This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.
Kaitlyn Krajewski wasn't really around many diesels until she went to Buck Motorsports Park’s Diesel PowerFest for the first time as a 14-year-old. You could say it was love at first sight.
“I loved to sit there for the whole show and watch them,” she says. “Not a typical teenage girl activity. In fact, I barely knew anything about vehicles, not to mention diesels.”
But it was from that point on that Kaitlyn knew she wanted to get involved in the lifestyle someday. Growing up, this Lancaster, Pa., girl and all of her friends always had gassers or jacked-up vehicles.
“We even had a row in the parking lot at the high school called ‘hick row’ or ‘truck row,’” she laughs.
Planting The Seed
As time went on, some of her friends started getting into diesels, giving Kaitlyn a chance to personally experience what this breed of truck is like.
“Riding in a few, I loved them…from the sound and the power behind them to just the way they looked,” she says. “But I knew they were out of my league at the time, too much money. So I improvised and got myself an '85 five speed manual diesel VW Golf. I loved that car, but realized I had to get another diesel…but in truck form.”
Having been raised on Fords with her dad and grandpa, she was always a Ford girl—when she could first drive, she had a Bronco II and an F150.
“So you would assume, maybe a 7.3L or a 6.0L would be a good fit for me,” she shrugs. “Nope, I picked a Dodge Cummins. I knew they were known for lasting for many, many miles, and also better on fuel mileage, which was a plus for me after having a 12 mpg F150.”
Finding Her Dodge
It didn’t take long before Kaitlyn got the break she was looking for: “I was driving in my car one day and my boss says, ‘Hey, I’m going to be selling my 2000 Dodge 2500 Cummins. Let your friends know and see if anyone wants to buy it.’”
Those were the magic words. Kaitlyn had always loved the older body style trucks and her building desire to go for a diesel officially sealed the deal.
When her boss handed over the keys, Kaitlyn knew she was inheriting a “grandpa sort of truck.” With the famous “pappy cap,” shiny stock Dodge wheels, and quietly rusting rocker panels, it was undeniable. On the other hand, this truck did come with an ATS tranny with copilot programmer, a Mag-Hytec rear differential cover, and a FASS 150 lift pump.
Her Own Tweaks
In the quest to make this truck her own, Kaitlyn first removed the pappy cap. She added a 2-inch leveling kit to the front so that it sat more level, then added some aggressive 285/70/17 Mud Claw tires with American Racing X wheels. Next, Kaitlyn invested in aftermarket smoked headlights and taillights and a Line-X bed liner protective coating. Bidding goodbye to the stock air system, she instead went for an S&B air box and filter, and followed up with a Pusher air intake horn. Some GlowShift boost, EGT, and trans gauges gave some functional style to the interior.
When she turned her attention to the exhaust, Kaitlyn chose her favorite mod yet—a 4-inch to an 8-inch pink catstack. Along with the look, she now doesn’t have to clean her windows every week. Not one to leave it there, she also replaced the shocks with Skyjacker, and of course painted them pink.
At this point, a serious eyesore that had been bothering her about this build could no longer be ignored.
“I hated the stock ugly chrome and faded black front bumper,” she explains. “But I didn’t want to buy one of those $1,000 bumpers! So I had a friend of mine and my boyfriend help make my custom fabricated steel bumper with pink shackles. And if you must ask, I did put this to use one icy morning running into another Cummins! Let’s just say my truck won.”
Kaitlyn’s turbo began having problems with leaking and metal shards, so she replaced it with a Killer B 63mm turbo. She also got ARP head studs and redid the whole head with porting, ringing and shaving. Adding a Smarty tuner and 125 BD Power injectors was next on the list of modifications. Because her injection pump was on its way out, she decided to replace it with an Industrial Injection Hot Rod VP44 pump.
The last bit of fun came when Kaitlyn redid her headliner in camo fabric and added black paint to match the roll pan with some black sled stops.
“Some of these modifications were just because I wanted a little more power, and wanted her to breathe a little easier,” she explains. “And let’s be honest, it’s addicting to just keep adding stuff. But really, a lot of the performance mods are because parts took a crap. And of course, when you have to replace them, you might as well upgrade!”
Concerning her “just for looks” modifications, Kaitlyn adds, “I wanted to add pink to show that it is indeed a woman's truck. Oddly enough I still get asked if it’s mine. And I just wanted a little bit of feminine on my big bad diesel truck.”
Following the work done so far, Kaitlyn has noted definite power gain, and that is beyond pleasing.
“For me, picking my truck up from my shop with the new injectors and smarty was like Christmas day,” she jokes. “It gained so much pick-up, and get up and go! And whoa, it finally blew some black smoke.”
Since she likes to pull sometimes as a hobby, she’s found a lot of joy in adding something to her truck and then pulling it to see just how much better it performed—even if by only a few feet.
“It just makes you feel good,” she says.
Along with truck pulls, Kaitlyn gets a kick out of attending any diesel event or show and shine.
“I could attend them all day, get a horrible sunburn and be dehydrated, and yet I would still go home in an awesome mood! My summers pretty much are booked with activities like that,” she enthuses.
With a lot of “diesel friends” to enjoy the lifestyle with, it was a given. Her boyfriend—now husband—was always ready to lend a hand along the way.
“He also has a Cummins diesel and we are a ‘Cummins couple.’ We work on both our trucks together. He won’t usually admit it, but I have the better of the two,” she teases.
Though for the most part the modification work was pulled off without a hitch, one of the worst birthday surprises struck last March when Kaitlyn cracked her “dreaded and well-known” 53 engine block.
“I thought it was the most tragic thing I have ever experienced,” she says. “Working at Al’s Service Center was in my favor during this time. The guys all got together and we game planned. After failed attempts of UPS engine blocks, and searching the Internet frantically, we finally got a block out of an ‘01 truck from a local junk yard with a 55 block.”
After installation, her truck was running—but not correctly.
“It literally sounded like a high horsepower modded 3.0 pulling truck, loping like crazy. It sounded super cool, but unfortunately, was not supposed to,” she says. “My RPMs also did not work, and my trans was in limp mode! I loved driving it again after a few months of it being out of commission, but sadly had to go back in the shop.”
The team found a way to take the computer off the donor ‘01 and swap it with her own. One added harness and a couple wires later, and voila—Kaitlyn’s ride was back in action. “Out of all of this mess, I finally decided what I wanted to name my truck after three years of having it: Hotmess. So I got a license plate made up stating so!” she laughs.
What’s the other bonus? Through all that, she got to paint her engine pink and black.
Though it could have been tempting to call it quits or take an easy way out, Kaitlyn showed that her drive ran deeper than the technical difficulties she faced. After all, she says, “If you have the fever, and the passion, go for it. Don’t let anyone stop you. No jealous girls, or guys for that matter,” she advises. “And always be willing to learn. I barely knew anything going in and to this day I know so much more than I ever thought I would. I have a long ways to go, though!”
So what’s Kaitlyn’s final advice for the women out there seeking to get involved?
“Being in a male-dominated industry, you need to hold your own,” she says. “Just being somewhat independent will show people you are serious and will get you respect!” With a final word of caution, Kaitlyn wisely adds, “And be aware that it’s very addicting!”
Al’s Service Center
ATS Diesel Performance
Buck Motorsports Park
FASS Diesel Fuel Systems
Line-X Protective Coatings
National Tire & Wheel
S&B Performance Filters & Intakes