The “WTF?” Files: Who Built A Diesel Dodge Aspen Wagon Using A Chrysler-Nissan Mill?

The “WTF?” Files: Who Built A Diesel Dodge Aspen Wagon Using A Chrysler-Nissan Mill?

Just when I think I’ve heard about every possible thing that could be done with a Chrysler F/M/J platform, something even weirder comes around and I have to file away another bit of trivia in my catalog. Since not many people build these cars, and far fewer do a good job of building one at all, here’s the basic rundown on every modification you’re likely to find on 90% of the examples you’ll see that are modified at all:

  • Built small block, usually a 360-based mill
  • Automatic trans
  • The end.

I’ve seen big-block swaps and there are fans of the Slant Six that are out there and do some impressive work, but most of these cars are stock, running on their ninth life, and are more an oddity than anything anymore. But this silver 1976 Dodge Aspen re-defines “oddity”, because the work done to this car is a first in my book. 

To explain what you’re seeing here, you need to go to 1978 and to the Dodge truck line. The Cummins inline-six was not the first diesel shoved into Dodge trucks…in fact, it was the third. In the early 1960s Dodge offered up a Perkins oil burner, but outside of foreign sales, it didn’t fly and dropped off of the radar. Second up was a fruit from the Mitsubishi tree, the 6DR5 inline-six from the Jupiter truck that made 105 horsepower and 163 ft/lbs of torque. Small wonder that engine didn’t last long, either, but it was an attempt. Now, what’s under the hood of this Aspen is not that mill. Instead, there is Nissan-sourced SD33T, a 3.2L turbocharged inline-six that was raided from a Chrysler Marine product.

Per the owner: For sale is a ’76 Aspen Wagon with a Chrysler Nissan Diesel engine. This is a turbo diesel. I am basically selling the engine and the car is going with it. The car is in poor shape. The diesel engine ran good for me for about a hundred and fifty thousand miles or so and then began blowing blue oil smoke. I was going to go through the engine but never got around to it. Now we are moving and need to get rid of things. When the engine was running good I got 30-33 mpg. The car has been sitting idol now for several years. This is the same engine that was used in International Scouts in the ’70s.

It’s never going to have the grunt that a Cummins would, even a 4BT. Then again, the car is already set for diesel. A 2.8L four-banger Aspen wagon could net some pretty stout MPG numbers. Hmm…it’s a strange one, alright, but it does make you think, doesn’t it? For a $500 Craigslist ad, it could be fun to mess with.

Craigslist Link: 1976 Dodge Aspen 

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3 thoughts on “The “WTF?” Files: Who Built A Diesel Dodge Aspen Wagon Using A Chrysler-Nissan Mill?

  1. RK - no relation

    I saw a small Isuzu diesel four banger in a early fifties chevy pick up about twenty years ago. Cool engine swaps before they were cool are even cooler. This car would be cheap fun if you had the time and space for it

  2. Skydog

    We had a 1979 Monaco with the same Turbo Diesel engine at agency I worked for. It was some sort of test vehicle. It never had any power no matter what was done to it.
    We also had an electric powered VW Rabbit that had about 20 batteries. It had a 4 speed and was fun to drive. I think that was about 1980.

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