This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue.
To kick off her 25th birthday last April, Ali Kunkel treated herself to something special—a 2010 Dodge 2500 Cummins Mega Cab from Four Way Muffler in Gallatin, Tenn.
What led Ali to pick this truck? The choice came down to the culmination of countless nights helping work on her close friend’s 2003 Dodge Quad Cab and was catalyzed by going to summer truck pulls and seeing how beastly her friends’ trucks ran.
As Ali puts it, “It becomes a passion, quickly. It wasn't long and I realized I wanted one of my own. Something bigger, and different from all of my friends.”
This is because Ali was quick to notice that most of her friends already had Quad Cabs.
“If I was going to step into the diesel scene as a female, I had to make an impression. So a Mega Cab it was. Bigger is better, right?” she laughs.
A Long Reach
This definitely brought its own sort of complications, because Ali just barely hits 5-foot, 2-inches tall standing stick-straight. So it’s no surprise when she added, “Once we got it home I asked the next best question, ‘How am I going to reach to help turn wrenches?!’”
Her now-fiancé, Ryne Cooper, and a few other friends put their heads together and used 2x4s to rig up a homemade platform. A couple feet tall and 8 feet long, this platform helps Ali get up over the grille and into the engine, and there’s even room for a few others to work side-by-side with her.
Let The Mods Begin
After bringing her Mega Cab home, Ali had Brian’s Motorsports custom powdercoat her 22-inch BMF Novakanes black and white. She wrapped these in 37-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers, tires that perform beautifully off-road thanks to the three-ply sidewall and thickset rubber construction that’s tough against penetration. Her choice also boasts on-road comfort with a quieter design that cuts down on road noise, which is always a bonus if you like talking while you drive.
Ali’s not big on the flashy chrome style, so she removed the badges and painted the bumpers and grille to match. She also added a Sinister Diesel 5-inch turbo back exhaust to a 7-inch MBRP tip to chase after that increased performance. When upgrading her tranny pan, Ali chose the Mag-Hytec deep pan for the increased lubricant and cooling capacity, and then followed this up with an H&S Street Maxx programmer.
And perhaps most important of all, Ali made sure to install Ryne’s gift—AMP Research steps. When she bought her truck, the Mega Cab had an 8-inch lift with a Rough Country kit—three inches leveling and five inches of actual lift—so you can bet the drop-down steps made her life easier now.
And there you have it! Ali’s truck is really taking shape as she chases after the mods she knows will tease out that aggressive attitude and raw diesel power underneath. Does it have a name? Yes it does, and you’re going to chuckle, it’s Betty White.
“I decided that Betty White was hilarious because although it wasn't a 'sexy' name, she is an awesome woman, so why not?”
Ali inherited this tradition from her dad, who always named his vehicles growing up. Looking at Betty White, you can be sure her dad is proud of the build she’s put together.
After all, it’s exactly how Ali’s favorite quote puts it, “It's self-made, not daddy-paid.”
When not being used for shows or daily driving, Ali puts her truck’s power to good use hauling her and Ryne’s side-by-side off-road vehicle and four-wheelers.
Since first getting her hands in motor oil, Ali has been through a variety of experiences, some good, and some bad. At this point, she feels confident that, “The diesel world encourages you one of two ways, and at times I've been encouraged by both.”
The first is to be encouraged by the genuine and true support others give you throughout your work on a great build.
“The second way,” Ali says, “is to be encouraged by those who don't believe in you, or ‘hate’ on you. But let's be real for a minute, that encourages me just as much because I'm determined to prove to myself that I can build the truck I've always desired.”
Throughout any and all such experiences, Ali’s biggest supporter and best mechanic has always been her fiancé, Ryne.
“Anytime I want to complete any mods or upgrades, he's all in. And now that he's recently upgraded from his 2004 Quad Cab to a Mega Cab,” Ali quips, “I have a feeling this summer we’ll be in constant competition between who can get what done first.”
But this competition always remains genteel when they go out together in Ali’s truck and people unfailingly approach Ryne to compliment him on it. He’s the sort of guy who doesn’t falter in smiling and sending them Ali’s way, explaining, “Thanks, but it's hers actually.”
Ali has to laugh whenever people have a tough time believing this, but the disbelief doesn’t get to her.
“I just smile, thank them, and move on,” she shrugs. “Everyone who's seen or met me almost always asks, ‘How in the hell do you get in that thing?!’ Obviously they don't realize I've got AMP Research steps,” she laughs.
With such an awesome build, Ali still has big plans on the horizon. Waiting right now in her garage are her AllHID headlights and fog lights. She plans on tearing out and painting the headlights and taillights, then installing the headlights and fog lights all at once.
Ali’s also looking forward to installing Ryne’s set of white LED strips from AllHIDs on her trac bars once they go into fabrication for the lift support.
After that she’s ready to start the engine build.
“First stop will certainly be Fire Punk for a tranny!” she says.
Ali has pithy advice for all the ladies out there who want to get involved. She says, “Make an honest name for yourself in the diesel industry. Build your truck at your own pace.”
She also points out, “If you're not building and making mods as quickly as you'd like, don't sacrifice your dignity or name to get the build done quicker. A great build and a great truck will get you farther in the long run than any short pair of shorts will.”
Take it from this diesel enthusiast. To quote a recent blockbuster, “The girl’s on fire.” You can hear it come through her tone when she openly says, “I've worked hard for this truck and I will build it as good, if not better than, any of the non-believing men out there!”
Photography by Garrett Luse of Luse Photography and Ryne Cooper
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