Vintage Truck: Paymaster – The Tesla Semi Of Its Time


I love stories like the one about how this very advanced truck called the Paymaster came to be. No, it wasn’t from the advanced engineering department at one of the big truck builders. Trucker Dean Hobbensiefken, based near Portland, Oregon, decided in the late ’60s that he could design a better truck, one more efficient, easier to service, more reliable, and one that also looked a lot more advanced than the crackerboxes being built at the time. He went to it, and the result was the Paymaster. I’m pretty sure this is the prototype he essentially hand built, based on the date and how the later ones differed. Well, that and this looks like a typical Oregon setting and load, plywood “skins” heading for the plywood mill.

Hobbensiefken managed to attract the interest of Ryder, the largest fleet lessor in the country, and a handful were built. Not exactly a success, but hey, here we are talking about it 50 years later. The Paymaster is immortal.

Apparently Hobbenskiefken built two prototypes that got the attention of Ryder, which then had ten built. Some say they were built by Hendrickson, which would make sense as Ryder certainly had no facilities to do so. What made the Paymaster so different? Well, obviously its cab was aerodynamic, and set far forward. That allowed the whole “power unit”, which consisted of a Detroit Diesel 6V-71 and Fuller RT-910 transmission to have unparalleled access and made it possible to remove it in under two hours. A Cummins VT-903 was optional.

The radiator is right behind the cab, fed by the two scoops. The Paymaster’s aerodynamics were vastly better than the boxy COE’s of the time.  Instead of fuses, circuit breakers readily accessible were used. Other maintenance-friendly aspects were incorporated throughout, including no belts to break. Super single tires. Fresh thinking…

Apparently there was a version with more extensive fairings for the trailer. This looks quite a bit ahead of its time, for 1975.

Definitely evokes the Tesla semi.

Here’s another at work.

This looks to be one of the two prototypes. That appears to be Hobbenskiefken trucking company on the door. Note the super single tires.

What happened? The 1973-1974 energy crisis and resulting recession hit trucking very hard, and Ryder bailed. Apparently two more were built somewhere, making a total of 14 built.