Pete Hill

Pete Hill was born in Greenville, S.C., in 1932. A dragracer and builder of high-performance Harley-Davidson motors, Hill earned multiple top-fuel dragracing championship titles. In 1948, the teen-aged Hill built his first dragracing machine—based on a Harley-Davidson Knucklehead—in an attempt to better a friend’s Triumph. His efforts paid off. Early in his career Hill worked as an auto body repairman, but in 1976 he and his wife, Jackie, opened a performance motorcycle shop in Greenville. In 1981, Hill won his first International Drag Bike Association (IDBA) championship title. That year he also won the AMA Dragbike Top Fuel title aboard a modified 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. He went on to win four more IDBA titles, and four titles with the American Motorcycle Racing Association (AMRA). Jackie served as Pete’s crew chief throughout his race career. In 1979 the IDBA presented the Hills with the First Family of Drag Racing award. Hill retired from racing in 1994, and was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1990.

Accomplished Harley-Davidson drag racer. IDBA third place 1979, second place 1980, first place 1981.

Should a racer on the way up try to adopt the traits and skills of other experienced and successful drivers?

A lot of the guys that were inventing the sport were out in California, likes of Chet Herbert, and other guys running nitro Harleys,and of course you couldn't glean much information from them guys because you were so far away and we read everything in magazines to see what's happening and see the times and the speed. We just tried our best to get there.

©and credit-Charlie Brewton

What’s your advice for a young rider that wants to be drag racing standout?

These days it's so technical that the first thing is to get a good education. Do you know you just can't fathom these things without being so tech savvy. The bikes today are so highly developed now that you almost need a college degree just to understand how they work. So get a good education!

Could you talk about your husband and wife team, Pete and Jackie, in business and in racing?

I had done some street racing with organizations before I met Jackie and before I ever went into the service in the late 1940's. We met and she kind of pushed things as she liked the excitement and after we married and as the kids got a little older she started pushing to rebuild and get back into racing as she liked the excitement.(CHUCKLE) It's been a partnership and I couldn't have done without her being 100% behind everything.

©and credit-Charlie Brewton

©and credit-Charlie Brewton

What’s more desirable for a racing team, consistency or speed?

You have to be able to make the whole race. Thats the whole thing. A lot of guys go out and try to run a big number but I know I always went for the win and so I would try to last the rounds it took to get to the winners circle. You have to have that energy, that drive to get there. It's a lot of hard hard work, money and effort to get there.

Many people have never been on a motorcycle. Almost all folks have never raced a motorcycle. Can you describe a typical run?

It's more exciting after it's over. Your reflexes and everything takes over. You sit there waiting and you get the call to fire up and do the burnout, and any kind of butterflies are gone and you just concentrate on the job ahead. Then things happen so quick your mind can hardly comprehend what is coming and your reflexes just take over. Then later you debrief; say at supper, "Boy that pass I made at so and so happened so fast" you didn't even realize you did it! If you don't have the reflexes these things are animals and they will take over and you'll be off of it before you realize whats going on.

©and credit-Charlie Brewton

What’s meant the most to you being inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame?

It's kind of humbling you know; you don't really think you deserve it. You never think you're good enough for people to warrant that you are one of the best there is and you deserve it.

What did you like most about drag racing in Top Fuel motorcycles?

WINNING! Winning is the absolutely the biggest high you can get.

Do you want to share any more moments in your career that were significant and memorable?

There is so many. We had a chance to go to Europe and race, and going to Australia and race; then going to Canada; racing all over Canada, to the West Coast, AND we won 50% of our West Coast trips. And being in the business. And they are memorable and they are all jewels.

©and credit-Charlie Brewton

Talking to Pete was an absolute pleasure. I asked him about Jim McClure as I did a website for Jim many years ago and that I had grown up on Grand Island and hung around with Puppet and Paul Gast and our early days of dragbike racing. Pete stated he was very good friends with Jim and that Jim was also a good competitor.

©and credit-Charlie Brewton

Questions by Dwight Drum and interview suggestion by Mary Lou Brewton, credited images by Charlie Brewton.


Copyright 2014