, with increased horsepower up to 155 and torque up to 385 lbs/ft at the rear wheels. This figure is nearly double that for previous systems. Plus, with built-in transmission and engine safeguards, you gain improved efficiency, increased durability, and free-breathing intake and exhaust flows. And don’t assume you’re sacrificing safety for speed. The innovative Banks brakes include computerized brake control and SmartLock for safe and effective stops. This new technology is able to sense throttle position, better controlling brake engagement and eliminating annoying brake noise. Plus, the SmartLock feature locks the torque converter, raising line pressure and protecting the transmission as the speed of the vehicle is smoothly reduced.

It’s this and the other aforementioned innovations that have made the Gale Banks Power name one and the same with the high performance they’ve been providing to generations of automotive enthusiasts. It’s the kind of performance you can rely on to generate speeds that will press you against the back for your seat, while simultaneously providing an efficient, durable, and safe ride. Whether you’re roughing it off road or towing someone else in your truck, it’ll get the top performance out of your engine.

Gale Banks engineering