5.9L ’59 Viking

A Frame-Laying, Cummins-Powered Classic Chevrolet

If you’ve never heard of a Chevrolet Viking, don’t feel bad. A lot of folks haven’t, especially those that primarily dabble in late-model diesels. Now picture someone taking a ’59 version of the aforementioned medium-duty classic and transforming it into the rarest of finds. Hannah Wheat did exactly that with her ’59 Chevrolet Viking 60, a project that called for a 24-valve Cummins and NV4500 swap, a hybrid of modern Ram chassis’, full air-ride suspension, and a whole lot of thinking-outside-the-box. Partnering with her husband, Cory of Cory Wheat Customs, the build consumed a pile of late nights and early mornings until it was finally road-ready. Now, Hannah daily drives the frame-laying, Cummins-swapped rat-rod dually. This is her story.

Meant To Be

Originally powering a ’98.5 second-gen, the 24-valve 5.9L Cummins in Hannah Wheat’s ’59 Chevrolet Viking has been treated to very few mods aside from the Patina-matching valve cover, intake elbow, and compressor housing. The ISB Cummins has 400,000 miles on the clock and continues to fire up and deliver every time. The chopped down, stand-alone OEM-based engine harness that allowed the 5.9L to be integrated was made locally by Matt Murray of Audio Source in Columbus, Indiana. For space reasons, a big-block-intended radiator from Summit Racing is employed, along with an aftermarket intercooler that’s mounted under the frame rails behind the front bumper.
A bone-stock Bosch VP44, which likely doesn’t have the same 400,000 miles on it the rest of the engine does, sends fuel to a set of BD Diesel injectors. The 150hp sticks provide a considerable bump in power despite the fact that the Cummins remains un-tuned.

Though Hannah didn’t initially set out to build a Chevrolet Viking (big brother to the Apache), the truck more or less fell right in her lap when Cory found it listed locally for $500. “We didn’t set out to find a Chevy Viking. It found us,” Cory said. Upon bringing the Viking home, Hannah and Cory took stock of everything—which included a body on a half-ton frame and a small-block under the hood—and scrapped everything but the body, fenders, and hood. With the floor of the cab all but gone and the firewall in rough shape, new versions were fabricated at the Wheat’s southern Indiana shop, the spot where 99-percent of all work took place. Then the body, which would be dropped 3-inches, was mocked up on its one-of-a-kind chassis.

A Unique Chassis

Keeping a VP44 alive depends on its ability to see consistent fuel supply pressure. This is accomplished courtesy of a 165-gph AirDog II-4G lift pump system. The AirDog assembly, mounted inward of the driver side frame rail, pulls fuel from a 20-gallon tank sourced from JAZ Products.
Seeing no need to reinvent the wheel, the NV4500 manual from the ’98.5 Dodge donor was also repurposed. The venerable old five-speed sports the stock clutch for now and to date has had zero issues—even with a loaded, 53-foot gooseneck hooked to the truck.

Using the second-gen platform in body-swap, farm truck projects is a fairly common practice for Cory, so it’s no surprise that a wrecked ’98.5 Ram donated its front-end, engine, and transmission for Hannah’s build. However, what is surprising is what’s going on beyond the cab. Fourth-gen frame rails, an AAM 1150, and the factory four-link, coil spring suspension arrangement all reside under the bed—the remaining components of an ’18 2500 chassis that was originally sourced for a different project where only the front axle was needed. The coil springs, front and rear, are missing in action, replaced with double-bellow (front) and triple-bellow (rear) air springs from AirLift, but the late-model rear stabilizer bar and AAM 1150 is enough to throw anyone for a loop.

Custom Bed And Fenders

Hannah’s Viking is part ’98.5 second-gen, part ’18 Ram, but the coil springs have been scrapped in favor of air springs. Up front, double-bellow AirLift air springs are employed, while triple-bellow (and 7,000-pound rated) air springs reside in the rear. Thanks to an AirLift 3H/3P air management system controlling twin VIAIR compressors, the truck’s ride height can be raised or lowered 7 inches.

The one-off bed Hannah envisioned began with an Apache version, to which Cory extended the fenders on an incredible 14-inches. Not only do the broad hips clear a pair of 11.5-inch wide 285/45R22 Cooper Discoverers on either side, but the AAM 1150 didn’t require any narrowing. Believe it or not, as it sits the custom dually short bed is wider than it is long. And paying tribute to the second-gen-derived Cummins, NV4500, and chassis, Cory integrated a second-gen roll pan out back. Other touches include repurposed exhaust piping on the outboard side of the bed rails, a 45-degree, angle-cut, 7-inch exhaust stack, and a gooseneck hitch, which we’re told sees its fair share of use.

