It’s no surprise that, within the diesel community, recurring conversations centered around the potential of transplanting an Allison transmission into a Cummins-equipped RAM are nothing new. Many aftermarket suppliers have casually proposed such modifications, though little in the way of viable integration has ever come to fruition, until recently.
ATS Diesel Performance has made waves by unveiling the first full-integrated Allison transmission swap for RAM trucks, equipped with a Cummins powerplant. Not only does this kit provide seamless cross-platform integration, but it does so without sacrificing any of the RAM’s factory functions.
Refusing To Compromise
Prior to the release of ATS Diesel’s Allison conversion kit, those hoping to swap their RAM’s factory 68RFE transmission for more robust alternatives were faced with a dilemma. Most baseline conversion kits, up until this point, lacked the ability to provide effective communication between the RAM’s stock ECM, and the TCM of any donor transmission selected for use.
This led to a significant loss of factory-specific functions, many of which would prove difficult to part with. Some of the most noteworthy of these often-sacrificed functions included push-button start, electronic gear-range select, electronic transfer case engagement, and tow/haul mode application. Through a significant amount of experimentation, Clint Cannon and his crew at ATS forged their own path, pioneering an innovative controller capable of bridging this gap in communication. The company’s TRANSlator module allows for accurate data transmission between the RAM’s stock CAN-BUS modules (ECM and BCM), and Allison’s proprietary TCM.
As a result of these efforts, consumers can now have their cake and eat it too. With the installation of ATS Diesel’s newly-released conversion kit, consumers can now benefit from the use of a much beefier Allison transmission, without sending their RAM back into the stone ages.
Another highlight of ATS Diesel’s Allison conversion kit is the company’s use of a custom-engineered Allison-to-Cummins bell housing. This addition eliminates the need for adaptor plates or intrusive modification of any kind to the RAM’s Cummins powerplant. Unlike other conversion kits currently offered, no grinding of the block is required to facilitate proper fitment.
We wanted to create a kit that was simple to install so our customers could have the ultimate truck, a Cummins with an Allison transmission that works like factory. – Blake Saffell, ATS Diesel Performance
A Quest For Perfection
For the crew at ATS, the notion of pushing the envelope was nothing new. Ever adept at finding creative solutions to intriguing problems, Cannon jumped at the opportunity to provide consumers with a better means of rectifying their transmission woes.
This is a point that became quite evident when speaking with ATS Diesel’s Marketing Director, Blake Saffell. Blake himself was not only a part of the ongoing research efforts that went into the development of the ATS Allison conversion kit, but he is also the owner of the project’s official test truck, a 2015 Ram 3500, originally equipped with an Aisin transmission.
“ATS was not satisfied with the options formerly available on the market, most of which involved grinding the block, using a 6.0-liter Ford starter, and losing tons of functionality, like cruise control, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive, and remote start,” says Saffell. ¨We wanted to create a kit that was simple to install, and would fix all the issues mentioned above so our customers could have the ultimate truck, a Cummins with an Allison transmission that works like factory.”
Venturing Into Uncharted Territory
Of course, engineering a fully integrated Allison conversion kit for the RAM was no small feat, and was not without significant challenges. One of the most obvious of these challenges to be overcome involved finding a way to force communication between multiple controllers that were never intended to interface.
For years, this challenge has proved to be largely insurmountable for those attempting to seamlessly mate a Cummins engine to an Allison automatic transmission. Many tried, though few achieved any degree of success.
“The electronics and the software in our TRANSlator were the most difficult part of the development process,” Saffell states. “Creating a bridge between two different CAN-BUS systems is not an easy task. However, with the team we have at ATS, we can assure the aftermarket industry that we are just getting started and there will be a ton more innovative products released over the next few years.”
ATS Diesel’s TRANSlator effectively serves as a go-between, relaying information between the RAM’s stock control modules, and the controlling interface of the Allison LCT1000. Again, all factory functions are retained, as intended. The appeal to this conversion kit was, and still is, blatantly obvious to many within the diesel community. Upon installation, consumers can provide their trucks with the additional backbone needed to withstand the demands of heavy towing or the compounded stress that goes hand-in-hand with subsequent powertrain upgrades.
ATS stipulates that the purchase of an Allison conversion kit is ideal for any RAM that features a modified Cummins engine, is used for long-distance towing, or runs oversized tires. “As far as an upgrade from a 68RFE, the clutch packs are twice the size, the shafts are substantially bigger, the case is stronger, the valvebody is less prone to issues, and the pump makes more volume, says Saffell. “We all know the widespread failures of the 68RFE and its design flaws, just ask your buddy with a Ford or GMC and they will remind you about Chrysler transmissions.”
By all accounts, ATS has set a high mark for those to follow. ¨The reception for this kit has been amazing,¨ says Saffell. ¨We have already installed and shipped around 400 kits as of August 2022, and the positive reviews and testimonials confirm the satisfaction our customers have with the product. A lot of folks reach out and get everything ready for when they have a problem with, typically, their 68RFE.
A lot of folks reach out and get everything ready for when they have a problem with, typically, their 68RFE. – Blake Saffell
The Allison Transmission Treatment
ATS Diesel Performance´s Allison conversion kit comes with everything required to perform this transmission swap as a whole. Though the exact contents of this kit vary by the year and model of truck for which it is intended, consumers are assured to get everything they need. Included in the ATS Allison conversion kit is ATS’ billet Five Star torque converter, ATS transmission pan, TRANSlator controller, plug-and-play harness, transfer case adapter kit, shift linkage kit, dipstick tube, transmission mount, and cooler adapter lines and fittings. This, of course, is in addition to an Allison six-speed transmission with a cast Cummins bellhousing and extension housing.
It is also worth mentioning that ATS leaves the control of their new transmission in the hands of the consumer. The company’s programming is fully unlocked, leading to a virtually limitless number of tuning possibilities. This provides a distinct advantage to the RAM owner who wishes to better customize the intricacies of their truck’s powertrain, to better suit their specific needs. This also tends to be quite complementary to Allison´s stock TCM programming, which possesses adaptive control logic. This allows Allison’s software to learn an individual’s particular driving style, and to adjust operational parameters, such as shift points, accordingly.
According to ATS, their Allison conversion can be completed in approximately 12 hours by a qualified individual. The cost of the kit itself ranges from $12,000 to $15,000, depending upon the exact year of the truck in question. However, ATS is also set to release pricing of a basic kit as well, which includes everything required to complete this conversion, with the exception of an Allison transmission. ATS currently offers a range of Allison conversion kits for the RAM, spanning a wide range of year models. Kits are available to accompany both 5.9- and 6.7-liter Cummins engines. Additionally, all ATS transmission kits come backed by a five-year warranty, providing prospective consumers with additional peace of mind.
For additional information, check out ATS Diesel Performance or give them a call at (800) 949-6002.