A Cummins-Powered Ford With an Allison Trans
Cummins-powered, Allison-driven Ford
Hybrids are all the rage in the automotive marketing community these days. Most usually combine some sort of electric drive with a gasoline-powered backup. This combination delivers decent mileage, but it is pricey, and in many cases, it doesn’t offer much better mileage than its gas-only counterparts.
At this point, if you want a diesel hybrid, you have to build it yourself. And for diesel truck owners, building a hybrid usually means coming up with some sort of engine swap to get what you want.
A case in point is the Watson family, of Batavia, Ohio. They used their ’05 Dodge Ram 3500 for many successful miles of towing and hauling equipment for the family construction company. Over time, they started to look for another rig to help handle the workload. They found an early-1999 F-350 with 238,000 miles on the odometer on Craigslist and plopped down $6,500 to start the build of their dream hauler.
The Watsons wanted to find a budget-friendly early Super Duty and then build it to meet their own needs and standards. This included a new drivetrain and suspension designed to handle heavy loads. The Watsons built the truck themselves (with the help of friends and family) in about 15 months and turned a rusty old Ford into a one-off hybrid.
Paul Watson and his two sons, Chris and Randy, stripped the big Ford down to the frame, removing the engine, transmission, cab, bed and suspension to start fresh and build the truck the way they wanted. The frame was sandblasted and the bare frame was treated to a fresh coat of paint before the suspension components were installed.
But rather than simply reinstall the original F-350 components, the Watsons chose to go big and installed a Dana/spicer 110 rear axle from an ’08 F-450. The ’08 rear axle is fitted with a set of 4.30 gears and hangs on a set of ’08 F-450 springs with a pair of Monroe shocks.
On the front end of the chassis, the Watson team converted the truck to ’05-and-newer coil spring suspension with an ’09 F-450 front axle and F-350 coil springs. As with the rear of the truck, a set of Monroe shocks was used up front to tame the bumps in the road.
The truck rides on polished, 10-lug Alcoa aluminum 19.5-inch wheels on all four corners; the wheels are wrapped in Cooper Roadmaster 245/70R19.5 tires. The Ford disc brakes that came with the axles are used front and rear to safely “whoa” down the truck from speed, even when towing heavy loads.
With the chassis dialed in, the family enlisted the help of cousin Kenny Watson and family friend Pete Apgar and went to work on the body. Starting with a two-tone (white-andgray) truck, many owners would probably take the easy route and keep it white, but the Watsons wanted their truck red—and not just any red would do. They chose “Misanorot Red,” a color Audi uses. It has just a touch of metal flake to make the red really pop, especially in bright sunlight.
However, before they could change the color, they had to repair several dents and even some rust on the body. To update the look of the truck, the team installed front-end components from an ’05-07 truck, as well as a rear bumper and tailgate from an ’08 model. Randy Watson then sprayed the PPG Deltron 2000 base coat of Misanorot Red and followed it with PPG “DC 4000 Clear”—with excellent results.
With the chassis and body whipped into shape, it was time to turn the team’s efforts loose on the interior. For this, they turned to Tom Corwin of Street & Stream Custom Interiors, also in Batavia, to reupholster the seats in black leather with silver stitching and perforated leather inserts to replace the tan cloth upholstery that was originally in the truck. To complete the color change of the interior, the team installed a gray dash, headliner and trim
panels, as well as a black carpet kit. They also installed an ’08 center console to round out the interior form and function.
A set of five Auto Meter Cobalt gauges was installed to monitor engine and transmission vitals, including boost pressure, fuel pressure, fuel rail pressure, EGT and transmission temp. Electronic upgrades didn’t stop there, however—they wanted the interior to be a home away from home on long trips for work or when hauling their sled puller to events around the Midwest.
So, they installed a JVC double-din A/V head unit in the dash, complete with navigation and Clarion speakers in all four doors for clear sound. Additional rear-seat entertainment now comes from a huge, 15.4inch Clarion flip-down LCD monitor installed on the headliner, as well as an Xbox game system mounted under the rear seat. The factory rearview camera built into the tailgate is wired to work with the JVC in-dash unit. It lets the Watsons see clearly when backing up the big Ford.
While the Watsons did a ton of work on the truck to this point, it was actually the easy part; the difficult task would be to get the drivetrain they wanted up and running in the truck. The reason the drivetrain would be so difficult is that they wanted to use a common rail 6.7L Cummins engine mated to a six-speed Allison transmission and have it all work flawlessly inside the Ford chassis and body. Making the three different systems communicate and work together fell to Randy Watson, who (with the help of Alldata software and forums such as competitiondiesel. com and 4btswaps.com) was able to get the truck up and running.
Not content with simply having the ’08 Cummins engine under the hood, they wanted to wring some good power out of it, so they installed a set of A1 H11 head studs to keep the head firmly sealed to the block. The exhaust was channeled through a Stainless Diesel T4 manifold to a set of Engineered Diesel compound turbos, plumbed by Chris and Randy with the S363 over the S465.
A 5-inch exhaust system with a Magnaflow muffler and polished tip runs down the passenger side of the chassis and exits behind the passenger-side set of dual wheels. The atmosphere turbo draws in clean air through a large K&N filter with a prefilter to help keep water and large debris from entering.
The compressed intake charge flows through a Banks Power Techni-cooler to keep the inlet temps down and make more power. From the intercooler, the charge is fed into the engine through a Passenger Performance intake manifold. Plenty of filtered fuel is delivered to the engine thanks to an Airdog II 200 fuel pump/filter system that hands off the fuel to the original Cummins CP3 and injectors.
To give the engine some more grunt, the Watsons turned to the engineers at Fleece Performance Engineering, who used EFILIVE to tune the Cummins to deliver a conserva-
tively estimated 480 horsepower and around 1,200 lb-ft of torque.
Rather than back the Cummins with either a Ford or Dodge transmission, the Watsons chose to go with an ’08 Allison 1000 six-speed automatic. Chris Watson installed a Transgo shift kit and Allison deep pan to help the Allison live a long and healthy life behind the potent Cummins.
The transmission is mated to the Cummins with a billet aluminum adaptor plate and billet steel flexplate from Destroked.
A Merchant Automotive triple-disc billet torque converter was installed to hand off the power from the Cummins to the Allison. It allows full lock-up capability. Shifting is controlled through a GM tap-shift gear selection lever that is installed on the Ford steering column.
Additional Fleece Performance Engineering EFILIVE tuning for the transmission set the shift points and lock-up points exactly where the Watsons needed to make their big Ford work great, whether hauling a heavy load or just cruising to the grocery store. To keep the transmission cool, even under heavy loads, they installed an F-550 transmission cooler.
The truck the Watsons wanted wasn’t available on a dealer lot, so they built it for themselves—and the results are stunning! They have a truck that looks and drives like a factory-designed, factory-built rig, with the best elements from each of the Big Three truck manufacturers combining to make a truly great truck. This is the kind of spirit that really makes the diesel world a great place to live; where a beat-up old truck can be given a new life with the hard work and excellent planning of UDBG readers such as the Watsons. UDBG