A Cum­mins-Pow­ered Ford With an Al­li­son Trans

Ultimate Diesel Builder's Guide - - Contents - Text: Chris Tobin Pho­tog­ra­phy: Chris Tobin

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

To complete the mod­ern truck look, the Wat­sons in­stalled an ’08 Su­per Duty bumper and tail­gate, complete with func­tional back-up cam­era.

LEFT: Lift­ing the hood re­veals the Wat­sons’ ex­cel­lent at­ten­tion to de­tail when they changed the truck’s colors from white to red. The fire­wall and fender wells look like fac­tory paint. The 6.7L Cum­mins is a tight fit, but it works well in the en­gine bay.

It’s not too of­ten that you see an Al­li­son trans­mis­sion in a Ford—much less one that is back­ing a Cum­mins en­gine!

A pair of Op­tima Red Top bat­ter­ies is in­stalled on the driver’s-side fender well next to the alu­minum power steer­ing reser­voir.

Like many own­ers of Cum­mins-con­verted Ford trucks, the Wat­sons in­stalled the oil fil­ter re­motely in the front of the pas­sen­ger-side wheel well.

Look­ing un­der the truck, you’ll find the Air­dog II 200 fuel fil­ter/ pump sys­tem in­stalled on the freshly painted frame rail.

TOP: The ’05-07 grille, head­lights and bumper make the 18-year-old truck look much newer than it re­ally is. ABOVE: De­spite the truck’s beau­ti­ful ex­te­rior ap­pear­ance, the Wat­sons built this truck to work. It has a goose­neck re­ceiver in the bed, along with

LEFT: With an F-450 axle, wheel flares and 10-lug pol­ished Al­coa wheels, the F-350 badges look a bit out of place. But the Wat­sons didn’t want to get has­sled by the DOT, so they re­tained the F-350 des­ig­na­tion—even though their truck is more ca­pa­ble than a

ABOVE: Peek­ing un­der the rear of the truck, you can eas­ily see the mas­sive Dana/spicer 110 axle hous­ing, along with the 5-inch-di­am­e­ter Mag­naflow ex­haust sys­tem and Mon­roe shocks. RIGHT: Up front, the 2WD truck was treated to an ’09 F-450 axle, along with

BE­LOW: In­side, the truck looks mostly stock with a host of Auto Me­ter gauges in­stalled in the dash and on the sides of the in­stru­ment clus­ter. Also no­tice the func­tional GM tap-shift gear se­lec­tor on the steer­ing col­umn. BOT­TOM: Cus­tom seat up­hol­stery com

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