When it comes to building something, there are a few major components that really change the characteristic of the vehicle. Generally, opting for 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive is pretty easy. Lowered, stock or lifted is usually another easy choice. The wheel and tire package can certainly affect how your rig looks, but it isn’t necessarily a major characteristic of your rig. Whether you opt for the 20” KMC’s or Weld‘s, it doesn’t really change how your rig runs. Probably the most critical aspect to building your rig, is the powertrain that you select.
The powertrain will drastically change how you use your rig. Can you drive is on the street? Does it need to be low rpm and slow? What about high rpm and screaming? Do you want a good mix of both? Should it be something that sips fuel for those long outings, but supplies enough power for what you need?
When it comes to gas engines, there are lots of combinations to choose from, but diesel options are a little scarce. Sure you can look to the ¾ ton and larger truck market. Choosing one of those engines, whether you look for a Power Stroke, Duramax, or Cummins, will have 1,000 pound power plants that can probably easily handle your needs. But do you really want to add a 1,000 pounds to your rig? Do you really need something that big?
For most people the answer is no. So, they start scouring the junkyards to find something smaller. Outside of looking into the industrial engines, the primary diesel engine most people opt for is the 4BT Cummins. These 3.9L engines are smaller and common enough that finding one isn’t hard. The issue is that they are still loud, tall and heavy. Now if your application has lots of room and you don’t mind the noise, then the 4BT is a wonderful engine option – factory power options on these engines ranged from 100 to 250 HP, and they weigh around 780 lbs wet with accessories.
If you don’t have the room or don’t want something this loud, what do you do? Sure, there are a few diesels engines that have been used over the years in cars and some people have turned to a few industrial engines, but really there is no good 2.5 to 4 liter diesel engine option out that has can provide decent torque, is quiet, small and relatively light weight. Well, that is until now!
Banks Power has been working with a company out of Italy for years now on a new powertrain program. What most people probably don’t know; is that Banks Power has actually been supplying complete engines to the military for almost 40 years now. So, they know their engines and this new offering is a pretty special offer. In addition to this new 3.0L engine, they are now offering specifically paired transmissions and transfer cases; as well as kits for controls, induction, charge air cooling, exhaust, engine braking, low pressure fuel supply, and instrumentation (gauges). This truly complete powertrain solution, similar to GM’s E-Rod LS engine packages, should make engine conversion projects a lot easier.
Take a closer look at what Banks Power has come up with below:
Engine, Banks 630T
There are a few different power levels available, all controlled by the Banks AutoMind engine control unit. The base model will produce 240 horsepower and a little more than 420 lbs-ft of torque while the upgraded model will produce 300 horsepower and just over 500 lbs-ft of torque. These engines are tuned to 4,400 RPM. This may seem a little low if you are used to a gas engine, but when paired with the new Banks 6 speed transmission, you will be in the power band at whatever speed you need (more on the transmission later).
The engine is a 3.0L V6 that is a dual overhead cam design. The block is a compact graphite (CGI) block with an integrated bedplate. This combination of the block with the bedplate, creates a very strong bottom end. The rods are forged steel and are connected to lightweight gallery-cooled aluminum pistons with a steel top ring insert and a 16.5:1 compression ratio.
On top, the aluminum 4 valve heads are fed charge air by the OE plastic intake manifold, or a severe duty cast aluminum unit developed by Banks. Turbocharging is from Garrett in the form of a compact, electronically controlled and water-cooled variable geometry unit. The base 240HP engine is fitted with a 56mm compressor wheel, and the 300HP engines utilize a 60mm unit with appropriately larger turbine components.
The engine’s high pressure fuel is supplied by a Bosch CP4.2 injection pump which feeds the solenoid injectors that are able to fire up to 5 times per combustion event. Banks has utilized hardened components throughout the system that improve reliability and longevity when operating on lower lubricity fuels. These engines were originally designed for a luxury model vehicle in Europe. So they are designed to be very quiet and extremely durable.
Transmission, Banks 6745E
As we mentioned, the transmission that is mounted behind the 630T is a 6 speed automatic loosely based off of the GM 6L90 transmission. We say loosely, because Banks completely redesigned the torque converter, converter housing and front adapter, output shaft and extension housing to mate the unit to the 630T. The gear ratios are 4.03:1, 2.36:1, 1.53:1, 1.15:1, the first overdrive is 0.85:1 and 6th is 0.67:1.
These transmissions receive their power through one of Banks Power’s billet 300mm multi-plate lockup torque converters, developed specifically for this package. Depending on the application, there are output shaft and rear adapter options for a dual range transfer case or slip-yoke for rear wheel drive vehicles.
The engine’s wet weight is 535 lbs. with a full complement of accessories and the transmission is 240lbs wet, with converter. If you opt for a 4-wheel drive unit, the transfer case and adapter is going to add another 92 pounds to the total.
So, even with a four-wheel drive unit, this powertrain still comes in less than most of the full size diesel engine options. Ready to run with a 2WD transmission, it weighs approximately 775 lbs; 5 lbs less than a 4BT Cummins without the transmission.
Because these were designed for a modern luxury vehicle, the engine is very compact. It is 22.53 inches long (high pressure pump to turbine housing) and 31.53 inches tall (oil pan sump to intake manifold cover), with much of that height due to the deep rear sump oil pan. The engine assembled, with a full front accessory system (105 amp alternator, high capacity power steering pump and A/C compressor) measures 24.6 inches at the crankshaft centerline, allowing installation between frame rails as narrow as 25 inches.
“We have been testing one of these packages in 2WD form in our 2001 GM 3500 1-ton dually mule truck and have been extremely pleased with the results. We’ve used it in a larger vehicle here as a demonstration platform for how well this small engine can perform under heavily loaded conditions, similar to those that military tactical vehicles see in the field. We’ve cut the engine displacement by more than half but maintained comparable performance to the original LB7 Duramax / Allison transmission, with improved fuel economy. In fact, I’m getting ready to pull one of my 454SS trucks into the shop and do the same swap on it!” exclaims Gale Banks, CEO of Banks Power.