Family has always been a huge part of Eilen & Sons Trucking. While growing up, Jonathan Eilen (28) of Hampton, MN, was always around trucks in some way or another. In 1985, the year Jonathan was born, his dad, Tom Eilen, founded Eilen & Sons Trucking. By the time Jonathan was eight years old, he and his older brothers, Pat and Jake, were already beginning to customize trucks – a tradition that still continues today.
After their annual trip to the truck show held every year in Louisville, KY, the boys would bring back an entire list of new things they wanted on the trucks back home. When a new truck was ordered, it would be left up to one of the Eilen boys to make it custom, right down to paint design and all of the stainless work. A few years later, it finally came time for the boys to start trucking themselves, but don’t think that they started at the top. “We started low and got out all our bumps and bruises, driving dump trucks at first, then moving up to daycabs, and then on to trucks with sleepers,” says Jonathan.
In September 2009 Jonathan purchased his first truck – a 2010 Peterbilt 389 daycab. Not long after purchasing the truck, Jonathan decided to make the rig a rolling memorial to his late brother, Jake, who was tragically killed in November of 2008. Once completed the black and orange flamed Pete dubbed “Iron Afflicted” would go on to turn heads all across the country and bag several awards. In March of 2011 the truck was crowned as the Truck-Lite Trophy Series 2011 Grand Champion, and then in August of that same year it went on to earn the title of National Champion 2011 in the Custom Rigs Pride and Polish truck show series.
Today, Jonathan runs three of his own trucks, along with helping out his dad, who has grown to a total of 55 trucks, including some owner-operators. The majority of Eilen & Sons’ trucks stay within the five states surrounding Minnesota, with the exception of a few over-the-road drivers. The trucks pull dry vans in the winter, liquid tankers in the summer, and end dumps year-round. It is made priority by the Eilens that every driver in the fleet gets home if not every night every weekend, so they can have time off the road to be with their family.
Towards the end of 2011, Jonathan bought a 2007 Peterbilt 379 from Cory Jones. The truck had originally been a daycab until the previous owner took it to Elizabeth Truck Center in Elizabeth, NJ. The guys at ETC installed a 36-inch sleeper, stretched the wheelbase to 280 inches, and painted the floor black and red to match the truck’s exterior. Up until the first of March, Jonathan had not planned on bringing a truck to the Mid-America Trucking Show in 2013. Then, one day he got “a wild hair” and just started taking the truck completely apart – just a little over 20 days before show time!
After the Peterbilt had been completely stripped and the engine was pulled, all of the in-house fabrication began. New battery boxes were made, fuel tanks shaved and shortened, and the back of the sleeper was shaved to keep the smooth look going. New Jones Performance front fenders were installed, along with a 12 Gauge air-ride system on the front axle. The 650-hp ISX Cummins, after being painted to match the rest of the truck, was fitted with a new turbo and manifold from PDI. New rear fenders were purchased and then painted black by the Eilens, then painter Greg Stahl of Top Gun Custom Paint added the detailed red flames. To give the truck an even more custom look, Jonathan had the holes in the rig’s rims bored out to a larger size just to, as he put it, “Make it a step up from the next guy’s truck.”
For the interior, almost nothing within the cabin walls went untouched. Jonathan fabricated the long shifter himself, running all of the wiring and lines inside. Top Gun sprayed more flames inside the cab, painting the dash to match the already-painted floor. A new stereo system was put in, along with a TV back in the sleeper. The dash was also outfitted with Rockwood switch covers and all of the upholstery was redone. Once it was finished, in the short time-frame before the Louisville show, this rig was amazing from the inside out, and from top to bottom!
The quick build proved to be a smart decision when “The Aftermath” arrived at the Mid-America Trucking Show just weeks after the build began. During the duration of the show, folks constantly swarmed the black and Fire Pearl Metallic Peterbilt, showing it was a much-appreciated job well done. On Saturday, the truck was awarded with the huge Best of Show Working Bobtail trophy after earning a 1st place in Paint & Graphics, 1st place in Interior (Cab Only), 1st place in Engine, and 2nd place in its class (2001 and newer – Bobtail). Not many people can say their truck won Best of Show in Louisville! In addition to that awesome accolade, back in 2010 at the show in Louisville, Jonathan’s “Iron Afflicted” Peterbilt earned an even more-impressive award (in our opinion) – the coveted People’s Choice trophy.
Not only do every one of the Eilen’s trucks work, but they all look good while doing it. “Even if I never showed my trucks, I would still customize them – it is my office, and I want my office to always be nice,” says Jonathan. Putting his personal touch on trucks is something that Jonathan sees as an opportunity not only to look super cool, but to make an impact on people that may not see truckers in such a good light. “You may be driving down the road and someone might see your truck and think it’s nice. And who knows, maybe that person has never even thought to look at a truck before,” says Eilen. Taking pride in every one of their rides is just one of things that set the Eilen family apart from many of the others out there.
Outside of trucking, Jonathan’s life is just as busy – he loves spending as much quality family time as possible with his wife, Krystle, and their nine-month-old son, Kelby. During the summer you will see him behind the wheel of the number 77 Ford Fusion. Jonathan races in the ARCA Midwest Tour, a traveling super-late model series. Running about 15 races a summer, his racing takes him all over the Midwest, where he has picked up wins in every state. After racing for almost eleven years, in 2012 Jonathan became more well-known after winning the ASA Midwest Tour Championship.
Jonathan would like to really thank his parents for pointing him in the right direction in life – without their help he wouldn’t be in the place he is today. He would also like to thank his wife, his son, and his brother Pat for all of their support. Along with his family, he wants to thank all of the guys at Eilen & Sons Trucking for all that they do and their willingness to help with all of the on-going builds and projects. Lastly, Jonathan wanted to thank everyone here at 10-4 Magazine for giving the industry a good name and proving that truckers are not just a bunch of “slums” (as he put it). Thanks, Jonathan!
I would like to thank Jonathan for taking time out of his busy schedule for the photo shoot and interview. The day we shot the truck it was raining, but everyone at the Eilen shop helped and everything turned out great. I also want to thank Cheri Kimball and the PKY Truck Beauty Championships for providing some of the pictures for this article (because of the rain that day I wasn’t able to get all of the shots I wanted and needed).
Family is so important to these people, which is why they all step up to help, and in this case, “family” means everyone at Eilen & Sons Trucking – a true family affair. No “slums” here – just a bunch of hard-working, family-oriented, respectable truckers!