In the eyes of many a fifty year old truck is nothing more than an eyesore and would be best served being crushed into oblivion—fortunately gear-heads in general and diesel enthusiasts specifically do not share that dim view of the world and would rather restore or repurpose any part of our automotive history. The fine looking fifty year old 1966 Ford F-100 seen here is just one of many examples of a diesel enthusiast giving new life to an older vehicle by transplanting a diesel engine into the chassis to make in more enjoyable than ever.
Twenty-one year old Larry Kilburn is the owner and fabricator at Kilburn’s Kustoms in Ft. Pierce, Florida. He purchased the ’66 as a running and driving truck for only $2000. Of course it wasn’t in perfect shape but it would make the perfect foundation to show off what the shop can do on a small budget to build a fun to drive truck. The build team including Kilburn’s dad Larry Sr., Joseph Maniello and Timothy Meehan completed the revitalization of the old Ford in about a month.
“He purchased the ’66 as a running and driving truck for only $2000”
After purchasing the truck they tore right into it, removing the gutless gasser from under the hood before getting to work improving the suspension and beefing up the frame to handle the power from the Cummins they planned to install. To strengthen the chassis and give the truck a solid foundation to become the corner carver and boulevard cruiser they had in mind they boxed the factory C-channel frame. Then they integrated the front suspension components from a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria to give the classic truck modern steering and suspension designs complete with aluminum components, rack and pinion steering and a large diameter anti-sway bar to keep body roll in check.
In the rear Kilburn and his team retained the leaf spring setup for the Ford 9-inch rear axle and stuffed it with 3.50 gears to work well with the Cummins. To prevent the axle from twisting the original leaf springs like a pretzel each time he mashes the throttle the team fabricated a set of long traction bars that run from below the leaf spring mount up to the center of the cab. The truck rolls on a set of 20-inch Strada wheels wrapped with Nitto 255/45R20 NT420S tires at all four corners to grip the road in a straight line or while hugging the curves.
Once the chassis and suspension were whipped into shape Kilburn and his crew turned their attention to the power plant and made preparations to drop a Cummins into the engine bay of the old Ford. The donor 12-valve engine came from a ’95 Dodge pickup and is largely stock to help keep the budget in check. To improve the performance they replaced the factory injector nozzles with a set of 5x.016 nozzles to deliver more fuel. Then they swapped out the factory exhaust manifold and turbo for a 3-piece ATS manifold and bolted on a larger Borg Warner S467.7 turbo. Rather than mess with plumbing in an intercooler and trying to squeeze it into the small core support on the F-100 Kilburn and his team opted to direct the compressed charge directly over the top of the engine and into the intake plenum through a wrapped pipe. Spent gasses take a direct route to the atmosphere with a U-bend fabricated into the outlet of the turbo that wraps around before making the 90-degree turn to fire up and out of the hood mounted stack. To keep the engine cool the team installed a radiator out of a Chevy S-10 that fit in the stock location along with a pair of electric fans pushing air through from the front side. He estimates that the engine makes around 450-horsepower with close to 900 lbs-ft of torque.
“They integrated the front suspension components from a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria”
To back up the Cummins the team turned to their friend Sam Barbuto at Meehans Automotive in Port St. Lucie, FL to give the 47RH transmission a fresh rebuild. He also installed a 2100 RPM stall FTI torque converter to link the engine to the trans. After sinking the engine and transmission into the truck with custom fabricated mounts they linked the transmission to the 9-inch rear end through a custom driveshaft. To control gear selection they adapted the factory column shifter to work with the Dodge transmission.
With the truck coming together it was time to work on the appearance so the Kilburn Kustoms team turned their attention to the trucks body. Not wanting to lose the character and classic looks of the well-worn truck the team thoroughly cleaned the entire truck. Then they lightly sanded the surface to make sure they had good adhesion and sprayed it with a fresh coat of matte clear to lock in the current 50-year level of patina. The effect gives the truck a unique look showing the bumps, dents, scrapes and scratches it has accumulated through the years while protecting it from continuing to rust away.
“450-horsepower with 900 lbs-ft of torque”
The bed required a little more work where some patch panels were installed before the inside of the bed was sprayed with a matte black finish. Then Kilburn and his team installed an aluminum fuel cell along with two battery boxes all secured at the front of the bed to maintain good balance and driving dynamics when hustling the F-100 through the twisties.
Moving inside the truck, the build team left it largely stock right down to the aftermarket Sanyo cassette player that was in the dash when he bought the truck. The seat needed help though if Kilburn was to spend any quality time behind the wheel so they reupholstered it in black vinyl with blue stitching to match the original paint. They also installed a pair of GlowShift gauges in the factory cluster to monitor boost and EGT to help keep an eye on the Cummins engine’s performance while cruising down the road.
Kilburn’s fifty year old Ford was given a new lease on life thanks to a Cummins transplant and we’re sure you’ll agree that it is all the better because of it. He regularly attends diesel and rat rod events and drives the truck as often as he can. If you happen to see it out there take a close look as this truck is fine at fifty and beyond. DW