Import diesel pickups have been around for a long, long time in every market except the United States. Markets such as Asia and Africa and even South America have enjoyed diesel pickups, both full size and compact, for decades.
Why aren’t there any import diesel pickups in the United States as of now? Many of the drawbacks include safety and emissions standards, along with the business case for offering emissions-friendly diesels while still making a profit. To date, the only diesel pickup reportedly headed to the United States comes from Mahindra USA, Inc., although we’ve yet to see any arrive.
There have been rumors for quite some time that both Nissan and Toyota were considering HD models of their current half-ton offers, the Titan and Tundra, and that part of the powerplant lineup would include a diesel from a current offshore model. In fact, there was even a rumor floating around that Cummins might supply engines to Nissan for just such a project.
Today, the only way you can get a diesel in an import pickup is to put it in there yourself. That’s just what Chris Nallick, of Milton, Florida, did to his 2005 Nissan Titan. He somehow squeezed a Cummins 12-valve into his Nissan to make the ultimate rock-crawler.
Nallick purchased the truck late in 2005 with every intention of making it unique. So he replaced the stock front suspension with a Nfabworks radius arm lift kit and a custom solid-axle swap, utilizing a Dana 60 High Pinion axle and a coilover suspension with 2.5-inch Radflow coilovers. The setup provides a solid 14 inches of travel, which requires a custom crossover steering setup.
At the rear, the original Dodge Sterling 10.5-inch axle, complete with the original limited slip unit, was mounted under the stock leaf springs with two additional leaves for additional ride heights.
Both diffs feature 4.56 gears to help roll 20×12-inch Fuel Racing Octane wheels with custom one-off Phaze 8 beadlocks from OMF. Wrapped around the big rollers are even bigger tires—40 x15.5×20-inch Nitto Mud Grappler tires mounted on Fuel Octane custom beadlock wheels.
The heart of the Titan is a clean 12-valve Cummins, which Nallick decided was best for the swap, since electrically, it’s the easiest diesel swap there is to accomplish. The donor truck was a 1997 Dodge Ram he bought complete to “transplant” its engine, transmission, transfer case and rear axle. According to Chris, the swap took around six months to complete from start to finish and to work out the bugs.
As is expected with any transplant, there are modifications and adjustments to make things work, and at the time, Chris opted to do the power mods before the 12-valve was dropped into the Titan’s engine bay.
South East Power Systems, of Tampa, Florida, went through the 12-valve to make sure it was sound and then did the mods. The original P7100 injection pump was tuned with a slightly more aggressive fuel plate and feeds Bosch 370hp injectors. An AirDog fuel system provides plenty of fuel to the rotary pump.
To help burn all the additional fuel and keep EGTs down, a Borg Warner S300 turbo, fed by an AEM intake, was added and provides around 35 pounds of boost. To cool the air charge and fit in the confines of the narrow Nissan grille, a Mishimoto intercooler was added up front. It feeds a cooler air charge to the CFM Plus intake manifold. The turbo exhales through a custom 5-inch exhaust.
Chris claims the 12-valve cranks out approximately 420 horsepower and 875 lb/ft of torque. Behind the new powerplant resides an NV4500 five-speed transmission with a 13-inch Valair dual disk pressure plate and clutch setup to harness the added torque from the engine mods.
Visually, the Titan still looks like a Nissan, only bigger and stronger. The lift, wheels and tires provide the bulk of the appearance changes, along with a set of Bushwacker fender flares and WinchReady front and rear bumpers. The front bumper also hides a TMax 9500 series winch. The tubular running boards were also courtesy of Nfabworks. The truck is fitted with a Suncoast ram air fiberglass hood and GrilleCraft insert behind the stock painted grille. Covering the bed is an Extang LoPro tonneau cover.
With a custom truck of this caliber, Chris couldn’t leave the stock interior, so he added a few personal touches to make for a more comfortable daily driver. The seats were recovered with Katzkin gray leather with double orange stitching. Sherwood Dash made the custom orange-and-black Kevlar dash overlays to match the orange stitching. For entertainment, A Clarion touch screen head unit replaces the stocker. The head unit drives signal to a pair of Rockford Fosgate amps and on to two 12-inch Fosgate subs. Another 500-watt amp feeds the door speakers.
Chris initially simply wanted to lift his truck and drive it. However, as is the case with many project trucks, things can snowball. The good news is that he has come up with something unique that is at home in the deep Florida mud, as well as on the trail.
According to Chris, the Titan stands tall, drives nice, gets 20 to 22 mpg on the highway and can tow a 34-foot toy-hauler—with the help of air bags on the rear leaf springs.
“I bought the truck with the intent to just lift it,” Chris added. “I wanted to have the first diesel Nissan Titan, so the search began for a donor motor. I put my heart and soul into this build to make it exactly how I wanted, and now, I have my dream truck!”
This article is in the December 2011 issue of Diesel World.