Thursday, February 9, 2012

UD student auto-biography -- Katelyn Diehl: Speed, a Red Truck, and a 1965 Shelby Cobra

Katelyn Diehl
January 25, 2012
HST 344 – Dr. Heitmann
Speed is a word that very easily defines my life. My parents told me that I was walking by time I was 8 months old, and talking full sentences by 10 months. My father had me in a “souped-up” Fisher-Price Power Wheels Jeep by the time I was a year old. He had replaced the batter with a 12-Volt car battery so that I had more juice, and he put screws in the tires since they were plastic and had no traction. My “life-size” plastic doll, Megan, and I would ride around the front yard for hours. I loved that jeep! I even allowed my cousin, Don (who is four months older than me); take it for spin around the yard. A few seconds after he slammed my precious jeep into a tree – I looked at him and asked “what’s the matter with you?” I only know this part of the story because my Aunt retells it all the time because that’s how they knew Don needed classes at such a young age – glad I could help out!
As I continued to grow, I became too tall for the jeep and could no longer fit inside. By the age of four my dad had built me a better set of wheels. I had my very own go-cart. It was black and had foam rails that were wrapped with black electrical tape. I would ride over the drive way and the cart would stop suddenly because I was so short that my behind came off the seat and therefore my foot off the gas. My father then installed a 5-point harness that strapped me in tight. I would ride around the back yard until my arms hurt from the non-power steering.
At age sever came the quad-runner, age nine the mini-bike, and age ten came the Yamaha Warrior ATV. When I was eight years old I really started helping dad out in the garage. He decided he wanted to build a four-seat sand rail. He even let me pick the color of the powder coat for the frame. My favorite color was purple at the time, and sure enough, dad came home from Michigan with a very purple frame. He knew it would stick out since not many buggies were a “girlie” color. I helped him as much as I could by putting nuts on bolts and holding tools for him as he worked. I was also small enough to climb under the buggy while it was sitting on the ground so I always volunteered to hold stuff from under the frame. After it was complete my family spent many nights riding around town. Every summer we vacationed at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes up in Michigan and camped at the state park. I was always egging dad on from the back seat telling him to go faster over the dunes, although my mother and younger brother were always nervous. I enjoyed listening to my dad talk to questioning people walking by the campsite about the work and effort he put into the buggy. I will always miss those buggy rides.
As my automotive historical timeline continues, around the age of twelve my dad was thinking about selling “The Red Truck”. It’s a ’79 Step side Chevy that he bought new and installed a winch on the front and used it to haul many things. When I was young, Dad would take me for rides through town and I would yell “faster daddy, faster!” So, I begged him not to sell the truck, and he didn’t. Instead, he decided that he wanted to re-build it. In 2003 the project began, and I was in the barn with him helping him with the engine compartment. He had major back surgery a few months prior, and was not supposed to be lifting things. So, I was his “right-hand man”. Together we put in a 496 big block blower, bench seats, a wood-panel bed, all chrome parts underneath, and new head lights. We took the motor to a shop in Richmond to put it on a “dyno” (dynamometer). Its peak was 786 horsepower – “YEEEEEE-HAAAAWWWWW!” This project is what started me into the engineering track for college. We only take the truck to shows when it’s completely sunny and no chance of rain. My parent’s care for their vehicles has instilled a better appreciation in my actions.
After my father’s first major back surgery, he was forced to medically retire – hence the truck project. Well, after making every part on that truck chrome and getting the truck exactly the way he wanted it to look and run, he decided he needed something else. On September 9, 2008 the Factory 5 Racing kit for a ’65 Shelby Cobra arrived in the mail. Dad had always loved these cars, so he decided he was going to build one for himself. He worked long hours in the barn, and only came in when he had to. He installed seat warmers per my mother’s request, a back-up camera, a RADAR detector/jammer, a surround sound radio with DVD player and subwoofer. He finally took it out on the road for the first time on July 4, 2010. It was a very memorable moment that I was happy I got to witness. Unfortunately, since I was at college most of those two years, I couldn’t help as much as I wanted to. But, I am very pleased that dad allows me to drive it in the warmer months. I love hitting that pedal and hearing the engine roar! We take it to many car shows and I love listening to my dad talk about it to other people. He’s proud of his work and people can definitely appreciate his effort (if they aren’t idiots and actually know what they’re talking about).
My love of cars even got me into a co-op position down in Greenville, South Carolina. I went to work for BMW Manufacturing at their Spartanburg plant. I spent two semesters there and loved every minute of it. I was one of the lucky students who got to drive the automobiles as part of my job. I would drive the auto over cobblestone events and listen for any type of noise I could hear. BMW being a luxury brand, the car is supposed to be silent for the most part. I then, would take apart the car and try to find the culprit and a way to fix the issue. It was a lovely job, but when I was frustrated I was able to take the cars to the track and press my foot to floor and take my anger out that way. “Red-lining” the X6 Motorsport at 8500RPM is one of the best feelings in the world. I am very much my father’s daughter in the sense that I have no fear behind a wheel – I loved that job!
I am now at present-day in my timeline, and realize I have failed to mention the car I started driving in. I have a ’95 Chevy Blazer that we bought off my uncle. It was my older cousin’s car. It was in great shape and even had a cool radio that would turn flat screen when powered off. My dad put two 12” speakers and an amplifier in it so I could look “cool” at high school. I would wash it once a week, and clean and sweep it out every other week. I played volleyball, basketball, and softball, so from books, changes of clothes, softball bags, and muddy cleats – my car was a mess quite often. But, needless to say, I was voted for the senior superlative for the yearbook as “best car”! It was a happy day. An even happier day was back in October of this year, on the 23rd of 2011, when I accepted a full-time job offer from Cummins, Inc. I will be starting work as a mechanical engineer on June 11, 2012. I will be living in Columbus, Indiana and designing the 11.9 and 15.0 liter engines. It amazes me the path that my life took and where I’m headed!

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