Neal Nissen’s Cummins-Powered 2008 Dodge Ram 1500

Like most gear heads Neal Nissen, the owner of Injected Diesel Performance in Mountain View, MO, is always on the lookout for good project trucks especially if he can stuff a Cummins diesel under the hood and create a fun new ride. One such truck is the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 standard cab short bed seen here. After purchasing the truck for only $1,400 with a blown 4.7L V8 gas engine that was already pulled from the engine bay he decided to transform it into a Cummins powered daily driver. Using a running and driving 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 as the donor truck he and friends Brendan Patten and Danny Boyd swapped the drivetrain into the 1500 and had it running and driving in just five days with the stock Cummins engine and 48RE automatic transmission.

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Lifting the bright blue hood reveals the 5.9L common-rail Cummins diesel engine in all of its compound-turbo glory. Notice the bright blue powder coating that brings the body color into the engine bay.
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A custom airbrushed valve cover caps off the powerful Cummins to give the engine bay a truly unique look.

Not long after finishing the truck in early 2017 Nissen got the bug to wrench on the truck some more and pulled the transmission to do a complete performance rebuild. Using high performance components including a BD Diesel billet input shaft as well as Raybestos GPZ clutches, and steels throughout the transmission he built it to withstand just about anything he figured he’d throw at it. It is linked to the Cummins engine through a BD Diesel SFI flexplate bolted to the crank and a Diesel Performance Converters triple disk billet torque converter with a 2,200-rpm stall speed. But of course, with a transmission being built to handle more power that means the engine needs to be built to make more power!

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The compound turbo setup on Nissen’s Cummins uses an ATS Diesel 3-piece exhaust manifold that feeds spent gases into a BorgWarner S364.5 turbo. Mounted below (barely visible) is a large BorgWarner S482 turbo that draws in plenty of air through a K&N air filter.

Before the summer of 2019 he decided to pull the engine and build it to be worthy of the transmission. Tearing into the common rail 5.9L Cummins he stripped it down to the block before replacing the stock pistons and rods with Mahle pistons and Wagler Competition Products Street Fighter connecting rods swinging through the stock cylinder bores on the stock Cummins crankshaft. The block was capped with a Patriot Race Engines ported cylinder head using Manton valve springs and pushrods to actuate and control the valves with input from the Hamilton Cams camshaft. The cylinder head is clamped down to the block with a set of ARP 625 head studs and wears a stock valve cover that was custom airbrushed in blue with ghost flames by Dallas Phelps.

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With 275/50R17 Nitto NT450 Extreme Performance tires wrapped around 17×10-inch Fuel Maverick wheels on the front the 2WD Ram 1500 has a great stance thanks to a 4/6 drop and a little extra weight from the Cummins engine. Nissen has another pair of these for the rear of the truck for daily driving when he is not at the track.

Spent exhaust gases as sent out of the head through an ATS Diesel 3-piece exhaust manifold with a BorgWarner S364.5 turbo hanging off the manifold and a large BorgWarner S482 nestled below it sucking in fresh air through a K&N air filter. After flowing through both turbo chargers, the exhaust is channeled to the rear through custom 5-inch aluminized steel tubing that Nissen fabricated. The 5-inch exhaust system then turns up and into the bed where it is capped with a slash cut 7-inch MBRP stack. The double compressed intake charge is fed to a stock Dodge intercooler then into a Banks Monster-Ram intake manifold before being directed into the cylinder head. The boost tubes and intake manifold are powder coated “Cheater Blue” to match the exterior paint and add pops of color under the hood.

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Moving to the inside of the cab you’ll find a pair of factory SRT-10 leather/suede seats along with the matching center console/seat as well as two sets of RaceQuip harnesses and a 6-point roll cage fabricated by Paul Cato of Maverick Diesel to meet safety regulations for track use.
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The factory gauge cluster is from the donor truck is fully functional but Nissen also added an Edge Products CTS Insight monitor to help keep an eye on the Cummins’ vitals without adding a pillar full of gauges. Since it is also his daily driver, he installed a JVC audio/video receiver, Memphis 12-inch sub, Alpine amplifier, and Kicker speakers to provide the tunes while cruising down the highway.

