Cris Payne, the Truck Guru: Pushing the Envelope of Custom Truck Design

Cris Payne, aka the Truck Guru, is a big fish in the world of trucks. His crazy SEMA builds have been blowing people’s minds every November for the last few years and before that his heavily modified Toyota Tundras changed people’s ideas of what could be possible with an imported truck. He has a massive social media presence and has built solid relationships with a number of top brands and currently sits at the top of his game. You’d be forgiven for thinking that with all that notoriety, he’d be kind of a jerk but you’d be wrong. Cris is a humble and likable guy who wants to help other people succeed in the industry.

Cris got his start with cars and trucks at a young age. He grew up in the sleepy town of Taft, CA, population 8,978 with a high school auto shop teacher as a dad. He spent a good portion of his youth elbow deep in whatever cars he could find before getting involved in the import car scene. As he got older he eventually came to the conclusion that a man should have a truck and purchased a 2007 Toyota Tundra, the first year of the second generation. This big, black Tundra was a gateway to the automotive industry for Cris. He began to seriously modify the truck and developed quite a following on various truck forums under the name “BigBlackTundra”. During this time, he began evangelizing for the brands who’s parts he was using on his truck. This was done initially with little to no expectation of remuneration by the brands in question.

Eventually, Cris got so good at marketing his truck that Rolling Big Power, aka RBP, owner Roland took notice and reached out to see who this BigBlackTundra guy was. After a conversation with Cris, Roland decided to show his appreciation for the business that was being sent his way and had Cris pick out some wheels, etc. from their website. As Cris says, “It was all downhill from there!”

Cris continued to become more and more involved in the modified Toyota truck scene, eventually finding his way to the online car community CarDomain where his truck was the #1 feature for three years. Cris and Roland decided to go into business together and started, a destination for Tundra enthusiasts everywhere. The business bloomed and eventually, Cris decided to step away from the business and from Toyotas to join the world of diesel trucks.

The diesel truck community was a drastic change from Toyota and Cris dove headlong into the world of oil-burners. He began to modify his Dodge Ram in his unique style, eventually coming up with the idea of putting a lifted Jeep in the back of his lifted truck, an idea that came to fruition at SEMA 2014 and one that also caused quite a stir. SEMA trucks are a big part of Cris’ oeurve, with no less than 18 trucks on display at the 2015 event and 21 trucks slated for this year’s show.

Cris’ high level of marketing prowess has taken him to places he never thought he’d go. He has an opportunity to live his dream and build trucks for a living. He works with some of the best and most respected brands in the industry and gets to display his trucks all over the country, even in major motion pictures. Cris recently had his truck show up in the latest installment of the Fast and the Furious film series, Fast 7. He’s in the process of starting a new business called Direct Off-Road, based in Bakersfield, CA which will provide all kinds of exciting parts and services to the truck community and he has also started a business providing renderings of vehicles to customers called TG Renderings.

Cris is a pillar of the truck community as well as one of its chief innovators and we’re excited to see what kinds of mind bending ideas he comes up with next!