'Ol Yellar' 2005 International PayStar coal dumper, dressed out by father and son

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A Cummins ISX powers this 2005 International PayStar, outfitted with a Reynolds dump body to haul coal -- top speed just above 50 mph with the 7.83 ratio. "It's built for pulling," said owner Chris Helton, headquartered in Virginia with his small fleet Topher Trucking.

Bought as a cab and chassis about two years ago, Helton said it'd been off-road for about 15 years and was pretty rough before he and his son, Landon, set to work dressing it up as something of a company flagship rig. Certainly a flagship for Helton, anyway. Overdrive caught up with Chris Helton out at the Large Cars & Guitars truck show in Kodak, Tennessee, in early May.

Helton took over his dad's two-truck business in 2000, and the small fleet's size has fluctuated ever since, generally trending larger. Today the mostly straight dump-focused business features 19 units in what is a 365-days-a-year business. Topher Trucking's got "trucks running pretty much 'round the clock" hauling out hot foundry coke to a storage area before it's shipped out across the country, he said.

Chris Helton and son, LandonThe "Ol' Yellar" 2005 International project served as something Landon's father could involve him in (both are pictured) to help him learn more about the family business's equipment.All photos by Todd Dills unless otherwise noted

The project 2005 Paystar is personal for Chris Helton in other ways, too.

He had a 1999 model he'd brought into shape much like this one in earlier times that he ultimately sold. "I always wanted another one," he said, and the PayStar here fit the bill.

It's dressed up inside and out with numerous pieces custom-cut at Landon's direction, including the stainless panel featuring running lights toward the rear from the driver side steps.It's dressed up inside and out with numerous pieces custom-cut at Landon's direction, including the stainless panel featuring running lights toward the rear from the driver side steps.

Chris Helton 2005 International PayStar lights at nightLandon's responsible, too, for the choice of so many Trux Dual Revolution lights, LEDs that can shift from blue to amber.Courtesy of Chris Helton

Catch much more about the rig in the video up top, including a short haul through the interior.

Interior main dash of the 2005 PayStarBright trim below the dash and on and below the glove box are part of the Heltons' interior custom-cut additions.

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Coal kickerWhat's with the "awning" -- is that a little visor? -- on the portion of the bed overhanging the the door? Helton noted the "coal kicker," as he called it, is intended to deflect material away from the cab that might miss the bed during load. He fashioned a polished aluminum piece on both sides of the bed to give it the look of a bright visor, he said.

And: If you're looking at the unit thinking that front double-bumper treatment is unique -- admittedly, we suspected it was, too. 

Topher Trucking '05 PayStar with American flag Mountain Tarp raisedYet turns out in coal country in western Virginia, Helton said, "most of the Paystars have a dual bumper."

[Related: 'Ribbon Runner' cancer-awareness and tribute 1998 Pete 379 dump making waves]

Find plenty more views of and information about the rig in the video up top, and for more videos and custom-equipment features delivered to your email inbox, subscribe to Overdrive's weekly Custom Rigs newsletter via this link.


Chris Helton: There's a lot of custom pieces. You can't buy a whole lot for an International, you're going to make a lot of it. We bought it as the cab and chassis. It's an 05 model. We bought it about two years ago and it's got an ISX Cummins in it. An eight speed. It's got the 7.83 380 Rockwell rear ends. 7.83 ratio, top speed's about 52 mph, made for pulling, not speed.

We put the body on in January of last year, when the body was put on it. It's a Reynolds truck equipment body, down out Kentucky. We put a new body on it. When Reynolds built the bed, they build them, they call 'em like “coal kickers” or something, and we, when they’re loading you, if a piece of lump or coal falls, it won't hit the cab. It hits that, shoots it back out this way.

And then we had 'em covered up with aluminum. That way we could polish it out and make it look like a visor on the side of the bed.

Like I said, it was rough when we bought it, it'd been off-road for about 15 years. We went from the ground up.

Todd Dills: Landon, your dad was telling me that you brought a lot of the ideas to the truck.

Landon Helton: I brought that centerpiece there. I had that idea and my idea was put an American flag tarp on it and yeah, we put that.

Chris Helton: Most of 'em have black ones. We just put that American flags on it and he wanted something different. Same kind, same kind of system. Yeah, same kind of Mountain Tarp. Flipped up seal. Got an electric motor on the other side of the cab shield and we got a switch in the cab.

Todd Dills: Are you required to have those?

Chris Helton: Yeah, we've got have something to cover the load with. The state of Virginia and the company both want it on there. The Dual Revolution lights was Landon’s idea. We can turn 'em orange so we put that stainless piece behind the steel and everything to make it look solid. We put the flotation front tires and stuff on it, had the Dayton wheels like it does on the back. It's got them simulators on it right now, and we put a grille and visor and everything on it, and the double bumper.

Most of the PayStars back home, about all of them have double bumpers really. It makes 'em look a lot better.

Got 180,000 miles on it. Yeah, the hours is the thing that kills us. So believe it's got 29,000 hours on it. Yeah, it's pretty factory but we had a lot of chrome and everything. Made a few pieces for it on the inside of it. I used three pieces on the bottom of the door and the pieces on the bottom of the dash. You can order this piece but we had to cut one down to put the key switch and everything in, a lot of time and a lot of effort in it.

I've been driving for 25 years now. My dad started back before I did and then when I come up we kind of swapped the company names and I took over, was back in 2000. We were running two trucks then, and then we got up to 12, then we sold some and now we're back up to 19 altogether.

Todd Dills: And these are all big dump trucks I'm guessing, right? Though you did say you had a couple of tractors though, right? Yeah, I got a ‘87 model Freightliner and a B model Kenworth, but we don't do much with them right now. We are moving the coke around for Suncoke Energies and they're making a foundry coke and we get it from the truckload out when it's hot and take it over to another storage area and then they load it on tractors and ship it out to Canada. And about everywhere. Everywhere you can think of. We work seven days a week, 365 days a year. Trucks run pretty well around the clock.

Todd Dills: Why yellow?

Chris Helton: Well it’s the factory color of the truck, and we just went with yellow and I had one that was ‘99 model I had fixed up almost like this. I sold it and I always wanted one back. It stands out.

Todd Dills: Easy to see.

Chris Helton: Yeah, it is bright.