What's going on with Banks and the military?
Not a new question; we’ve been dealing with the military since 1976. The Navy had formed a new group then that’s real famous now. They were looking at engines for their boats. We were in the marine engine business at the time. It’s an interesting thing just looking at the military from the boat side. We have always built engines for cars, trucks, and boats. The military side was always gas, but around 2003 the military decided it was looking to move to diesel. The Department of Defense came up with a rule that by 2010 you couldn’t have gasoline on a ship. They went over to diesel. The boats I deal with are commonly 40-foot or more, high-performance-type attack craft.
Now, I always tie my engine development to racing because racing is the most severe thing you can do to an engine. If I want to know the limits of an engine design, I build a racer and squeeze it as hard as I can squeeze it. In this case, it was a 5.9L Cummins, like a Dodge common-rail pickup with the common-rail fuel injection, which had just come out at the time. So I got with Cummins, Dodge, and Bosch and kinda did like a John DeLorean thing (where he put a big V-8 in a little Pontiac LeMans) by taking a Dakota and putting a big inline-six in there.
The engine came a foot into where you sit, so I had to move everybody back. I used an extended cab so I could do that. We ran what would be the prototype of the Navy engine at Bonneville. I used the truck to tow a trailer onto the salt. The fastest the truck has gone is 222 mph. Our world record is 217 mph and it still stands, it’s been 10 or 11 years since we did that deal. So that was like a proof of concept, and the Navy jumped on doing a Cummins. We built a 700hp, 1,050-lb-ft military marine engine, and that’s what they are running now. But they are looking for something that’s quicker out of the hole. Sometimes you have to get the hell out of Dodge.
So when a hot situation occurs, I’ve got this supercharged setup on my Duramax V-8 in addition to two turbochargers—so we blow the boat out of the hole on the supercharger and then we switch it offline and run the air to the turbos (which are sized for top-end), and the turbos take over. I make boost at idle with the supercharger, so there’s no lag. You’ve got boost right now. Drive the boat on top and you’re gone. Then we swing it over to the turbochargers (which are sized perfectly for the upper end) and off you go. It’s real fuel-efficient. It’s real good when you want to station-keep (run alongside) beside a boat you are trying to board (like one that might have pirates on it).
Low speed is all done with the supercharger so you can match the speed of the other boat easier. We did a proof of concept of that last year in Coronado with a boat we’ve got out there in the shop (and you can’t take any pictures of) and we pretty well proved the concept.
The cool factor is that the fellows you get to work with are the subject of all kinds of intrigue. They don’t want to be in the movies, they don’t want credit. Seems like people force that on them, which is very dangerous for them. I’m not going to get any deeper into that.