4BT BASICS AND PERFORMANCE
THE POPULARITY OF diesel-powered vehicles here in the U.S. has jumped dramatically in recent years. More and more manufacturers are offering new diesel power plants in ½-ton trucks, cars and midsize SUVs. Maybe the reasons for the boost are better highway fuel efficiency and the giant increase in torque offered by a diesel engine, but it’s probably an attempt to meet everincreasing CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) numbers. Either way, these smaller V-6 and four-cylinder engines will be sticking around. But back in the day, it was Cummins that developed its own small diesel engine market with the 3.9L 4BT.
The 4BT—which stands for “fourcylinder B series turbocharged”— was used mostly in midsize box trucks, agricultural equipment and small industrial vehicles, and is basically a smaller version of the popular 5.9L 12V Cummins found in 1989-98 Dodge trucks. The 4BT shares virtually all of its parts with its big brother, the 6BT (e.g. pistons, connecting rods, injectors and valve-train design).
The major internal difference comes from the lack of two cylinders, which means two fewer journals on the crankshaft, a shorter camshaft, two fewer pistons in the injection pump, etc. But even these pieces are the same as the 6BT, just in an inline four-cylinder version. Because of these similarities, the 4BT Cummins has an extremely strong aftermarket, since many 5.9L 12V performance parts can be used in smaller 3.9L engines. This, paired with the somewhat compact size of the 4BT, makes it a great candidate as a transplant engine for just about any vehicle. We’ve seen 4BTs in everything from Jeeps to old-school rat rods. The simplicity of the mechanical injection system also helps make it an easy swap because there’s little to no wiring or electronics required.
Since the engine was originally developed for industrial applications, big horsepower wasn’t a major concern, and the 239-cid motor most commonly came from the factory at around 105 hp at 2,300 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. But these numbers could vary as much as 150 hp depending on the application.
The 4BT engine weighs 750- 780 pounds, which is heavier than most of the gas engines it would replace in a conversion project, but much lighter than the sixcylinder 6BT version. The inlinefour also offers a fairly compact size at just 30.6 inches long and 37.7 inches tall, which is useful with space constraints. The engines came with a few different injection pump systems, but the P7100 is, by far, the most popular, since it’s capable of producing larger amounts of fuel and more easily modified by the aftermarket to increase power outputs.
As previously mentioned, the 4BT can easily be modified to produce higher than stock power levels when outfitted with the P7100 (P-pump). Fueling mods can be taken to the same extremes as with the 5.9L 12V Cummins: 12mm and 13mm pumps with laser-cut delivery valves, high-rev governor springs, full-travel rack plugs and modified injectors can all be used in the 4BT platform. To go along with major fuel upgrades, common cylinder head and turbocharger upgrades are required, but the aftermarket already has most of that covered as well with head studs, better valve springs, larger valves and even performance exhaust manifolds and camshafts built for four-cylinder diesels. While these upgrades can take the 4BT to all-new levels, we have to mention that because of its lack of cylinders and nearly identical operating rpm range, each piston is going to undergo a combustion cycle much sooner than that in a 6BT Cummins, so things like camshaft profiles and pump timing become critical for maximum efficiency at higher horsepower levels.
ACD Stroker Kit
Like any engine platform, it’s a well-known fact that more cubic inches generally means more power, and there’s only so much a 239-cid motor can produce, at least safely and efficiently. With this in mind, ACD Engines of Salt Lake City has developed its Stroker Kit to take the 4BT to heretofore unheard of performance heights.
LIKE ANY ENGINE PLATFORM, IT’S A WELL-KNOWN FACT THAT MORE CUBIC INCHES GENERALLY MEANS MORE POWER, AND THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH A 239-CID MOTOR CAN PRODUCE, AT LEAST SAFELY AND EFFICIENTLY.”
Also known locally as “All Cummins Engines,” ACD has been a full-line Cummins dealer for more than 20 years, specializing in midrange and industrial engines. It offers virtually everything Cummins: new or remanufactured engines, new genuine Cummins parts, used engines and even salvage parts. Since it deals in nothing but Cummins, ACD stocks many hard-to-find parts, and if it’s not in stock, the staff knows where to get what you need. Through their years of experience, the staff has become extremely wellversed in the 4BT platform and has the conversion process down to a science, inserting the small Cummins engine into Jeeps, small SUVs, pickups and even a mid- ’50s ambulance.
In the search for more power, owner Robby Pederson began development of a Stroker Kit that would increase the length of stroke and add some additional cubic inches to the inline-four diesel. In the gas world, Stroker engines are nothing new; the GM small-block 383 Stroker engines have been around for nearly 35 years. The 383 is built using a standard GM 350- cid engine block with a modified 400-cid crankshaft, which changes how far the piston travels.
New Rods and Pistons
Because the factory 4BT crankshaft is a robust piece, Pederson didn’t want to do much crankshaft work, so he opted for an all-new piston and connecting rod design to gain the additional stroke he was after. A factory 4BT engine runs a 4.02-inch bore with a 4.72-inch stroke; this is how we come to a 239-ci motor. The new parts from ACD will allow the overall piston bore to expand to 4.402 inches with a much longer 5.430-inch stroke, effectively taking engine output to 333 ci, or 5.46L, almost that of the 5.9L 12V Cummins.
Knowing that the clientele for such a kit would be after extreme power levels, only the best materials were used to ensure the ACD Stroker Kit would stand up to high boost and high cylinder pressures. Rather than use standard-cast pistons, like the stock units, ACD went with a much stronger forged piston design that offers a different bowl design to improve the air/fuel swirl effect, helping create a more efficient burn in the combustion chamber. The piston design also has a much shorter overall height, and the wrist pin location was moved closer to the deck. These modifications account for most of the additional stroke.
To match the new piston, connecting rods were developed and made from billet 4340, like those being used in all of the high-horsepower diesel engines. The new H-beam rod design is not only stronger than a factory connecting rod, but it also has a much smaller wrist pin journal, which will only work with the ACD piston. While the pistons and rods are the true heart of the Stroker Kit, ACD has also developed a host of 4BT parts to complement them and ensure true peak performance is achieved. Specific camshaft profiles were designed, custom cylinder head work was done and 4BT-specific adjustable injection pump timing gears were installed. The short time between injection events on the four-cylinder engine required a slight engineering change for these parts, and ACD thinks its developed the perfect pieces to turn your run-of-the-mill 105-hp 4BT into a tire-shredding 800-hp monster.
ACD Engines understands that the complete Stroker Kit might be more than most 4BT project vehicles need, so it has an array of 4BT-specific products that can do everything from increasing power to improving fuel mileage and engine efficiency. It also carries a full line of custom brackets and conversion pieces to make your conversion or transplant project go a little easier.
• ACD Engines