Mad Man Crams 12V Cummins Diesel Into '68 Corvette

Illustration for article titled Mad Man Crams 12V Cummins Diesel Into 68 Corvette

It's beautiful sacrilege, putting a built Cummins 12V turbodiesel into a 1968 Corvette. Ryan Lusk of Iowa-based Low Budget Diesel Performance has done just that, and he's decided to take the car drag racing. Ryan is a great American hero.

Of all the places we hear about crazy contraptions, our absolute favorite and unquestionably least likely source is a subscription-only newspaper-style printed publication called Farm Show. It's a fantastic collection of the most clever, ridiculous, scary and cool creations to come out of farmer's garages. We picked up a copy back home on the farm while recovering from taking down unnatural amounts of turkey and stuffing and all the Thanksgiving trimmings, and guess what we found. Amidst the loader scoops made from cut-in-half LP tanks, home brew automatic silage choppers, and articulated tractors made out of two junked Chevy pickups welded together, a 1968 Corvette powered by a 12 valve Cummins. The post-meal nap was immediately postponed.

The car is the creation of Ryan Lusk, a diesel mechanic in Iowa with a side business called Low Budget Diesel Performance where he converts vehicles by installing diesel engines for better fuel economy and performance. This Corvette came to him as a rear end smash up. Instead of replacing everything with factory parts, Ryan decided to make a drag racer out of it. We'll let him explain:

When I purchased the car it was wrecked in the rear pretty severly. Instead of rebuilding the car with over priced Corvette parts, I opted to back half the rear of the frame and tub it. It now has a 4-link coil over rear suspension with a ford 9". I had a 396 BBC with a tunnel ram and dual quads in it that made over 550hp in the beginning. I also had some sweet chrome side pipe headers as well. It was coming along well

Amongst the progress of the diesel conversions we were completing, the Vette sat for a long time. One day my Dad made the comment that I should just ditch the gas guzzling BBC and throw a Cummins in it. I was like heck no, I'm not going to ruin the Vette! Well the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do this. I started the project in March of 2008. We will be at Beechbend Racetrack in Bowling Green Kentucky for the NHRDA Diesel Nationals. Weight of car with driver: 3620

Rear End
Moser 35 Spline Axles, 35 spline Moser spool, Moser HRW Nodular case, Daytona Pinion Support, Pro Gear 3.25 gears, Billet Yoke, 1410/1350 Severe Duty U-joints, Heavy Duty 30 spline output yoke, Art Morrison Coil Over Shocks, 4-Link Suspension, Corvette 4 Piston Disc Brakes, Wheelie Bars.

Front Suspension
1968 Corvette independent front with brand new Moroso BBC HD coil springs, polyurethane bushings and heavy duty steering components. Corvette 4 Piston Disc Brakes

1995 47RH Dodge Lock Up Overdrive with Goerend Triple Billet Torque Convertor, Sonnex Input shaft, Sonnex Billet Drum, Goerend Valve Body, Billet flexplate, Assembled by Gilmore Performance in Kingdom City, Mo. Hurst V-matic 2 shifter, Lokar throttle pressure cable, Lokar flexible dipstick, LBDP SFI Flex plate shield, LBDP SFI drum safety shield

1998 12V CTD Bored .030 over, Mahle Pistons, Balanced and Blue Printed, Viscous dampener, 60lb valve springs, ARP Head Studs, 64/65 S300 Turbo, LBDP Exhaust manifold, 215HP cam, 180HP P7100 480cc's with .022 DV's and 550 with Full Cut DV's, 4k gsk, Mack Rack Plug, AFC mods, multiple fuel plates, Custom Revolution Diesel 370 Marine Injectors, IP Tuned by Smokem at Revolution Diesel in Hornick, Ia. IP assembled by Des Moines Diesel in Des moines, Ia. Aluminum Radiator, Huge Trans cooler, electric fans with electronic thermo coupling control.

1968 corvette with 1973 rear quarter panels, 1972 Front clip converted to one piece tilt by LBDP. 12pt roll cage, with door swing outs, summit racing seats with 5pt. harness, aluminum floors, firewall, trans tunnel, wheel tubs, dash, and door panels. Auto meter gauges, aftermarket wiring harness, S&W Race Cars steering column with quick connect hub.

Fuel System
16 gallon TCI Fuel Cell, Air Dog 150 feeding a Raptor 150 Provided by Pure Flow Technologies.

Wheels and Tires
Weld Pro Star 15x4's in the front, Weld Pro Star 15x14's in the rear with 31x18.5x15 Hoosier Quick Time DOT's


We think it safe to say this is the best possible thing you could ever do with a previously-crashed plastic fantastic. There's so much awesome piled into this car it's practically incomprehensible. Actually, hold that thought, you haven't seen the car running. Check out the three videos below.

Here's what a Corvette with a glorious diesel engine never intended to live in the bay sounds like when running:
Click to view


Here's what a dyno run looks like with a soot-spewing, turbo-whining Corvette:
Click to view

And just in case you were curious, this is what this beast looks like when it hits the strip (careful about the momentary, trackside NSFW language here):
Click to view
We're going to parrot the words of the drag racing announcer.... "Oh my GOD!?" If we may humbly make one suggestion to Mr. Lusk, we think it needs a constant stream of the Nuge piped to exterior speakers to properly serenade that majestic turbodiesel note. Nothing else so uncontrollable and unpredictably violent could possibly do the job.
[Low Budget Diesel Performance]

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Why would you build a Corvette into a drag car? Granted it was a wreck but low ET drag cars run solid axles. The Corvette's fully independent. If you're going to shove an Cummins oil burner into something it doesn't belong in, wouldn't a Challenger make more sense?