5.9L, 150HP Injectors And An NV4500

An AAM 1150 is more than enough axle out back, and the fourth-gen axle’s differential packs 3.73 gears. Believe it or not, the AAM 1150 came into the picture when Hannah’s husband, Cory, picked up an ’18 Ram donor for its front axle. The rear four-link, coil over setup—along with the axle—were sitting on their property, practically begging to be used.
No dually is complete without 22’s, and who says they have to be black? Hannah’s Viking wears a set of polished, forged-aluminum American Force 5 Holes very well, along with black, spiked lug nuts that help tie the blingy wheels in with the truck’s rat-rod theme. Cooper Discoverer tread measuring 285/45R22 exists all the way around.

Beneath the hood, the 24-valve Cummins never parted ways with the ’98.5 chassis it was lowered into on Chrysler’s assembly line—at least the front section of it. Despite having 400,000 miles on the clock, the ISB 5.9L keeps chugging along in ultra-reliable fashion. Its VP44 is stock and kept happy thanks to a 165-gph AirDog II-4G system supplying it fuel. Downwind of the VP44 sits a set of 150hp injectors from BD Diesel. The factory HX35W is still in the mix, but its wastegate has been disabled to provide the Cummins with additional boost. Finally, the venerable NV4500 manual remains bolted to the 5.9L, its stock clutch having no issues harnessing the added horsepower and torque thus far.

A Daily-Driven, Trophy-Winner

One peek at the interior and the contrast between original equipment and completely custom is apparent. With the floor of the Viking not salvageable in any way, Hannah and Cory fabricated a new one, using 2×2 square tubing for bracing and ultimately finishing it off in Raptor liner. Believe it or not, Cory and Hannah built the seats and center console out of ¼-inch plywood at first, then had Shane Keller of nearby Keller Heating & Air Conditioning turn them into the metal versions you see here.

Hannah’s Viking is far-removed from the 2-ton grain truck it once was, or the half-finished state it was in when she and Cory first obtained it. In fact, the truck has already been repainted a handful of times in search of that perfect Patina finish. In between tying up loose ends, it’s been Hannah’s daily driver during the work week and a trophy-winner on the weekends. So far, the Viking has claimed more than a dozen awards—and it’s even placed first at truck shows without even being on the entry list. Without question, Hannah’s ’59 Chevrolet is a favorite wherever it goes. And thanks to regular appearances on Cory Wheat Customs’ YouTube channel, it’s earned a celebrity-like status both online and in-person. If you make it to a national diesel event in 2023, look for Hannah’s classic rat-rod, short bed dually in the show ‘n shine. And if you ever happen to see it cruising through southern Indiana—with or without a trailer behind it—give the driver a wave. She’s used to it.

The look of the original dash and speedometer are broken up by a Southwest Speed 3-spoke, uncoated, detachable aluminum steering wheel, chosen due to the sheer size of the OEM version effectively crowding the driver. The Rough Country switches along the bottom of the dash just in front of the shift stalk control the Cummins’ electric fans and the air compressors for the air spring system—along with providing future growth options for more accessories.
After an unfortunate accident with a forklift dealt the front-end of Hannah’s Viking a considerable blow, she and Cory made sure to accentuate the incident when they repaired the truck. Not only do the welded stitches add character, but they serve as a pleasant reminder that the “forklift incident” allowed them to add the kind of touches they initially wanted to (but didn’t) include in the build.
With the official goal to build a step-side short-bed for a dually, Cory devised a king-size version for Hannah’s Viking. All told, the rear fenders were widened 14 inches, which according to Cory “just about took longer to build than the rest of the truck.” Believe it or not, the 7-inch stack in the bed was a Christmas present from Cory to Hannah, and it’s made from a ¼-inch thick piece of water pipe. A section of 4-inch diameter exhaust spans from the turbo to the base of the stack.
Here, you get a look at just how wide the rear fenders are. You also get a chance to make out the second-gen roll pan that made it into the build… With Hannah daily-driving a second-gen Dodge, and the fact that so many parts came off of a ’98.5 2500, including the roll pan was a way of paying homage to the engine, transmission, and chassis donor. “The biggest hit is the bed,” Cory tells us. “We built it to pull off the exact look Hannah wanted.”
Surprisingly, the truck has visited the paint booth four or five times already, the latest trip calling for teal and a 3D-like concoction of rust look-alike. However, at Hannah’s direction, the imperfections and blemishes in the sheet-metal were to be left alone. “I wanted a rat-rod,” she explains. “That’s why I didn’t want to change the dash or the roof of the cab. I didn’t’ want to change anything. We left the dents and dings on purpose.” So far, in less than two years’ time, Hannah’s Viking has claimed approximately 15 car shows awards and trophies.
When your husband converts old farm trucks to diesel propulsion for a living, you’re bound to have a small fleet of one-of-a-kind builds. Two (of many) are shown here: Hannah’s ’59 Viking and Cory’s ’65 F-600. The big Ford sits on a second-gen Dodge chassis, rocks a 12-valve Cummins, and makes use of a skirted, western-style flatbed that was repurposed from the truck’s original grain bed.

Instagram Handles

Hannah: @hannah_wheat24v

Cory: @corywheatcustoms

 

 

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