Out of storage and on the road: Taking the International Lonestar Blade for a spin

By: Matt Wood, Photography by: Matt Wood


IMG 5276 Few trucks seem to polarise opinion as much as the International Lonestar. IMG 5276
IMG 5278 The badge may proudly proclaim 1000hp, but the reality is a lot different. IMG 5278
IMG 5295 There’s something to be said for a big Yank sleeper, and the one in the Lonestar is a cracker. IMG 5295
IMG 5298 It takes a little time to adjust to swapping cogs with the right hand instead of the left. IMG 5298

Love it or hate it, the International Lonestar makes a statement.

 

As someone who can be quite often found staring vacantly at pretty lights, it’s probably no surprise to anyone that I happen to quite like the look of International America’s flagship Lonestar.

Few trucks seem to polarise opinion as much as the International Lonestar. Its hipster retro hotrod is either loved or despised in equal measure.

International likes to call the design ‘Advanced Classic’. I prefer shiny and swoopy.

The in- your-face homage to the old International KB pick-up with some aerodynamic inspiration added into the mix makes for a very lairy and very public visual statement. And that’s just in stock form.

It could be said that the star of last year’s Brisbane Truck Show was the customised Lonestar Blade taking pride of place on the Navistar Auspac stand.

All flames, chrome and brash attitude, the stretched bling machine also loudly claimed 1000hp via custom badges on its flanks. OK, shiny and oomph. Now my attention was piqued.

The truck itself was built by the Regional International Group, an International truck dealer network that covers western New York and Pennsylvania. The truck took centre stage at the 2008 Mid America Truck Show (MATS) where the Lonestar was unveiled to a rather stunned public. It must have made an impact as the Lonestar was voted Truck of the Year by American Truck Dealers.

 

IMG_5276

Love it or hate it, the International Lonestar Blade makes a bold statement.

 

In the case of the Blade, the 13- litre Maxxforce-powered Lonestar was completely torn down in a cab-off custom rebuild.

The wheelbase was stretched to 7.7m before the battery boxes and fuel tanks were relocated. The tanks themselves were painted before custom tank straps were installed. To enhance its smooth aero look, fuel fillers were relocated in-board behind a flap and hidden from view.

The cab was bathed in a rather fetching silver colour before a combination of tribal and traditional blue flames were applied. If you happen to stare at the flame job for long enough, which I sadly did, you’ll notice that the word ‘Navistar’ is hidden amongst the swirling paint. Think of it as a ‘Where’s Wally’ for the trucking tragics out there.

The radiator grille also got the blue flame treatment as well as the head of the Maxxforce powerplant. All gaseous emissions exited the mill via a couple of towering 8-inch sooters. Plenty of bullet lights and LEDs were screwed to the Blade as well a full 20m of blue LED strip lighting.

Just to ice the low profile Lonestar cake, a custom drop visor was installed as well as some bespoke build alloys.

Love it or hate it, the Blade certainly commands attention where ever it goes.

 

IMG_5295

Everything is bigger in the US, including a truck's sleeper.

 

Following its appearance in Brisbane, the Blade has been hidden away in storage.

I recently got wind of this and harassed the bejesus out of the team at Navistar Auspac to let me take it for a drive. The conversation pretty much went like this: "Can I drive it?"

"No."

"Can I drive it?"

"No!"

"Can I, can I, can I, can I, can I?"

"Oh bloody hell, all right then!"

The only problem was that I couldn’t drive it on the road. The American Lonestar is too wide for Aussie regulations, it’s still a left hooker and it’s got those pointy wheel nut covers that the authorities worry will shred native wildlife to bits.

But we did find a paddock big enough for me to take it for a spin and still make it into top ‘box in the 18-speed Road Ranger.

It was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm as I drove in the gate and laid eyes on the silver and blue beast again.

 

IMG_5278

Looks impressive, but there are only half the number of horses in this Lonestar.

 

The stretched chassis and custom adornment to make it a very striking vehicle to look at – even if it does look a little out of place in the Australian bush.

I fired up the Maxxforce donk and let all the gauges and lights do their thing before depressing the clutch and grabbing a gear. Even though the engine turned out to be less than reliable in the couple of years after its release, this one sounded pretty tough as it gargled at the sky through the big shiny chimneys behind the cab.

I will say that it does take a little time to adjust to swapping cogs with the right hand instead of the left, but I soon adjusted and put the boot into the big International.

Given the lighter American chassis spec and extra-long wheel base it’s fair to say that there was plenty of flex going on in that long smooth chassis.

I can neither confirm nor deny that the tail of said vehicle may have been swung out on a couple of occasions where there was a rush of blood to the head.

The badges on the side may proudly proclaim 1000hp, but in reality lurking underneath the flames is a bog standard 500hp 13-litre.

So being a stock engine there were no streaming contrails of diesel smoke etching the Queensland sky.

There’s also something to be said for a big yank sleeper. The living room with a flip down bed arrangement of the Lonestar’s walk in high-rise apartment block is a cracker.

So I finally managed to tick at least one rather sad little item off the bucket list; I got to take the Blade for a spin.

Unfortunately there were no shop windows to look at myself in, and there wasn’t a road house audience to brag to. But even if it was for the briefest of moments I got to be a super trucker on the highway of my own imagination.

   

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