Trucks & SUVs

This 1969 GMC Pickup Truck is Actually a John Deere Diesel in Disguise

Engine swaps are cool. Just knowing that it is a possibility is what keeps many busted old cars and trucks in the romantic light. We see a crusty old vintage pickup truck and see past the rust and flat tires and see something else, something better. Take this 1969 GMC pickup truck, for instance. It could easily have been just another vintage pickup truck, but instead, it is a vintage GMC pickup truck with a John Deere diesel tractor engine in it – for some reason. 

1969 GMC pickup truck with a swapped John Deere diesel engine
1969 GMC pickup truck | BTUFF Youtube

Can you swap a diesel John Deere engine in a vintage GMC pickup truck? 

You better believe it! I maybe wouldn’t have if I hadn’t seen it reported by The Drive. But, there is, in fact, a beautiful vintage GMC pickup truck that has had its beating heart ripped out and replaced with a 170-hp John Deere Diesel engine. 

According to The Drive, The fellas over at Kern Machinery’s Bakersfield location—specifically service manager Mark Campanella, not only pulled the swap off but did it nicely. The replacement John Deere is not some rusty junk someone found in a barn; no, this is an electronically fuel-injected John Deere crate that is ready to boogie. 

This vintage GMC pickup truck is no slouch. You may hear “diesel tractor engine” and think, “that’s gonna be a dog,” but you might be surprised. The GMC pickup truck is powered by a four-cylinder engine force-fed with boost by a variable geometry turbo. This power is sent through a six-speed Allison automatic that was specially assembled for this truck. 

Why would someone want a John Deere engine swap? 

The team built this truck as an homage to Clayton Camp, president of Kern Machinery, whose family has been in the John Deere business since, you guessed it, 1969. The GMC pickup truck originally had a 350 V8 paired with a four-speed which was taken out for the more modern Allison six-speed. 

In case you still think this is a silly engine swap – well, it kind of is – but the John Deere has some moves. Ok, so it is still just a tractor engine, but it is a pretty hot one. The Drive says it has common-rail injection, an exhaust gas recirculation system, and electronic controls throughout, and it’s the most powerful engine John Deere makes. 

1969 GMC pickup truck with a swapped John Deere diesel engine
1969 GMC pickup truck | BTUFF Youtube

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The amount of fabrication that went into the swap is truly impressive. The Drive says that even though it only has half of the cylinders of its old V8, it still has a displacement of 4.5-liter. The John Deere diesel engine is also longer and heavier than the 350 V8 by 7 inches and weighs a whopping 1,082 lbs before fluids. The turbo-diesel also needed an intercooler which proved to be quick the trick to fit. The team crammed the biggest one they could find in there and crossed their fingers. 

I told you this Vintage GMC pickup truck was bad

Although there is only 170 horsepower to play with, the John Deere diesel’s torque is out of this world. The build team had to replace the Dana 60 axels because the John Deere diesel has enough torque to snap them. Instead, the team used a rear axel with 4.10 gears with power split between the two with a specially built NP203 divorced transfer case. The John Deere diesel is making 476 lb-ft of torque. This vintage GMC pickup truck may not break any land-speed records, but it can probably pull a house down with all that torque.