The Cat fired up readily and idled easily, smokelessly and odorlessly. Gauger climbed into the passenger seat and I punched D for Drive, released the parking brake and we headed out, using a variety of city streets and boulevards, stopping and starting and letting the Allison do the work. It's amazing how an automatic or automated mechanical gearbox completely changes the character of a truck and vastly expands the list of people who could drive it — your stock-broker brother-in-law who's burned out from the rat race or a 40-something neighbor lady whose kids are grown and gone and needs to earn some extra dough, for example. If they both like to drive, they could drive this truck.
Yeah, they'd still need a bit or training because the PayStar is a big and heavy truck and must be respected as such. Gauger had arranged a test load consisting of about 10 tons of crushed stone, bringing gross weight to about 46,400 pounds. It required the Cat to work but not sweat. Acceleration was quick, especially because of the uninterrupted-power feature of a fully automatic transmission, and brakes were strong when the stop signs and traffic lights came up.
The truck's long wheelbase told me to give it some room in turns, but I was leaving way too much during hard-right turns on city streets. That's because the setback front axle's tight wheel cut had me bending the corners quicker than expected. Soon I was spinning the steering wheel sooner and using only the curb lanes of each street.
Freeway travel was even easier. We took Interstate 15 northeast to the Las Vegas Speedway, then swung over to Las Vegas Boulevard which arrows more directly north and intersects with I-15 about 10 miles up. This includes about a mile and a half of 3 percent upgrade which the Cat-Allison team handled well while Gauger and I enjoyed the stark desert scenery. From there it was back south on the interstate to the dealership.
The Allison has electronic controls and six basic ratios, including overdrive 5th and 6th, and these worked well with the 4.56 axle ratio to give the truck some reasonably long legs. Revs were at 1,700 or so at 65 mph — much faster than for a highway engine, but about what Cat prescribes for a vocational model. At lower road speeds the transmission's planetary gear sets provide many more ratios to aid performance, even as its torque converter is locked up to reduce slippage much of the time. Allison's vocational Rough Duty Series includes a case with PTO mounting provisions, but otherwise is no stronger mechanically than highway versions. Any warranty is shorter to reflect the tougher life an RDS is likely to see.
Even with the automatic, the PayStar had all the characteristics of a premium truck, and more. Interior trim was not the top-of-the-line Eagle, but more than fancy enough for me with practical grey cloth-and-Vinyl coverings, and included power windows. The instrument panel was attractive and complete, with the wide, two-segment flat panels sporting a wood-grain finish; many gauges telling me what was happening to the engine and other systems; while electro-mechanical switches to the right controlled locking differentials and other mechanisms. On the floor was a control box for the Warren dump body, which I left alone.
The box sat nearly 2 feet behind the cab to allow enough room for the 18-inch-diameter diesel particulate filter. The cab guard was notched to make some room, but the box could be mounted closer if a cove were built into the bed's corner for the big single exhaust. Or order a horizontal frame-mount DPF with one or two tail pipes, or let the tail pipe exit down below. In any case, the DPF versus body situation needs some careful thought before you'd wrap up any order form.
From my point of view, the PayStar provides true value for the $3,000 or so extra it costs over a similarly equipped up WorkStar. It's as nice to drive as anything out there, and will probably hold up as well as any other premium truck. My quick search of ads on the Net showed PayStars as old as 1978. Maybe International should hold a contest to find theoldest one still working. It might prove something.