There are a lot of diesel trucks in the country, many of which offer their own tale to tell. The newer models tell stories of technology, eco-friendly equipment made for a time of environmental consciousness. There are trucks out there that have been converted, taking that unappealing gasoline engine out and adding the growling heart of a diesel, black smoke whirling trails down the street and turbos whistling as they spin. Then there is the classic conversion. Somebody with an old soul sees potential in the truck that rolled down the brick-laden streets of yesterday. That’s how it began with Mike Hallas and his 1950 Ford F4 Cummins. There have been a wide variety of classic conversions over time, but Mike’s F4 sets the standard for beauty and diesel power.
Hallas is a man with an insatiable desire for older trucks. Since his youth, he found himself inevitably drawn to the history found behind the wheel of the seasoned pickup. There’s a lot to be said about the diesel trucks of today, but their style and power come from the humble tow and panel trucks from years ago. The Ford F-series truck was one of the first pickups to be built on a dedicated truck platform and when Hallas found his, he immediately saw its potential to be something greater.
“When I see something I like, I already have plans for it before I buy it,” says Hallas. “I saw the truck on Craigslist and bought it the next day. When I brought it to my shop, I got back online and started looking for a low mileage Cummins.”
After some extensive searching, he decided to go with a 1996 12-valve Cummins, but for it to be a perfect fit, Hallas rebuilt the entire engine. At his shop, Hallas Performance, in Romeo, Mich., he started his engine rebuild by fitting in new rod and main bearings and modifying the stock pistons. While the pistons were being reworked, he honed the cylinders with new rings and the block was fire ringed with an Enterprise Engine Performance (EEP) diesel kit. He next installed a Hamilton 360/360 camshaft and Hamilton Extreme Duty push rods. When the pistons were finished, he ported the cylinder head, installed EEP titanium keepers and EEP valve springs. With the addition of ARP head studs, the Cummins was tirelessly put back together and fitted back to the custom motor mounts. Hallas hadn’t even begun to overhaul his Ford and already the beauty was becoming the beast.
A Tale Of Twins
With the engine rebuild out of the way, Hallas—knowing that he wanted as much power out of the Ford as he could get—decided it was best to add not one, but twin turbos to his Cummins. For a low pressure turbo, he went with a Holset S400 with an 82mm compressor wheel and an 88mm turbine. His high-pressure turbo was a Holset S300, built with a 66mm compressor wheel and an 80mm turbine. The turbos were installed with a custom-built, stainless steel pipe system that Hallas and his team designed. Within the first week, the 12-valve Cummins was rebuilt and breathing through a set of turbos, but the work to finish the masterpiece was far from being over and Hallas would devote long days and nights to seeing this project finished.
“I’m so busy in the shop during the day with other cars, I had to stay after work to get any work done on the truck,” says Hallas with a grin. “I stayed until three in the morning for about a week straight working on everything. I worked so much, I lost my voice.”
Hallas had the determination and drive to get the build done exactly how he had envisioned it. Not letting his daily work get in the way, he burned the candle at both ends and worked through the cold winter nights while still arriving for the next morning to run the business. After the turbos were installed, Hallas went to the next set of installs. He worked in a Steedspeed exhaust manifold to decrease back pressure in the cylinders and keep the engine from losing precious power. The transmission was rebuilt in shop, where he installed a Sun Coast diesel converter, hardened input shaft, a manual valve body and added additional clutches for strength. He wrapped up the transmission rebuild after he wrenched in a Hurst shifter with a fourth gear and converter switch to give him as much power possible throughout the RPM range. It was obvious that Hallas had an extensive understanding of the Ford’s new engine and each install and rebuild was done with power and speed in mind.
With the engine system shaping up, it was time to give the fuel delivery a little tweak. The twin turbo system pushed air into the engine at an incredible rate, and in order to balance the fuel/air mix, Hallas went under the truck and fitted in a FASS 220-gallon-per-hour pump. To keep the fuel delivery running optimally, he gave the engine a custom set of 7 by 22 injectors, which created the perfect fuel/air balance. With just about every piece of the engine, transmission and fuel system repaired, modified or replaced, the only thing left for Hallas to do was take a trip to the dyno and see how much his work would pay off. The results came back as they would with any serious overhaul. With smoke pluming out of its twin stacks, the fierce spinning of turbos and the roaring of the Cummins, the 1950 Ford F4 pushed out a monstrous 800 horsepower, which was something Hallas could be content with.
“Every major build I’ve ever done has had a lot of horsepower,” says Hallas. “I wanted this one to be the same.”
Even after the incredible amount of fine tuning and performance upgrading, the Ford Cummins couldn’t make a debut without a proper makeover, which Hallas had mapped out the day the truck camp to the shop.
Not Another Trailer Queen
When the F4 was manufactured in 1950, it was one of the first trucks to be built as a daily driver, but still served commercial purposes. When Hallas bought the truck, it was outfitted with a towing package, which was removed and then later outfitted with a custom installed wood bed. A nice trim of diamond plate and a classic Burnt Orange paint job gave the exterior a look that had people doing a “double take.” A set of American Force 22-inch wheels and Toyo 22-inch tires replaced the old wheels and Hallas decided to remove the old interior and replace it with a custom leather install. With the interior work checked off his list, the 1950 Ford Cummins was finished and after three weeks of continuous work, Hallas finally had the classic conversion that he had envisioned the day he first saw the truck.
With all of the aesthetic work, the question came down to, “What would Hallas do with it?” For the three weeks that it took to complete his build, he reworked every little detail of the truck. Hallas was looking for the perfect balance of style and power and his dedication to the work and originality created a classic truck that redefined the phrase “one-of-a-kind.” Luckily, the F4 allowed him to have his cake and eat it too. After the finishing touches were added, the truck was cleaned up and taken down to the Autorama, winning him awards for best truck in its class. After the show, Hallas made the short trip back home, but instead of rolling the truck into the shop and hiding it under a car cover, he promptly hitched a trailer on it and now uses it to tow 12,000 pounds of heavy equipment around. In the warmer months, if you’re making your daily commute through the streets of Romeo, you’ll probably find Hallas and his Ford roaring down the road. When he can find someone brave enough to compete against him, he takes his 800 horsepower twin turbo monster and screams down the strip. Whatever role he chooses for the 1950 Ford Cummins, it happily exceeds the status quo and does so with flair and power that’s seldom seen and often envied. The only thing you can say for sure about this truck is that you won’t find one quite like it on the streets today, and it certainly isn’t your ordinary everyday driver.