This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue.
If you trace Abbie Polivka’s diesel passion back far enough, you’ll find that it has roots all the way back to her father. When he was 16, he bought his first truck and rebuilt it from the ground up. Years later when this southern Connecticut girl was born, the build was still a big part of the family.
“I always wanted to have a truck like dad’s big block Chevy,” Abbie says. “I remember being a little girl and going out plowing and on drives with my dad in that truck, and going to classic car shows with my parents.”
When Abbie was in high school, she followed in her father’s footsteps and bought her first daily driver. But because it had a 302 gas motor, she knew she really needed something better for fuel mileage. Abbie started checking out diesel trucks and found a lot of great options.
“But I couldn’t bear the thought of not driving my truck around everyday,” Abbie shares. “I decided to just build my truck up and diesel swap it. Combine my two loves.”
Abbie and her mother hit the web for an old body style Ford, and though it took some time, they eventually struck gold.
“I came home one day and my mom said she thought she found the perfect one. And she was most definitely right. It was the perfect one,” Abbie grins.
She took a day to make the drive and check it out in person, and all it took was one test run to know right then it was the one.
“There was just some sort of connection with it I will never be able to explain,” she says. “Being 15 when I got it, all I could do was stare at it in the yard and wash it every day. It was what I learned how to drive on, worked on my farm with, my every day driver for high school, eventually college and still my daily driver to this day even though it’s more a show truck now.”
The Big Swap
Abbie had big plans for her truck. She did a 4BT P-Pump Cummins swap with custom fabrication and parts as well as special adapters from big rigs and tractors to keep her stock e4od transmission.
“Being an extended cab flareside, it’s already very rare. I wanted to make it even more so. Not many people have done 4BT swaps, and out of the ones who did, no one kept the stock transmission and axles. So I decided to make it complicated and keep them the same,” she explains.
Next, Abbie installed a custom vacuum pump brake system, mounts and brackets, wiring, and a new computer. A three-inch body lift and six-inch suspension lift were followed by new Fuel Krank wheels wrapped in hefty 37-inch Pro Comp A/T sport tires. ARP head studs, head gaskets, and valve work touched off the transformation under the hood up to this point.
Abbie shares, “Fuel mileage more than tripled and was definitely worth all the hard work. There was most definitely a lot of planning that went into the swap and it was by far the best decision I’ve made for the truck. The hardest part was working out all the bugs once everything was complete. Every time something happened I was always stranded on the side of the road in pajamas trying to fix it (I hardly ever drive in pajamas and slippers!). After blowing a head gasket after the swap, the APR studs most definitely helped.”
Abbie turned her attention to revamping the interior and next bought brand-new carpet, custom fit leather heated seats from a VW Tiguan, and custom interior lights. She added new doors, fenders, cab and body mounts, and cab corners. Abbie also had one-of-a-kind headlights made and installed a custom fiberglass hood. She did all her own body work and repair, and her father completed the look with a bold blue-and-white custom paint job done outside in the yard.
And Abbie couldn’t be happier.
“All the work most definitely made it more unique and hopefully an inspiration to others,” she says.
The industry being what it is, however, Abbie has had some trouble facing down negativity while working on her truck.
“The stereotypes make it hard for us girls who are mechanically inclined to be involved,” she points out. “I get a lot of hassle for doing a 4BT swap and am constantly defending my decision and the fact that I actually do work on my own truck. Obviously I couldn’t do a complete diesel swap on my own, but I most definitely do what I can and always want to learn what I don’t.”
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On the flipside of the coin, Abbie has been bolstered by a lot of encouragement. Her parents play a huge role, and Abbie has also been grateful for the help and friendship of Christopher Brunner, Joe Bertholet, Jason Beebe of M&J Auto Recycling, and the OBS Brotherhood administrators.
“I’m hoping to be a girl who can change how people view us and get the same respect for the hard work that a man gets,” she says. “You will always get those keyboard warriors wanting to bring you down and make you second-guess all your work, or the pigs that comment on how you look versus the build itself. You can’t take it personally or let it deter you. No matter what others tell you, trucks make us all equal. You yourself are your own best encouragement. People won’t take you seriously and you’ll have to prove yourself every step of the way. Do what makes you happy and don’t let anyone stand in the way of that.”
Now Abbie is looking forward to refinishing her truck’s frame, finishing the fiberglass bed repair and getting new front end suspension, compound turbo setup, and dual air intake. And as she’s starting to go to more shows, she notices, “Brand-new trucks with brand-new parts always win. It’s very hard to compete with minimal money and a truck that is even older than I am. But to me it’s about doing the build and not how much money you have to spend.”
You can check out her progress on Instagram at @ford_girl95. And remember—as Abbie likes to put it—"Never give up or take the easy way out; hard work pays off and you'll always have something to be proud of and the honor to say you didn't quit.”
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