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Old 02-13-2012, 02:53 PM
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Cummins in a 54' Chevy truck

I just purchased a 1954 Chevy Pickup. So far I have gotten mixed reviews about my plan for it, but I am not an expert whatsoever, I just have a very creative mind and decided to see if anyone could tell me if this idea is possible. I would like to put a 12valve 5.9 Cummins motor and 5 speed manual tranny in for the drivetrain. What would be the best route to this as far as frame, rear end, and suspension. Should I be looking to use everything out of a Dodge Ram? Can i keep my stock frame and just reinforce it? Can I put a ford 9" rear behind that drivetrain? I would appreciate any help.

Thanks, Orlando
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Old 02-13-2012, 09:00 PM
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I've got a good friend that has already done a Cummins conversion in an older late 40's White (brand name) truck. He used a 80's Chevy 1 ton chassis and dually rearend. He said the early Dodge chassis was poorly made and the suspensions weren't as strong as the GM chassis is. The Cummins engines is pretty heavy and needs a lot of support to hold it up.
I know because I blew the seals out of my 2 ton Snap-on floor jack raising the frontend up on my 97' Dodge that has a Cummins in it.
The old truck that he built is really neat and he says he gets 23mpg on the highway with it, He is currently starting a build on another 40's International 1 ton and he is going the same route with the 1 ton GM chassis, so I guess he is pretty happy with the first one he built.
I have a 54 Chevy half ton that is my daily driver with a small block in it and I have another body in my back yard that I have considered doing a Cummins conversion with, but it would be a really tight fit to get that much motor in one of those trucks. I'm pretty sure it would have to go thru the firewall and into the cab because of the lenght of the Cummins. I haven't done any measuring yet, but the Cumminss is a lot longer engine than a small block Chevy is.
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Old 02-13-2012, 10:34 PM
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Thanks for that info, so it seems like my idea isnt too unattainable then. I have read about a few 50's trucks with cummins 12valves in them and I remember them talking about having to push the firewall back. If thats my only major setback I think thats some good news. As far as the chevy frame and rearend, those would most likely have to be modified since the 54 chevy truck is narrower and shorter im guessing?
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Old 02-14-2012, 04:05 AM
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I'll bet the frame will hold it without mods. It's probably a few hundred pounds more than the 235/3spd it has now. somthing like 1k pounds... You may consider the cheaper version dropping 2 cyls and get a 4BT out of a bread truck. They can still crank the power, but weigh in at about 750 lbs. The old 235 itself is like 650 lbs..

Another thing you could do is start with a 1 ton + truck, shorten the frame to fit a box, and put the DRW rear in from a '55-'57 GM 3/4 ton or greater, and widen the fenders to fit the DRW. Those parts should be really cheap as there is basically no market for them, but you could put any diesel in it you wanted, and you wouldn't have to worry about the chassis
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Old 02-14-2012, 06:51 AM
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Do a google with these terms - "1954 Chevy pickup frame" - and you will come up with a lot of photos of '54 vintage Chevies and chassis. To me, without major reinforcing, looks to be pretty spindly for that much added torque over the little 6 that was originally there. As far as using a regular, stripped from a passenger car 9" - well it sure isn't the 9.25 floating axle Dana
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:22 AM
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Installing a diesel is no easy task..unless you are an accomplished diesel mechanic..I think I would look for a complete 1 ton dually with a diesel and do a cab swap myself..
this would result in a good working truck that is useful to you...

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Old 02-14-2012, 03:04 PM
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Thanks for all the input guys. I guess i need to take a look at my local junk yard and see what they have. Maybe this is a dumb question but why do i need to look for a dually rear? Is that just the best rear to handle the power from a cummins? Will any frame from a 90's silverado work? Because there are quite a few of those at the local pull&pay. As far as the 4bt goes...i looked into those motors but they seem just as expensive and hard to find as the 6bt. How much power can you really get out of them? Ive heard up to 300-350 but I also want to get somewhat decent gas mileage.
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Old 02-14-2012, 04:55 PM
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What is wrong with using a Dodge frame that had a Cummins in it to start with?


I wouldnt bother with a "dually" rear end unless you are going to run duals.

9" Ford would be my preferred choice is I didnt want to usea Dana 60 that came with the Dodge pickup frame.
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Old 02-15-2012, 01:21 AM
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I'd have to agree with using the original Dodge frame and just use a single rear wheel axel. Much more common. A minimum Dana 70 rear end. I seriously doubt the 9 in Ford would hold up with out expensive mods. Depends on how you drive and what you use the truck for. The Dodge chassis will have all the beef, brakes, fuel system and other items you need.

The 12 valve weighs in the ballpark of 1000 pounds....twice what a sbc weighs. A 1 ton Dodge with a turbo Cummins diesel weighs around 7000 pounds rolling. My 24 valve dually weighs 7500 with full tank of fuel.

As for power it is not much of a trick to get 350 road hp and 650 to 700 ft lbs torque. Add this to a 5 speed truck trans and you can get serious rear end overload.

Look at Diesel truck resource board. DTR.com
or Turbo Diesel register.
These have conversion threads and are very knowledgeable on the Cummins motors.
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Old 02-15-2012, 06:24 AM
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Okay, so my next question would be can I use any 90's dodge ram frame and front suspension or does it have to be one that had a diesel in it?
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Old 02-15-2012, 11:48 PM
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I'd use a complete 3/5 ton diesel truck chassis. This gives you everything you need for the diesel and all the correct suspension and wiring and radiator. You will need the lift pump and at least a good plastic tank preferably new and absolutely clean. Much of today's diesel fuel has bio diesel in it which is a good solvent so if there is any residue in the tank it will come loose. You need a very good filter from the tank to the lift pump 10 micron or less and free flowing so the lift pump can pull thru it. You surely do not want to start out with a contaminated fuel sysytem.
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