Gale Banks has never been happy with things as they were. He’s always felt there’s something that can be improved upon, something that could be made a little bit stronger, a little bit faster, a little bit lighter. It seems that playing with electronics was a trait picked up in childhood. Banks’ father, a Los Angeles police officer, returned from World War II with all the knowledge needed to repair and maintain almost any vehicle, and he passed that information straight to his son.
For a science fair in 1956, Banks blew away the competition’s volcanoes and water cycle dioramas – with a robot. Every child’s dream robot. A radio controlled tractor robot that mowed the lawn and took out the trash. After two years of not doing chores, time for new hobbies opened up. At fourteen, his mom’s Ford Model A was the first car improved by his touch. The 1931 model gained an extra 40 horsepower in 1958.
(Video of NHRDA Pro Stock national record set by Banks Engineering. Source: YouTube)
“I’m a futurist,” explains a quote from Banks on Bankspower.com. “My entire career has been about what’s next. Through the decades, we at Banks have opened new markets in marine engines, turbocharging, truck and motorhome power systems, turbocharged tuner cars, diesel power systems, electronic tuners and exhaust brakes. Plus, I’m proud to have worked for many major car and engine manufacturers in defining their future products.”
While still in high school, Banks turned his tinkering into profiteering, funding his college education with his first company, C.P.’s Auto and Marine Racing Engines. When most teens were saving their minimum wage paychecks from the grocery store, Banks sold his first engine for $1,100, or about $8,590 today. Degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from Cal-Poly were the end result of his high school projects, but not even close to the end of his run in the performance realm.
Record after record has been set, broken and set again by Banks’ feats of mechanical innovation. In their 50 years of existence, dozens of international titles have been snagged up by Gale Banks Engineering, including world’s fastest passenger car, world’s fastest pickup, world’s fastest motor home and world’s fastest drag racing truck.
Banks himself has worked on countless other projects, not just with major manufacturers, but with the Department of Transportation and the Navy Seals as well. In 1980, the Seals contracted Banks to develop an experimental twin-turbo marine engine. It produces 535 hp and runs on 84-octane “Battle Gas.”
To this day, Banks continues to develop the finest in after-market parts and materials for cars and boats alike. He recently sat on the prize development advisory board for the Progressive Automotive X Prize, which awarded a $5 million award to the highest-mileage four-passenger car that could top 100 mpg.
“I want to do something with real social implications,” he told LA Times reporter Ron White in 2008. “I want to give back something with more value than what it took to get where I am today.”
His personal goal is to crank a diesel V8 up to 7,000 rpm with about 800-900 hp. If his childhood is any indication of his present personality, then there’s no question that Banks will make it happen.