This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.
Let’s start off with a little pop quiz. Where did Alis Hill gain many of her favorite childhood memories?
A) At the checkout counter of Toys R Us.
B) At the local Baskin Robbins’ corner booth.
C) At the Hill’s Trucking, Sand and Gravel Co pit.
If you picked C, you nailed it! This New London, CT, girl grew up spending a lot of time at this place co-owned and operated by her grandfather and father, gaining experiences that began to shape her future.
“I recall watching my grandfather load and unload trucks, riding along with my father in their triaxles, and watching them maintain and repair their fleet,” Alis remembers. “I was mesmerized by the machinery. I learned dedication and commitment from watching the two of them work together to achieve their goals.”
Her interest in mechanics took a twist toward diesel performance when she later met and began dating Fred Johnson. Alis started going over to his house after work and lending him a hand in the garage, passing tools and straightening up while he worked on his ‘97 Power Stroke and helped friends with their trucks. As her interest in diesels grew, she decided to give it a shot herself.
“We later picked up a first gen and he sent me to Johnson’s Academy of Hard Knocks and Bruises,” she jokes. Come 2011, the couple was officially ready to open their own shop together: Diesel Shop, LLC.
“It’s been Fred’s dream and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Alis grins. “Owning and managing a small business is no cake walk. It can be mentally and physically demanding and draining—but when you want something, you dig in and work for it. It’s a customer’s smile and thank you that makes the late nights, stress and bloody knuckles all worth it.”
Alis’s first diesel was a 1992 D250 4x4 with plus or minus 280,000 miles on it (the odometer only occasionally worked). Affectionately dubbed Shirley Broken, she picked up this retired farm truck when it wasn’t running and later found it was due to an electrical issue—just one of many.
“It was a fun truck to putt around in. I daily drove it, sled pulled once or twice and participated in the 100-foot drags at Waterford Speed Bowl,” Alis says. “It was there I fell in love with the tree drop.”
So much so, in fact, that she eventually sold her first gen and started looking for a drag truck.
Must Be A ‘Stroke
“It was a no-brainer. Fred has an OBS Power Stroke, our shop help all had Power Strokes at the time—a Power Stroke it was,” Alis laughs. When she found a “mechanic’s special” slammed 2000 F250 Power Stroke, she couldn’t help it. The truck was coming home with her and the name was already picked out: Mowgli.
“I have this knack for buying trucks with transmission issues and Mowgli needed a rebuild. I drove it back from Maine to Connecticut with a two-to-three shift issue, but I was too smitten to care,” Alis explains.
She started hunting around and found a secondhand converter, then bought a BTS valve body and sent it to her local transmission shop for overhaul. Next, Alis installed Full Force 238cc injectors and rebuilt/upgraded the turbocharger.
WANT TO SEE YOUR TRUCK FEATURED IN THE MAGAZINE? GO HERE!
“I raced it this way with my best time in a quarter-mile of 13.554 seconds at 102.83 mph and 60 feet of 2.03 seconds at the Lebanon Valley Dragway in New York,” Alis enthuses. “After making the decision to dedicate the truck to the track, it was time to get serious. I removed the bench seat for a single racing seat and shed weight throughout the truck. I called Brian’s Truck Shop and they put together a transmission for my truck. This brought my best quarter-mile time to 12.97 seconds at 105.43mph with 60 feet of 1.98 seconds at the Numidia Dragway in Pennsylvania.”
Not Slowing Down
The changes haven’t stopped there. Alis went bold and got a Diesel Shop wrapping job, and couldn’t be happier.
“Thirty Two Signs did a great job on the wrap; it totally changed the truck’s appeal,” she says.
She’s also worked closely with Full Force Diesel Performance on their Dual 7.3L HPOP kit and was elated to have been a part of the research, doing some testing on their 224XLC dynojet and looking forward to hitting the drag strip more than ever. Overall, she’s already noted some great changes from her master list of modifications—even just by upgrading her oil.
“I noticed a difference right away using Schaeffer’s 9000 engine oil,” Alis says. “The engine idled and ran more smoothly. My stock HPOP was dying—high pressure oil would fall off on a hard pull—but after using Schaffer’s the truck made a few more runs before acting up again. My BTS transmission is also phenomenal. I couldn’t be happier with it. Shifts are smooth yet firm, every shift keeps you in the seat. Tyrant’s tunes really complement all the modifications.”
For the future, this girl has plans for a Yukon locker and is throwing around a few ideas for suspension changes. She would love to upgrade the injectors to 300cc’s (or bigger) and the turbocharger to a Stainless Diesel S467 5Blade Mafia. Things like head studs, valve springs, push rods, and connecting rods are also on the mental list, but as Alis puts it, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”
Throughout her growth in the industry, Alis has had the pleasure of a lot of positive encouragement from everyone from friends and customers to co-workers and strangers.
“I have a big family behind me, both in blood and business. I would not have come this far had it not been for the encouraging influences in my life. Thank you to all who have helped along the way, whether it was lending a hand, advice or words of confidence,” she says.
If you’re toying with the idea of getting more involved with diesels, Alis has a bit of advice to share.
“Be hungry for knowledge,” she says. “You can’t possibly learn everything overnight; we should all learn something new every day. You will make mistakes. Knowledge is experience learned over time from the failures you’ve conquered. The best classroom is your truck (and also an Internet connection, LOL!). While other girls are reading the Twilight saga or Cosmo, you should be reading a manual or install instructions.”
In the meantime, you can be sure to find Alis doing what she loves at the drag strip.
“Drag racing is a rush!!” she enthuses. “Exciting, sometimes disappointing, uplifting and heart pounding. I try to relax, focus down the track and find my line. I’m no Shirley Muldowne or Erica Ender, but I hope through dedication and hard work to have as much success and influence in diesel drag racing.”
Things couldn’t be better for Alis and Fred, now happily engaged and loving their work at the shop while Alis works on teasing even more performance out of Mowgli. When this couple exchanges wedding vows, you can be sure it will go down on the drag strip.
Bean’s Diesel Performance
Brian’s Truck Shop
Calvert Racing Suspensions
Diesel Shop LLC
Full Force Diesel Performance
Gearhead Automotive Performance
Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants
Thirty Two Signs
Tyrant Diesel Automotive Repair
Waterford Speed Bowl