This article originally featured in the September 2022 issue.
Justin Helms has always been an active and adventurous Utah born-and-raised guy. He’s enjoyed riding dirt bikes, wakeboarding, and snowboarding for as far back as he can remember. But he also has a love for customizing diesel trucks. How he obtained that love, however, is a rather unfortunate but also uniquely epic story!
When he was 13, he was having a typical day snowboarding at Snowbasin Resort in Utah. And it was a great day of riding the mountain and enjoying the snowy slopes. But things went sideways, literally, when he over rotated doing a backflip and landed on his neck, breaking his C5, C6, and T1 vertebrae. Justin was in the hospital for two weeks after the incident, and for any of you out there who don’t know, getting bored while in the hospital is nigh unavoidable. But in his hospital room, there was a diesel magazine that caught his eye, and he decided to read it to help kill the recovery time.
And that’s how Justin got into diesel trucks.
“I liked the style of trucks and how aggressive they looked, along with the big cloud of black smoke that was cool as a young teenager,” Justin reflected.
Since then, he’s tinkered with a few trucks here and there, learning from YouTube videos and the good ol’ fashioned trial and error process, but getting better and more creative as time goes on. And, having all of his welding certifications, he has the ability to get pretty creative. But two years ago, he bought his 2006 Silverado 2500HD with the LT3 engine package from a friend. He liked the truck but he wanted something built, not bought!
“The truck was rough, full of dents, scratches, rust, missing parts… I thought it would be a fun first diesel project,” Justin said.
And he has gone all the way with his project! With the interior, he has installed black canvas carpet, Manicci diamond stitch floor mats, two 8-inch JL Audio subs and amp, and a Kenwood deck. With the exterior, he’s added a 15 percent tint, a welded roll pan, slapped on new 24x14 Fittipaldi forged wheels secured in place with spike lug nuts and wrapped in 33x13.50R24 Versatyre tires, Spyder tail lights and a third brake light, RGB rock lights, DNA Motoring headlights, a bed cover, Boost mirrors, a bullet antenna, Pro Form Fabrication traction bars, and a G2 rear differential cover—but these aren’t the most stunning highlights of the exterior.
Not only has Justin added a Moog front end that’s been powder-coated with purple mirage by Prismatic Powders, he’s also added a two-tone paint of 1G3 Toyota Gray and Chevy Black which is where his truck's name, [Two Tone Betty], comes from.
Then there’s what’s under the hood of this truck: an HSP high flow bundle kit, a Wehrli Custom Fabrication radiator pipe, a Dan’s Diesel Performance 64mm Stage 2 performance turbo, a TransGo shift kit, and a FASS 165 fuel lift pump.
And remember how Justin has all of his welding certifications? Well, he’s done a fair amount of custom work as well with the help of his friend, Kurtis Sarjeant, such as the fuse box cover and radiator shroud, battery covers, 8-inch exhaust tip, and those personality-stamped “Locally Hated” custom mud flaps!
And it seems that all of his work has been recognized. He has taken his truck to a lot of shows all across Utah. His truck gets a lot of attentive looks—some good, and some bad, but if his custom mud flaps are a testament to anything, he doesn’t give much stock to the negative opinions from others about his truck. It’s his build, and he’s done what he wants with it. But when he took his truck to the Gasoline Garage show in St. George, Utah, his truck actually won the award for the best dressed engine.
“It wasn’t a super big show, but it was still fun,” Justin recalled.
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a big show. Recognition is still recognition, not that Justin needed it or was even looking for it. Nevertheless, he loves his truck.
“The build means a lot to me. I'm proud of what I've done with the truck since I've gotten it. Many hours in body work, installing lights, powder coat, and performance parts, but it's all been worth it,” Justin said.
Justin isn’t the only one in his family who enjoys working with engines. He’s actually a third-generation vehicle enthusiast. Both his dad and his granddad have been an inspiration for his efforts on his truck as they both have restored classic cars from the 30s through the 60s for over 20 years each. Combined, they’ve built more than 50 cars from the ground up.
Now, to undiscerning eyes, it may not seem like there’s much difference between classic cars and diesel trucks. But anyone who knows the difference understands that there is a bit of a leap between the two automotive passions.
“I like diesel over gas for the power and reliability, plus you can’t beat the smell or sound.”
No, no you can’t beat the smell or the sound. It seems as though Justin fell into the classic children’s trap of sniffing at the air to smell the fuel at the pumps. And don’t worry, Justin, we all do it too!
Justin has done all of the modifications to his truck with the goal of having it stand out from the rest. He wanted something different, and he knew his own two hands were the best way of bringing his image to life.
“I'd say my favorite mod would be the Fittipaldi forged wheels. It makes the truck more aggressive and pop!” Justin elaborated.
But he’s not done. And is any build ever truly done? Justin plans on adding a star light headliner and diamond stitch seats to match his floors. Is he going to add something else? We’ll have to wait and see. And who knows what ideas he’s going to come up with if the result of breaking his neck was getting into diesel trucks.
Boost Auto Parts
Dan’s Diesel Performance
FASS Diesel Fuel Systems
MOOG Suspension Parts
Powder Custom Coatings
Pro Form Fabrication
Wehrli Custom Fabrication