Turbocharging Is The Life For Me: Part 2

Back in the 60’s, there were no examples of marine turbocharging at the level I had in mind and, no books on the subject. However, there was Indy and the Offenhauser Racing Engine. In those days, California Indy Car builders, ruled Indy, with our home grown Offenhausers providing the power. I thought, it’s a long drive but, I’m going to Indy for an education. Not to mention the donuts at Longs Bakery, just down 16th St.

banks power history offy
A supercharged Offy, as I recall this was a Herb Porter deal.

In 1966 two separate Offy forced induction programs began; one supercharged and one turbocharged. I was at the speedway in 1967 hanging out in gasoline alley and watching the turbo Offys make their bones. By 1968 the blower was history, the turbos began winning, and they were potent!

banks power photo of Drake/Offerhauser
The genius of Harry Miller brought to life by the elegant hand of Leo Gossen, and produced by Drake/Offerhauser is shown in turbocharged form.

I returned to Indy for the 1968 race and spent the month hanging out with the Yount family, owners of Eagle Machine Co. located in downtown Indy. Back in those years, teams spent the month of May getting their combination together. Blown engines were torn down, machine work done at Eagle then reassembled in the track garages. As the month progressed my friend, Bobby Unser, was bringing the Leader Cards Turbo Offy into qualifying trim.

It took Bobby awhile because it rained over 9″ that May. On race day a Ford Gran Torino paced the field, probably driven by Clint Eastwood! Bobby was not the top qualifier, Joe Leonard in a turbine powered car, did that. But Bobby lead 127 laps, the turbine car broke and an AiResearch Turbocharged, Hilborn Injected Offenhauser, claimed its first Indy 500. This was the first of Bobby’s three wins at the Speedway!

The first Turbo Offy to win Indy, powered Bobby Unser
The first Turbo Offy to win Indy, powered Bobby Unser to his first win as well. The Leader Cards Special, 1968.

Earlier in the turbo program I was at the Champion Dyno in Long Beach when Dick Jones and Art Ehrly made 1,100 hp, before the walls absorbed some Offy parts. This was the day I coined the term, “Temporary Horsepower”. Temporary horsepower today is the same as it was then. It gives one hell of a brag number to something that is essentially a hand grenade. Then the web site guys present it as gospel.

But, it said a lot for the turbo! That little 159″ 4-banger, with no intercooler, had just made 1,100 hp, where do I find the money for some of those turbos? Of course those turbos were made out of unobtainium. One day, I thought… one day I’ll find the money.

Let me insert this, if this was a 600″ V8, at the same power per cube, it would be making 4150 hp. I love these guys and their YouTube videos today, 50 years later, making less per cube, blowing up Intercoolers or whatever and claiming Godhood…. Really?

Now back to the story in progress.

Fortunately I did find the money for some Rajay E-flow turbos and proceeded to design and tool some Big Block water cooled aluminum exhaust manifolds, after the flanges warped on all the manifolds I had bought. I thought that water cooled flanges would do the trick, and it worked! No more aluminum metal spray in the dyno room!

So, I built up a marine twin turbo’ed 430″ iron head Big Block and headed down to Ryan Falconer’s shop to put it on the pump…

Gale Banks' first Twin Turbocharged Marine Prototype
Gale Banks’ first Twin Turbocharged Marine Prototype repeatedly pinned the 1,000 lb ft scale on Ryan Falconers dyno, causing Gale to wonder how he could back it down!

There’s a lot more to this story, stay tuned for Section 3
-Gale Banks

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