Pete Hill was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1932. A dragracer and builder of high-performance Harley-Davidson motors, Pete has earned multiple top-fuel dragracing championship titles. In 1948, the teenaged Hill built his first dragracing machine based on a Harley-Davidson Knucklehead in an attempt to beat a friend’s Triumph. His efforts paid off.
Early in his career, Pete 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 Knucklehead. He went on to win four more IDBA titles, and four titles with the American Motorcycle Racing Association (AMRA). Jackie has proudly served as Pete’s crew chief throughout his entire race career.
In 1979 the IDBA presented the Hills with the First Family of Drag Racing award. Pete retired from racing in 1994, and was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1990. He was also named the AMCA Legend of the Year in 2016. He is truly a Biker Legend. More info may be found in Jackie’s excellent book, “Pete Hill – A Legend on Two Wheels: World’s Fastest Knucklehead.”
When asked what it was like to have his wife also be his crew chief, Pete fondly recalls, “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 along as she liked the excitement. After we married and as the kids got a little older, she started pushing me to rebuild and get back into racing. It's been a wonderful partnership and I couldn’t have done it without her being 100% behind everything.”
When it comes to motorcycle racing, Pete has some great advice for newbies. “You have to be able to make the whole race. That’s 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 winner’s circle. You have to have that energy, that drive to get there. It’s a lot of hard work, money and effort to get there.”
We asked Pete what it was like to pilot a fast Harley on the race track. “It’s more exciting after it’s over,” he laughs. “Your reflexes and everything takes over. You sit there waiting and you get the call to fire up and do the burnout. Any kind of butterflies are gone at that point 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!”
When asked what he likes most about dragracing, Pete told us, “WINNING! Winning is the absolutely the biggest high you can get.”