A Wildly Custom 1938 Cummins Swapped Dodge
Nate Wilson, of Grass Valley, California, wanted something different. In the last few years Nate has become a well-known car and truck builder in Northern California, and has built everything from twin turbo Chevelles, to Coyote-swapped Broncos. Trucks own a special place in his heart though, as do diesels. “I found a 1938 Dodge and I knew it just needed a Cummins in it,” laughs Nate.
What makes Nate’s ride especially unique, is that it’s not a body swap. A lot of swaps just use an existing chassis, say a ‘94 Dodge Ram dually, and swap and old timey body on top. Nate decided to go the much harder route of using the factory ‘38 frame, and build the rest of the chassis to match the ideas that were inside his head. Although it doesn’t look like any tow truck we’ve seen, it technically is one. Nate built the entire rear frame out of mammoth 2 by 10-inch boxed square tubing, and then topped it off with a custom flatbed. The 16-foot bed was just the start of the build though, and with the help of good fabrication buddy Zachary Hite, there was a lot more to come.
Since Nate practically needs a 4×4 to get down the miles-long dirt road that leads to his house, building a 2-wd truck just wasn’t on the menu. After the chassis was built, next came the front and rear suspension, which were custom built by Nate. Up front, an ‘09 Ford front axle was incorporated into the boxed ‘38 frame, and hung with a tweaked WFO kit with King 2.5 coil-over shocks and dual steering stabilizers. The rear suspension is where things got wild, as a four-bag Firestone air system has been modified by Nate into a parallel four-link arrangement. The incredibly stout rear suspension and Dana 80 axle can not only handle the weight of the 8,000-pound Dodge, but a 10,000-pound truck on top of the flatbed as well.
Nate was making good progress with his truck, and undoubtedly, he was building a monster. With the truck being the behemoth that it is, there was absolutely no powerplant that would do other than a diesel. The diesel that powers the Dodge is a legendary Cummins 12-valve, that was pulled out of a ‘97 Dodge. Before it was installed Nate hopped it up a little bit to the tune of about 300hp and 700lb-ft, and increased the engine’s rpm range so that he could wind out the gears a bit with the manual transmission. Speaking of manuals, the 5.9L engine is backed by a NV4500 transmission and Ford 205 transfer case, which provides both stump pulling power and freeway cruisin’. Fitting the diesel engine into the ‘38 was no easy task. The firewall had to be recessed, and both a custom radiator and Mishimoto intercooler had to be installed in order to tuck into the narrow front grille. Nate somehow made it all work, but even as we were taking photos it was hard to believe he fit it all in there.
When taking Nate’s creation in, it becomes clear that his crazy attention to detail on the undercarriage is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Dodge. There’s a whole other build underneath the truck, as that’s where Nate carefully hid 40 gallons worth of air tanks, two compressors, two batteries, and a train horn. Wherever possible Nate used vintage parts, from the train horn off of an actual train, to the ‘50s firetruck siren mounted on a ‘53 Mercury Monterey bumper. The paint of course is the Mother Nature styled original patina which has been clear coated, and somehow works just perfect with all the chrome. Yes, from the tires to the tip of the stack, we can definitely say Nate’s ‘38 is one of a kind.