When Sarah Meaney was asked how she first got into diesels, she replied with, “What horse girl doesn't want her own truck?”
But what started with everyday performance soon was infused with the excitement of pulls and competitions. A year after buying her first diesel to haul her two horses, Sarah tried hooking her truck to a pulling sled at a local event in the fun class.
She ended up beating all the boys and winning the class and she’s been hooked ever since.
The next season in 2011 she won the year-end champion points in the street-legal diesel division. Top that with being the first female in the history of the Massachusetts Truck Pullers Association to win the Rookie of the Year award, and she had quite a few successes already under her belt.
When Sarah took the financial jump and bought her first truck, she only had experience with Power Strokes—in particular, her boyfriend-of-the-time's 1994 F350.
She saw firsthand how he could really put it to the test by hauling enormous loads of hay for his business several times a week, powered by used vegetable oil. So when Sarah first turned her mind to getting her own truck, she already knew she wanted a 7.3L Power Stroke. She’d seen upfront how reliable they were, but she also loved the Super Duty truck body more than the older body style, which further modified her search.
Sarah ended up choosing a '99 F350 7.3L. Though she has a great appreciation for everything Cummins, Duramax or Power Stroke, the 7.3L will always be, “my favorite and my first love.” Sarah loves working on building a high horsepower 7.3L, since it’s a challenge that’s not often attached.
Currently, she owns her original '99 F350 7.3L—which runs stronger than ever as her reliable daily driver—and a '95 7.3L F250, the toy, show truck and pulling truck that only gets driven to summer events and pulls.
Sarah’s profound interest in the automotive world is unprecedented for her family. In pioneering her way into the diesel industry, she’s always had a few major supporters. The MATPA is always willing to lend weights, give tips and help her get ready for events.
“If I didn't have their encouragement pushing me to do well and stay involved in a male-dominated sport, I don't know if I would still be involved now,” Sarah admits.
Her boyfriend is also a big help. With a very competitive 2.6 truck of his own, he and Sarah get to travel around and bond over dirt and grease as they work on their trucks together.
“It definitely helps to have a significant other that is as crazy about truck pulling as you are,” says Sarah.
The Right Diesel Shop
She was also lucky to find the Diesel Shop LLC crew in Jewitt City, Conn. They are extremely supportive in helping her chase her goal of building a high horsepower 7.3L.
“Not too many people are interested in pursuing that build, but I found a shop that is just as crazy about it as I am, and they help me out A LOT!”
All of this, of course, is driven by the support of Sarah’s own deep-founded passion for diesels and the confidence to get herself out there.
Concerning future rebuilds, Sarah says, “As with any diesel enthusiast, there is always a never-ending list of modifications to be done to your truck, and mine is no different.”
Though owning two diesel trucks understandably requires some financial maneuvering, Sarah has a running list going for her '95 7.3L show truck. Currently, it has 260cc injectors, BD modded turbo, TS 6-position with custom tunes, T500 HPOP, modded IDM, FASS system, boost fooler, traction bars and a D60 solid axle swapped up front with 35-inch fierce attitude tires and a 4-inch lift.
Since her truck has injectors that are too big for the supporting mods, her most pressing future plan is to install an intercooler, a bigger turbo to get more air to them, and some ARP head studs to make sure everything stays together. And with her truck being a 7.3L, she will most likely end up with dual HPOPs pretty quick, “to feed those hungry HUIE injectors.”
As for her reliable daily driver, the exhaust, intake, 6-position tuner with power hungry tunes, modded IDM, and HPX keep it running sweetly. But she does have a T500 waiting ready in her garage and when the injectors are about to give out, she plans to upgrade to stage one injectors.
“When you live in New England with an older truck though, rust prevention and correction is a never-ending battle to dump money into,” she says.
Let’s Get Personal
As is clearly shown, Sarah cares a lot about her trucks—so much so that one of her signatures is to name and humanize each one, to the enjoyment of those around her. The trend started with her first truck, which had been in an accident before she bought it. Because it had been put back together and “brought back to life,” she called him Frankenstein, or Frank for short. Since she’s always personably referring to him as Frank on social media and in real life, people are starting to know her truck more than they know Sarah.
Once when she went out with friends, a man approached her and asked if she was the girl who owned Frank. When she said yes, he asked her what her name was. “I couldn't help but find it hilarious that the man knew my truck's name but not mine,” Sarah jokes.
On a more serious note, Sarah has faced difficult things so far. From her perspective, the hardest thing for women in the industry is standing apart from the attention-seeking girls.
“We definitely get a bad name for being in it for the wrong reasons,” she says.
To combat this, Sarah says, “The best thing to do is let it roll off your back. Women need to create their own unique and individual paths and not be afraid to get dirty, ask questions and get involved.”
She points out that there’s no other way to learn.
“Show the boys you want to learn, and not just be a pretty face in the driver's seat,” she advises.
Sarah also points out that it’s physically hard for a female to do some mechanical work.
“How is a 120-pound girl supposed to torque a head to 150 pounds?” she says. “While those types of things are difficult but doable, I find it very frustrating when I physically am not strong enough to do something like that.”
But she points out that women shouldn’t let that discourage them from being involved.
“The best feeling in the world is when you can show or explain something to a guy who didn't expect you to know anything about diesels.”
So what started with everyday diesel performance turned into a lifelong ambition and drive to keep learning, working, and competing. This year Sarah concluded her second season as secretary for the MATPA, which keeps her deeply involved. Her true passion for the industry is inspiring.
As Sarah puts it, “My diesels consume my life and I could talk about them all day if you let me!”