This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue.
If you happen to be in Virginia Beach, Va., and see a gorgeous 2011 6.7L F250 Lariat Ultimate Crew Cab in vermillion red roar by, you’ve indirectly met Jenn Smith. Currently serving in the US Navy as an airframe structural mechanic on F-18 fighter jets, you could say her passion for mechanics and passion for serving in the Navy have intertwined—and perhaps were first rooted in her love of diesels when it all began almost 14 years ago.
“My addiction started with my dad's Duramax back in ‘02,” Jenn smiles. “I remember in ‘06 when he'd traded it in for his 6.0L how upset I was that a big, exciting part of my childhood memory was leaving. Once I'd got my permit I'd always wanted to practice driving in Dad's truck, even over the Camaro.”
But Jenn eventually found herself behind the wheel of her own 6.0L, “learning the definition of hard work, stress, and an expensive fuel bill,” as she puts it. She went to her first diesel event in 2013, the Maryland Performance Diesel's Dyno Day that was held in her hometown.
“I remember watching the trucks run on the dyno and it clicked. My 6.0L had begun having its issues, and through following forums and several Facebook pages, I started networking,” Jenn explains.
Thanks to recommendations, she eventually had her transmission built and added upgrades like larger injectors and a bigger turbo.
“I'd learned the hard way with my 6.0L there is a fine art to balancing both a daily driver and a truck with a lot of extra horsepower,” she says. “I went to as many diesel events as I could travel to, spoke to whomever I could. Instagram has helped me a lot as well. I love it; it's a fun place for me to share my photos and to look at other people’s trucks. I think it really helped get my truck and me out there.”
It wasn’t until after enlisting in the Navy and having a steady and reliable income that Jenn was able to purchase her 6.7L this past November. Though she thought she’d keep this truck stock for warranty work, two weeks later she was driving home to work with her dad on a few installs like an SCT Tuner.
“I owe a humble thank you to my parents for supporting me; being taught how to prioritize and manage money is the only reason I've got my truck,” Jenn smiles. “They have also encouraged me through my enlistment so far and I’m excited to see where the next three years take me as a sailor in our United States Navy.”
Currently stationed at Virginia Beach, Jennifer was excited to learn that this place had great opportunities to keep networking and meeting fellow diesel enthusiasts.
“I love it here; there's a huge diesel community and a lot of things to do,” she enthuses. It’s also the city where she met the shop that gave her a hand in some of the modifications on her new 6.7L.
“Down here in Virginia, I've gotten a lot of help thanks to Pungo Offroad. I turn to them for my accessories and they helped me out big time with getting my 18x12 -44 Fuel Maverick wheels. They even offered me a spot at their booth on the boardwalk during Monsters at the Beach in May, a huge truck show here at the beach,” she grins.
A 5-inch stainless steel FLO-PRO exhaust and S&B intake followed, as well as wrapping her new wheels in attention-grabbing 33x11.5 Toyo ATII's.
“I'd always loved the sound of my 6.0L, so having such a quiet stock truck really bugged me,” Jenn says. “The 5-inch straight pipe was a good solution and I'm really happy I went through with it. The truck is loud, but it's not loud enough to wake up neighbors. If I ever need to get someone’s attention, I've got a set of Kleinn HK6 train horns mounted above the rear axle.”
Results Are In
As for the results so far, she couldn’t be more pleased. Part of the reason Jenn picked these modifications was to improve the fuel economy.
“The trio of the intake, exhaust, and tunes puts me at an average highway MPG of about 19, hand-calculated,” Jenn explains. “For now, I use the 6.7L for pure enjoyment.”
Among other things, her 6.7L comes in handy for teasing cheeky friends at Rudy's Event this past spring, sponsored by Rudy’s Diesel Performance.
“I'd finally met up with all of my diesel friends I'd been in contact with through Facebook,” Jenn laughs. “We were all hanging out in hotel parking lots just having a good, relaxing time and enjoying one another's company. Well, time had come for me to head back to my room, so I had to ask everyone to hop down from my tailgate.”
When one of her friends, Phillip Rodman, decided to protest, she simply pushed him under the bed cover and folded up her tailgate anyways, closing and locking it. “Everyone was laughing so hard, even him. It was hysterical,” she reminisces. “There were several Snapchats of his hand coming from between the tailgate and the bed cover. I eventually set him free and headed in. Well, not without kicking him off the tailgate for the second time, of course. Rudy's was an absolute blast, one of the best weekends I've ever had. I'm so excited to make more stories in the fall!”
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Besides looking dang good and providing some great laughs, Jenn loves the versatility of her 6.7L.
“Eventually depending on where the Navy takes me I’ll be using the truck to move my belongings, maybe eventually I'll own horses again, or maybe a boat, and she'll see a trailer like my old truck had. Other than that, I just get pure fun out of her and perfect my detailing skills while I'm at it. She lives an easy life. I absolutely love this truck.”
Eventually Jenn plans on having the front end and rear bumper painted to match in vermillion red, as well as some upgraded wheel work.
“I have yet to decide on what sort of wheel combination I’ll end up with,” she muses. “I'm thinking something polished as I'm always cleaning up the truck so I'm sure they'd be kept up.”
Enjoy & Embrace
When asked what advice she’d share with other women in the industry, Jenn didn’t hesitate to say, “Don’t feel intimidated by the fact that the industry is almost entirely men. Working in a field where I'm surrounded by men I've learned to fit in quite well without bringing around any drama. Sitting back, enjoying the company of others and enjoying the community is the best advice I have. Do your research and make sure you know what you're talking about if you're trying to help another person with their truck. We're a very small, unique group of women; we should feel proud of that!”
Serving in the Navy and spending time in the diesel crowd has taught her as much about these passions.
“I joined the military in order to both serve my country and kick start my life after high school,” Jenn explains. “I was scared to be stuck at home, and I'd always wanted to become some sort of mechanic, some sort of job to get my mind working and my hands filthy. The Navy was perfect. Nearly all of my father’s side had served and I felt it was only right to continue it on, while also being the first female in my family to do it. It feels great.”
FLO-PRO Performance Exhaust
Fuel Off-Road Wheels
Rudy’s Diesel Performance