Diesel enthusiasts come from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, professions and cultures. While some simply want the most efficient drivetrain they can find, others like to push the performance envelope in competition with various levels in between. Twenty-year old Colt Stevenson of Fillmore, Indiana, developed a passion for diesels at an early age thanks to his father Marc.
Stevenson and his dad have always liked ‘70s-era Ford trucks and jumped at the opportunity to build a truck together starting Colt’s freshman year in high school in 2009 when they purchased this 1975 Ford F-250 Ranger from the original owner. The original owner installed a 428 Super Cobra Jet V8 gasser in 1977 and enjoyed the truck that way for more than 30 years until he sold it to the Stevenson family. They appreciated the heritage of the 428, but they removed it in favor of a diesel powerplant.
Marc and Colt Stevenson’s love for ‘70s Fords is matched by their admiration for the reliability and power capability of the Cummins turbo diesel engine, so they decided to combine the two by installing a 12-valve 5.9L Cummins in the ’75 F-250. During the transformation and restoration Colt learned much about wrenching on a truck while building appreciation for building a truck yourself rather than paying someone to build it for you. Of course, the Stevensons were also able to develop a closer bond and relationship while wrenching on the truck together—something that we are sure they would recommend for any parent/child combination to enjoy that type of experience together.
To start the restoration project, they removed the doghouse and engine from the truck then went to work on the chassis. To strengthen and improve the Ford, they removed the 1975 front and rear axles then replaced them with beefier Dana 60 and Dana 80 axles from a 2001 Dodge truck stuffed with diesel friendly 3.55 gears. The Dana 80 rear was pretty much a bolt in with the stock leaf springs but the Dana 60 up front required some custom work and fabrication to upgrade the mounts and steering system. Upgrading the axles not only provide additional strength in the driveline, it also gave the truck modern brakes with about 25 years of advancement from ’75 to ’01, which will help Stevenson to whoa the truck down from speed much better. The father and son team also fabricated new cross members to strengthen the chassis and secure the drivetrain as well as custom motor mounts while they were upgrading the chassis.
Rancho RS 5000 shocks were installed at each corner of the truck to work with the original Ford leaf springs to tame the bumps. In the rear, they also installed a set of air bags to help level the ride when towing or hauling heavy loads. The truck rides on polished 16X10-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in Pro Comp Xterrain LT285/75R16 tires to provide plenty of grip no matter what surface Stevenson is driving on.
Once the chassis was sorted out they turned their attention to the drivetrain installing a 5.9L 12-valve Cummins from a 1992 Dodge truck into the chassis. The engine is mostly stock with a set of 80-hp injectors to improve fuel delivery and a larger air filter to allow the Holset turbo to gulp as much clean air as it can. They also integrated a Dodge intercooler in front of the Ford’s core support but had to clearance the back side of the grille to make everything fit back together. Spent gasses are expelled through a 5-inch diameter exhaust system that terminates at a polished stainless steel 8-inch diameter Pypes stack. But the stack is not used as a “stack” in the traditional way; it was installed as an exhaust tip in the factory location behind the passenger side rear tire.
The Cummins engine is backed by an NV4500 manual transmission from a 2000 Dodge using a factory Dodge clutch assembly adapted to work with the Ford linkage. They retained the divorced NP205 transfer case in the truck using three custom drive shafts to link the transmission to the T-case and the T-case to the front and rear axles. Colt rows the gears with a custom shifter they fabricated together then painted to match the truck.
Paint and Body
Fortunately, the original owner had taken good care of the truck, and it was in good overall condition when the Stevenson’s bought it. But the paint and trim was showing its age, so they opted to respray the truck in fresh coats of the factory two-tone green colors with a modern basecoat and clearcoat finish that would provide shine and durability for many years to come. Much of the trim was either repaired and polished or replaced to bring it back to showroom condition as well. The original front and rear bumpers were retained, and a Tractor Supply diamond plate aluminum truck box was installed in the bed for extra secured storage as well as to be a home for the Viair compressor and tank used to inflate the air bags in the rear.
With everything coming together well, Marc and Colt moved inside the truck to complete the restoration. They acquired a 2001 Dodge bench seat and had it reupholstered in brown leather by Arzola’s Upholstery in Greencastle, Indiana, before installing it in the cab. The original steering wheel was ditched in favor of an oak-rimmed 3-spoke steering wheel that blends well with the leather seat upholstery. They also installed new gauges to monitor oil pressure, engine temperature, boost, RPM and EGTs with two gauges installed in a pod on the top of the dash and the remaining three in a panel in the dash. The dash is also treated to a modern Pioneer head unit to make riding in the truck more enjoyable for Stevenson. For speakers, they installed a molded headliner with integrated speakers above the driver and passenger so they would not have to cut the factory original doors or panels.
Despite the truck being more than twice as old as Colt Stevenson, he and his father managed to build a great-looking truck. Not only did they enjoy the time building the truck together, they also built a head-turning daily driver that Colt Stevenson will enjoy for many years to come. We know that he cherishes the experience he gained working with his father on the build, and no doubt this young diesel enthusiast will pass that knowledge down to his son or daughter one day. While there are so many distractions out there that tend to divide families, we appreciate the power of a diesel truck to draw families closer together. DW