To keep up with all that boost Nissen upgraded the fuel system starting with a G&R Diesel fuel sump with integrated return line and a FASS 165GPH lift pump and filter system drawing fuel from the tank and sending it up to the engine. An S&S Diesel Motorsport 12mm CP3 high pressure fuel pump takes over from there delivering the fuel to a set of 200% over Exergy fuel injectors. EFILive tuning of the Cummins ECM was handled by Dominic Canonico at Tenacity Tuning the combined package made 935 horsepower and 1,700 lbs-ft of torque on the Injected Diesel Performance chassis dyno. But, like most gear heads he wasn’t satisfied with that and has made some additional upgrades since we photographed the truck. He swapped the head out for a D&J Precision Machine Stage 1 head for improved airflow and fire rings to better hold up to the high cylinder pressures. He also replaced the 12mm CP3 with an S&S Diesel Motorsport 14mm CP3 and has now made 1,199 horsepower and 1,809 lbs-ft of torque on his dyno.

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Lightly tinted factory taillights and the color matched bumper give the truck a good look from the rear as well.
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He installed a set of factory-style sport headlight housings to give the truck a more sinister look than the fully chrome original headlights provided.

Chassis modifications to the truck included installing 3/4-ton 2WD diesel coil springs up front that were cut down to achieve Nissen’s desired ride height. In back he replaced the factory 1500 rear axle with a Dutchman Fab 9-inch fabricated axle assembly stuffed with 3.50 gears and a Wavetrac differential rather than a spool since he still wants to be able to daily drive the truck. To set the proper ride height in the rear the leaf springs are mounted below the axles rather than above the axle assembly. A set of CalTracs bars work with QA1 double adjustable shocks to tame and tune the rear suspension. To stiffen the 1/2-ton chassis and improve the truck’s safety Paul Cato of Maverick Diesel installed a six-point roll cage with swing-out door-bars on each side to make it easier to get in and out. He routed the tubing for the rear down tubes through the cab above the rear glass window for a clean look and tied the roll cage into the frame at all six points. Nissen improved the chassis since we shot the truck as well going over to Kinetic Engineering coil over shocks on all four corners with a four-link setup in the rear.

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Looking under the side of the truck you can see both the G&R Diesel fuel sump as well as the CalTracs traction bars that he installed to help plant the rear tires and keep the leaf springs from twisting into pretzels under the Cummins power.
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Moving under the rear of the truck you can see that Nissen also replaced the weak 1/2-ton axle assembly with a Dutchman Fab 9-inch and a Wavetrac differential. Wilwood drilled and slotted rotors are clamped by Wilwood calipers to slow the truck while QA1 double adjustable shocks are used to tame the ride and allow for quick tuning when he gets to the drag strip.

For street driving the truck rolls on 275/50R17 Nitto NT450 Extreme Performance tires wrapped around 17×10-inch Fuel Maverick wheels front and rear. When he takes the truck to the track, he swaps out the rear tires for a set of Mickey Thompson 29.5X10.5R15 Pro Bracket drag radial slicks wrapped around 15×10-inch Fuel Lethal wheels to grip the track surface and send the blue Ram streaking down the strip.

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Looking into the bed you can see that this truck was used heavily in its previous life, you can also see the 7-inch stack and roll cage down tubes that cleanly exit the rear of the cab while retaining the factory glass window.

Since the donor truck was fully functional Nissen was able to completely move all of the harnesses and modules from the 3500 into the 1500 and retain full functionality of the gauges, switches and even the climate control giving his 1,000+ horsepower street strip terror cool air-conditioned comfort. To enhance the interior further he installed a set of leather/suede seats from a Dodge SRT-10 and improved the tunes with a JVC double-DIN audio/video receiver installed in the stock dash location. The JVC sends audio signals to an Alpine amplifier which powers a Memphis 12-inch subwoofer and Kicker door speakers. To keep an eye on the engine’s vitals he installed an Edge Products CTS Insight monitor rather than a pillar full of analog gauges.

“Thanks to a fellow gear head this Dodge Ram was given a new lease on life ditching the failed gasser engine for a 1,200-horsepower compound turbo Cummins.”

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Neal Nissen dressed up the front of his 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 by painting the grille and bumper to match the rest of the factory Electric Blue Pearl paint. He also installed blacked-out sport headlights to give the truck a more sinister facade that belies the potent Cummins under the hood.
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While the large 7-diameter exhaust stack, roll cage down tubes and drag radials out back reveal the truck’s racing aspirations, it is still a great looking truck with a nice stance giving it a sport truck feel.

With around 30,000 miles driven since converting the truck to Cummins power and many passes down various drag strips around the country it is easy to see that Nissen enjoys his street/strip short bed. Thanks to a fellow gear head this Dodge Ram was given a new lease on life ditching the failed gasser engine for a 1,200-horsepower compound turbo Cummins and that my friends is a great thing. If you happen to run across a sharp looking Electric Blue 2WD Dodge, approach with caution it may be sporting a Cummins under the hood and you may only get to see the taillights.

 

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