The Bitterness of Poor Quality remains Long after the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten.
So it all started out because I missed a car I previously owned and sold because times were tough. That ar was and 1960 Cadillac Deville powered by a 5.9 Cummins mated to an NV4500 5 speed. I pondered long and hard on how I could build something similar, but better as the Cadillac was nothing short of a rat rod due to its age and lack of comforts. I wanted a crazy diesel powered car with a smooth, quiet ride, where everything functioned as it should. I finally decided to go with a 2006+ Dodge Charger powered by a 5.9 Cummins.
After a lot of searching I found the 3 main components of the build, a 2006 Charger, a low mile 1997 5.9 12 Valve Cummins, and a freshly rebuild NV4500 manual transmission that came with a dual disc clutch (Bonus). At this point the stress was high but I am far from a flake and make things happen if I commit to them no matter what. Within 4 weeks of pulling it into the shop the Cummins Charger took its first drive.
This was not without issues and took nearly 1500 hours of labor. To be honest, dropping the large engine in wasn't nearly as hard as making the automatic only car a Manual, not only did the clutch have to mounted under the dash in a place that was never meant to have a clutch but the shift stick was buried 18 inches into the dash. We initially cheated and went with with a floor mounted clutch which was awful do to the angle and the amount of force the heavy clutch took to disengage, this has been replaced by a wilwood hanging style which is as close to perfect as it gets (don't skip leg day). As for the shift lever, we used a few air brake clevis' and a sturdy rod connected to a mustang T-5 shifter that we mounted in a comfortable spot which acted as a clone, I wasn't keen on this at first but 14,000 miles later it still functions very well.
On to the Engine swap, luckily the Charger was picked up lacking an engine (a 5.7 Hemi that was removed because it was bad). We set the large engine into the bay and figured out where it had to be with the least modifications to body, fortunately it fit with a half inch of clearance between the head and firewall with the same amount of clearance on the front with respect to electric radiator fans. The only cutting that was performed to the body was the shift lever hole above the transmission. We then had to decide what had to be done to the sub frame to mount the engine which consisted of cutting, notching, and the hardest part was moving the rack and pinion down to accommodate the hood fitting above the engine. After the sub frame was modified we had the engine mounted in the car and confidence was high.
We proceeded to hook up the steering and the large starter was directly in the steering shaft path. After much trial and error, 3 knuckles and 4 sections of shaft we had that problem solved!
So now the engine and transmission was mounted, time for all the tedious shit that makes these builds much harder than just dropping a large diesel engine into a non diesel car. The cooling systems are area big part to consider when doing such a swap as you need a large radiator to keep the larger engine cool and you'll need to make room for an intercooler (if you want power). Many hours of trial and error went into this and with some trimming and an bit of luck we crammed a 4 core aluminum radiator(21" x 30") along with a aluminum intercooler(13" x 28") with 3" tubing. One issue was making the coolant overflow tank fit, we ended up making a custom aluminum tank that fit the stock location and relocated the coolant pressure cap from the radiator as the overflow tank was now the highest point of the system.
The fuel shut off solenoid squeezed in with a half inch of space to the strut tower and the turbocharger had about the same on the other side. We slapped in a strut tower brace to keep the towers from folding in on the 1100 lb engine and the front springs were modified to support the weight and return the car to its stock height which required 2" of lift in the front. The fan clutch was also modified or removed so we could use the existing pulley and gain the room need to make the electric fans fit. One other thing that was addressed was the low hanging oil pan as it was around 2" from the tar, we fixed this by trimming 3" out of the sump bay and also shorting the draw straw accordingly which brought us up to 5" of ground clearance which is about stock height.
Moving on to the driveshaft, most newer smaller vehicles utilize a gwebo joint rather than a Universal joint, this had to go so we machined up a billet steel gwebo joint replacement which adapts the 4 bolt u-joint flange from the drive shaft to the 3 bolt flange on the differential. The drive shaft from a Ram truck was modified and balanced by a local driveline shop to fit the application. One of the questions I get the most is, "what kind of reared are you running to handle that torque??" The answer is, "stock". You have to realize that with no weight (burnouts for days) on it there really isn't much more abuse unless you don't know how to respect power, then yeah it wouldn't last. I'm proud to say that is has 13,000 hard miles on it with no issues.
The exhaust was not easy as I insisted on a full 4" system; believe it or not these cars are not built around a big exhaust pipe fitting underneath. After a bit of problem solving we made it happen with the help of my good friend Roger at Exhaust Pros.
Now that the Cummins Charger was taking to the streets it wasn't nearly complete as I had the battery between my legs that I would jump wires to start the car and as 5 gallon diesel can on the passenger floor. To address these issues we used the stock Hemi ECM and hijacked the correct pins to make the key start the engine along with making all the gauges function properly and relocated the battery into its stock location in the truck where we had to replace the stock 8 Gauge ground cable with 0 gauge. And also ran 0 gauge to the starter. Furthermore, we needed more gauges so five Glowshift Max Tow gauges were installed consisting of Boost, Fuel Pressure, Temp, Oil pressure, and EGT. These are great gauges because they provide both digital and analog readouts which come in handy many reasons.
As for the 5 gallon diesel can that may have fallen over once or twice because of my driving (there's nothing like a fuel return line ejaculating all over the inside of your car while cruising down the road) we utilized the existing saddle tank (more or less 2 tanks that drape around the driveline, therefore you need two fuel pumps, one on each side) by replacing the main lift pump with one from a diesel Ram and running 3/8th line to the engine. This has now been replaced with a FASS 150gph system by plumbing in bulk head fittings to each side of the saddle tank that "T" together with 1/2 inch hose and run through the FASS and on to the engine as more fuel was needed due to the upgrades that have been incorporated.
The center console wasn't included with the car when purchase so we built our own complete with 3 large cup holders and plenty of power outlasts. We wrapped it in marine vinyl for a nice finishing touch. This car gets a lot of looks as you would expect so we installed some slightly darker tint (because my eyes are sensitive to light). And to assist in seeing those hard to see places a duel camera DVR system was installed that displays on a 9" monitor on the dash. This will also be a great asset in the event of an accident. And for a finishing touch we slapped on a class 3 receiver hitch for the simple fact I don't just build these cars for show but also for function.
At this point I have put around 13,000 fun miles on to the Cummins Charger with some very minor issues but it has yet to leave me stranded.
A few modifications have been done to make it more exciting, such as 4k governor and valve springs, HX40 turbocharger, 7x14 (225 HP) injectors, 0 Fuel plate, cranked star wheel, 4 inch turbo back exhaust and FASS lift pump. Though it hasn't been dynoed with these upgrades it was on the dyno last summer at stock engine (aside from fuel plate and star wheel) conditions where is put down 307 Horsepower and 720 Ft Lbs of Torque.