Gale Banks Comes Clean: Part 2
Thoughts on black smoke, DPF delete kits, and more
Back in the late ’70s, Pontiac asked me to do a turbo package for its Sunbird. That car had a four-cylinder, transverse-mounted engine in it. It was kind of an econo car. They wanted to do a Sport version of it. So…“turbocharge it.” They sent me cars, but then someone said, “You can’t sell the car in California because CARB won’t allow that.” So I went to CARB—along with my friend Hugh MacInnes, who was a turbo manufacturer and had written several books on turbocharging—and we ended up spending 2 years with the California Air Resources Board coming up with the structure of what people now know as the Executive Order process, an exemption for aftermarket parts from the effects of vehicle code 27156.
This process allows people in California (and other states) to obtain a CARB Executive Order (EO) for their products in California, which means they comply with emissions. That EO process did not exist until Hugh and I did this. My trade association, SEMA, was not involved in it; we were on our own. Later, SEMA got involved in it and carried the flag for all these years. But by the time we got the EO process approved, Pontiac was gone. They had taken their cars back.
What happened when I got into the diesel thing, you know the 6.2Ls and then the 6.9L from Ford in ’83…they smoked! It was just common, that’s what diesels did. And we didn’t think a lot about it. As the years have progressed, my thoughts on smoke have been “Why on earth would you want to put the fuel in the engine and then not burn it there? Why do you want to take fuel and put it in the air?” I want to put it in the engine, make power, and kick somebody’s ass. Or use it to go further…I want mileage out of it. So, this whole idea of pouring out black smoke kinda goes back to tractor pulling. To make big power, those guys with pre-electronic engines just poured the fuel to it and got this column of black smoke.
So black smoke became associated in the Midwest with power. Manhood and power have always gone together. So this was your symbol of power. Now, my symbol of power is a world record. My symbol of power is a national championship. My symbol of power is kicking your ass—and I do it without smoke.
Now, a lot of people say, “Well, that guy might be a little wobbly out there near Hollywood. There’s something wrong with that guy.” But if you look at who holds the records—especially the world’s fastest diesel pickup for the last 11 years—nobody blowing smoke has beaten me. They’ve tried, but they’ve broke. They haven’t done any better than 2 mph slower. They’re close; they’re nibbling at my tail. But not quite, no cigar. When they do, I’ll be back.
Our drag race record with the NHRDA still stands. Somebody at a meet in the East is supposed to have run an equivalent or better number. It wasn’t an NHRDA event, so it won’t be an NHRDA record. But we’ll see if it’s legit. If it is legit, then I want to race the guy. We haven’t had anybody to race in the Pro Stock diesel category for 5 years. Our truck is sitting in the NHRA museum out here in Pomona. We pulled it out a few years ago to go to Kansas for the Nationals and won the whole thing, including the dragsters. That little Pro Stock ran another 7.77.
Back to smoke. The whole idea of smoke is that it’s engine inefficiency. Engine efficiency uses the fuel that’s in the engine. If you want to make the best power and you want to come take me out or beat the guy next door, it’s done without smoke. Now, that’s a thinking man’s statement. But think about this. You can make incredible street power with the diesel particulate filter still there if you know about clean tune. Clean tune predates diesel particulate filters. For Banks, not making smoke did not start with taking the filter out. A lot of guys make dirty tunes and want to take the DPF off. That violates state laws, and, oh by the way, Federal laws. They’re [the government] going to come and get you.
Banks products are the only diesel products in the United States for which every street product we sell (for tuning, mileage, or whatever) has a California Executive Order. We are alone. We lobbied for it up in Sacramento about 1½ years ago. It was a powerful thing—it took me 8 years. Finally, they accepted what we were suggesting and added on some other real tough stuff.
Luckily, there are two emissions labs in California that can run diesels—especially sustained tests—and one of them is right here on our property. Our diesel emissions bench…the state of California doesn’t have the capability to do what we do. I’m real proud of that. And we’re going to increase it. We now have enough equipment to do four emissions dynos and six emissions benches (which measure hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides).
I think if you’re going to be in this industry, you’ve got to step up. We’re talking about making emissions testing a big part of our business and doing it for other people. We’ve already done it just as a favor for one of our major competitors. Why would I do that? Because they’re honorable guys, and I like them. So we’ve tried to help some other guys pass emissions and give them some hints on that. We gave them time in our lab for free, like a few weeks worth. I’d like to see the whole industry come to the party.
The EPA and CARB have the ability to go after the companies that distribute and the companies that build illegal products under the guise of “racing-use only.” They’re not taking that joke any longer, and they’re getting serious. They gave the industry time to comply, and we did it. A few others have made application, but nobody else has been as successful as we have and received EOs. It costs a hell of a lot of money to do it, but here’s the deal. I believe that in this day and age of emissions regulations, it is in my best interest and the best interest of my customers for me to sell clean products. If you own a truck with an emissions defeat device such as a DPF delete, you definitely won’t be able to register your vehicle in California (and a number of other states), and you could even face fines. And you’re going to have to put it all back to stock…I hope you saved the stuff in your garage and didn’t chuck it in the trashcan. Those DPFs are damn expensive. So, there you go. The government is tired of the joke, and smoke isn’t really that smart in the first place.
“The whole idea of smoke is that it’s engine inefficiency. Engine efficiency uses the fuel that’s in the engine. If you want to make the best power and you want to come take me out or beat the guy next door, it’s done without smoke.”