Love At First (Truck) Sight

Ohio couple bonds over Duramax

February 2015 Feature Katie Burke

The couple who builds together, stays together. Sharing a passion for diesel trucks has been a great relationship builder for Portland, Ohio, couple Michael Haring and Katie Pajestka. This duo rocks similar Duramax trucks, which they take pride in having built from the ground up in their own shop, TCD Performance in North Bloomfield, Ohio.

“All we do together is work on the trucks,” says Katie. “We work on the trucks all winter so they are ready for the summer events, mainly drag races and show-in-shines.”

The Air Force

Katie is a proud member of the United States Air Force as a reserve member. She joined to help with educational expenses and has proudly served for five years. Her main assignment is to deploy to bases around the country to help them get caught up on work orders.

“The military is my second family,” says Katie. “I joined the military in order to progress in life. When I graduate, I will stay enlisted to make master sergeant.”

The Trucks

Katie is driving a 2003 GMC 2500 LB7 that she’s owned for five years.

“I owned a Dodge before, which I bought when I was 18. When I met Michael, he had an LLY and I instantly liked his way better,” says Katie. “So I sold the Dodge to buy my Duramax. I learned my lesson. Like I tell people, ‘We all make mistakes and mine was when I bought a Dodge.’”

The reason she started with a Cummins was because her father had a Dodge when she was kid.

“I have always been into trucks and was always working with my dad in the garage,” says Katie. “As I got older, I wanted one for myself and I knew from the beginning I didn’t want anything stock left in it.”

Michael drives a 2005 Silverado, which he has been building since 2009.

“I started off with a Duramax and got really into modifying it,” says Michael. “I have always been around trucks; I rebuilt my first motor at age 14.”

When the couple met, Michael had a system of buying a truck and performing minor modifications on it so he could sell it and buy a new one every two years. This latest truck has turned into a five-year project.

“I’m so far in it, this truck is going to be around for a while,” says Michael. “Before I would get bored with a truck, but I decided what I wanted to do was build a fast truck that could still be driven on the street and that’s what I’ve done with this one.”

“Now that he’s spent five years on this truck, I keep telling him it’s my turn,” laughs Katie.

The couple do more than build together, they drag race together as well. Michael was unable to run his truck last year because of tuning issues, so he supported Katie during her very first season and her end goal of becoming the first female on the Quick 50 list at

“So far, there are no girls on the list and my goal is to be the first. This year, in fact,” says Katie. “I like to go fast. I have always enjoyed watching and keep up on racing and classes, and knowing I can compete with the boys.”

The Modifications

On Michael’s truck, he has done a lot of the work to it himself. He has everything from new head studs to a PPE center-link and tie-rod sleeves installed in it. He’s installed an S475 overstock compound turbo, 40 over injectors, PPE Dual Fueler kit and a Calvin race transmission with a Sun Coast billet shaft. As far as the exterior goes, he has 20-inch XD wheels with Nitto tires and Caltrac bars, plus a custom carbon fiber stack from OldSkool Fab.

Katie’s truck has a long list of mods as well. From OldSkool Fab she added a 7-inch carbon fiber stack and a hydro-dipped GMC emblem. From Merchant Automotive, she went with head studs, motor mounts, transmission brace, tire rod sleeves, 60 percent Bosch Motorsport injectors and a coolant tank. She’s also incorporated ISSPRO gauges, a PPE Dual Fueler kit and S366 with HSP single turbo install kit. Pair all of this with a Turbosmart 45mm wastegate, Grade C head gaskets, PPE Stage 4 transmission, ATS 5 star converter, FASS 150 fuel pump, Fleece Performance downpipe and tap shifter and a BD Power exhaust manifold and you can see why she is so proud of all the work that’s gone into this beautiful build.

On the exterior, she has 3-inch drop shackles, Fuel Offroad Mavericks 20 by10 wheels,

305/50/20 Nitto tires and Flight Fabrication traction bars.

The couple credits three people: Eric Merchant at Merchant Automotives, Brad Gintz at Calvin’s Transmission and Korey Willis at Power Performance with being instrumental in their current builds.

“Michael had a fuel problem we couldn’t figure out, even after we went to every Duramax person we knew,” says Katie. “We met Eric Merchant at TS Performance and he knew exactly how to fix it. Now he’s the first person we go to.”

Together Time

The couple is working hard to get their shop off and running. In the meantime, they punch a time clock to pay for their hobby. Michael is a union electrician and Katie works at AT&T while pursuing her degree in mechanical engineering. She would ultimately like to get into CAD drawing and star machining her own parts. Eventually, Michael plans to leave the electrician field and operate the couple’s performance shop full-time. His work ethic will surely make the shop a success for the Ohio community.

“I’m very meticulous and anal about how I do things, especially with trucks,” says Michael. “I won’t pay anyone to do anything for me. I do it myself to make sure it’s done right.”

The couple is starting to plan a dyno event to benefit Akron’s Children’s Hospital.

“We’re putting together this event to give back,” says Katie. “Kids love the trucks. If it blows black smoke it makes them happy, which is what it’s all about.”

For now, they completed their family with an adopted puppy, Garrett. Aptly named after Garrett Turbos, this Rottweiler/Lab mix has become the star of the couple’s Instagram accounts.

What’s it REALLY like?

You would be almost correct in thinking Michael hit the jackpot with a girlfriend who loves diesel as much as he does. There’s definitely no pressure to sell or to stop upgrading in the Pajestka/Haring household. 

“Sometimes I wish it was opposite, that she wasn’t into it as much as I am,” laughs Michael. “It costs me twice as much because I have to build two trucks. When I get something, she always tells me she wants it too.”

“I can’t help that I’m always thinking of the next build,” adds Katie. “I get bored and I always want the next thing right now.”

Ladies of Diesel

Katie is an active part of the Ladies of Diesel community on Facebook.

“Ladies of Diesel is the greatest thing ever. When it started, it brought the female community together. We all live all over the country, but now we can connect and help each other out.” Katie Pajestka

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