There’s no doubt about it, the older diesel pickups get, the closer they come to being recognized as “classics.” For Richard Brown, however, calling a vehicle “vintage” means a lot more than simply acknowledging it is 20 years old.
Richard’s first car was a Chevrolet-powered, supercharged ’28 Oldsmobile that was followed by a list of timeless cars that includes ’32 Model A Fords, a ’49 Ford, and a ’55 Chevy. Eventually, Richard decided his classic fleet needed a diesel, and, lucky for him, he happens to own Brown’s Diesel in Riverdale, California. The truck needed to be old enough to satisfy his year requirements, and it had to be a useful shop truck and a good all-around cruiser.
When Richard ran across a wrecked ’95 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 5.9L Cummins that was in good shape, he knew the 12-valve powerplant would be perfect for his project. A ’49 Ford F1 was soon purchased with the intent of making Richard’s classic diesel dreams come true. All he needed to do was start wrenching!
| Richard Brown found the perfect engine for his diesel swap: a ’95 5.9L Cummins out of a Dodge Ram pickup. The engine is on the mild side but still manages to put out 450 hp—which is plenty for a light truck.
Since Richard has a lot of performance experience, the 12-valve engine didn’t stay stock for long. The entire top end was rebuilt with a fire-ringed gasket, ARP 625 cylinder-head studs, and 60-pound valvesprings from Pacbrake. The injection pump was modified as well, with a 4,000-rpm governor spring kit to increase its rev capacity, full-cut delivery valves, a custom fuel plate, and a modified rack with up to 21 mm of travel. The injection pump is fed by an AirDog 4G lift pump and sends fuel to relatively large 5×0.018-inch injectors.
| One of the more desirable 215hp P7100 injection pumps was installed on the engine to add extra fuel. The pump was further upgraded with 4,000-rpm governor springs, a custom fuel plate, and full-cut delivery valves.
Boost pressure is cranked up to more than 40 psi thanks to a 57mm BD Diesel Performance turbocharger and custom intercooler. The turbo was kept small for this application because of a departure from the norm—a manual transmission! The NV4500 five-speed of a later-model Ram was selected and upgraded with a 1 3/8-inch input shaft and South Bend Clutch dual-disc clutch.
| Big injectors offer plenty of performance growth potential for diesel engines. With that in mind, Richard stepped up and installed a set of 5×0.018-inch injectors from Scheid Diesel Service to feed the 12-valve plenty of fuel.
| A 4-inch downpipe for an ’89-to-’93 Dodge Ram has all the right bends to work with the Cummins-in-a-Ford swap effort. The exhaust maintains its 4-inch diameter throughout the length of the truck.
| Brown’s Diesel’s lead fabricator, Abraham Quezada, made the stylized intake piping that gives the engine a street rod look. “We originally did it to fit under a cowl hood,” Richard says. “But it was just too pretty to cover up, so we went with the no hood look.”
While the truck’s exterior is mostly original, a large amount of work went into the diesel swap itself, which was performed by Brown’s Diesel’s Special Projects Technician Abraham Quezada. An early Camaro front subframe was selected for its myriad suspension options and fitted to the ’49 cab. The front suspension and engine mounts are Richard’s handiwork, comprised exclusively of air-ride pieces to handle the diesel’s 1,100-pound weight.
After the powertrain was mounted, Richard turned to the rear axle, which needed to be extremely beefy to handle the torque of a diesel that’s backed by a manually shifted transmission. A Moser Engineering 9-inch rearend was hung under the truck—after it was thoroughly fortified with aftermarket parts, of course.
As the truck was nearing completion, the paint and body needed to be addressed. Richard chose to keep its original unfinished look and went with an open engine bay to showcase the Cummins engine that’s outfitted with several feet of polished piping. “I felt like a little kid again when we started the engine for the first time,” Richard says with a laugh. Shifting gears in a classic diesel? Check and checkmate: Richard has nothing but miles of fun ahead.
| Richard grabbed a universal electric fan and aluminum radiator that fit in the confines of the Ford body. The radiator is a big help for keeping the Cummins nice and cool.
| A big problem with diesel swaps is that the engines add a bunch of weight over a vehicle’s front axle. Richard solved this problem by having Abraham recess the firewall slightly, which moves the engine back without putting it too far into the cab.
| The truck’s entire front clip (including the steering and suspension) is from a mid-’70s Camaro. The engine’s weight is supported by a RideTech compressor and shocks. Again, everything was fabricated in-house at Brown’s Diesel.
| Richard planned on being able to tackle the 400-mile drive to the beach and back without filling up, so twin 20-gallon fuel cells from Summit Racing were installed to give the truck a ridiculous range.
| The interior was kept as simple as possible and is a mishmash of Camaro, ’49 Ford, and newer Dodge parts. Notice the shifter for the NV4500 five-speed manual transmission.
| With temperatures of 110 degrees or more during the summer, a Vintage Air A/C system was a mandatory retrofit for the Ford.
| There’s something about the allure of a classic rig that features parts such as metal door panels, which you simply don’t see anymore.
| Gauges are minimal—just the basics, like rpm and air pressure (for the suspension), are displayed.
| A street rod–type look is achieved with classic American Racing wheels and Goodyear tires.
Year/Make/Model: ’49 Ford F1
Owner: Richard Brown
Hometown: Riverdale, California
Engine: 5.9L Cummins I-6 Cummins head gasket, ARP 625 cylinder-head studs, Pacbrake 60-pound valvesprings
Fuel: 215hp injection pump, custom fuel plate, full-cut delivery valves, 4,000-rpm governor springs, Scheid Diesel Service 5×0.018-inch injectors, AirDog 4G lift pump
Air: BD Diesel Performance Super B turbocharger, custom intercooler and piping
Exhaust: ATS Diesel Performance exhaust manifold, Diamond Eye Performance HX40-style 4-inch ’89-to-’93 Ram downpipe
Transmission: NV4500 five-speed manual, 1 3/8-inch input shaft, South Bend Clutch dual-disc clutch
Horsepower: 450 hp
Torque: 1,000 lb-ft
Tires: 215/55R15 Goodyear Assurance (front), 245/55R15 (rear)
Wheels: American Racing Torque Thrust
Suspension: RideTech suspension (front) Calvert Racing CalTracs monoleaf spring, traction bars (rear)
Axle: Moser Engineering 9-inch rearend, 3.89 rear gears, 31-spline axles
Body: ’70s Camaro front clip, reinforced second-generation Dodge motor mounts, fabricated transmission tunnel, and transmission mounts
Interior: Vintage Air air-conditioning, gauges from Dolphin Instruments and Gauges
Fun Fact: Richard needed a little more power, so he went with a larger 63mm turbo. As turbo size went up, so did the dyno numbers—all the way to 590 hp!