The History of Monster Trucks
For the past few decades, monster trucks have been entertaining the masses, crushing other vehicles, and taking dirt jumps to the extreme. These gargantuan vehicles have become known for their over-sized tires, customized bodies, and freestyle tricks—but monster trucks weren’t always what they are today.
So, how did these hulking, destructive trucks come to be? Well, it all started with Bigfoot.
And no, I’m not talking about the Sasquatch.
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From Bigfoot to Grave Digger: The Evolution of Monster Trucks
Heavily modified trucks were a popular trend during the 1970s, and their popularity was only enhanced by the sports of mud bogging and tractor pulling. Several truck owners created lifted trucks to perform at peak level, outfitting the vehicles with tires that topped out at 48 inches. One of the biggest trucks was Bob Chandler’s Bigfoot, which is considered the first-ever monster truck.
In 1981, Chandler decided to drive over some cars to test the truck’s capabilities, becoming the first large truck to do so (on record, at least). Chandler’s video tape of the feat eventually got into the hands of an event promoter, who decided that this could be the next big spectacle to entertain audiences. Bigfoot went on to perform at various small shows, eventually debuting at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982. It is at this event that the truck, outfitted with 66-inch tires, caused the “monster truck” name to be coined.
After Bigfoot started the tradition of driving over cars, other “monster trucks” decided to join in on the fun. In the beginning, these trucks mostly just drove slowly over old cars as a sideshow attraction during tractor-pulling events. While these monster truck shows are nothing like the shows we see nowadays, they were nonetheless exciting, bold feats for that time.
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Over the course of the next few years, technology and driving skills improved, and the craze continued. In the 1980s, the United States Hot Rod Association (USHRA) realized this and began organizing and booking stunt shows across the country. In 1995, it created an official touring show called Monster Jam.
Operated by Feld Entertainment, the Monster Jam franchise really took the sport to new heights–creating bigger, better, and more capable truck bodies, motors, and suspensions. Rules were established, along with a variety of safety measures that ensured monster truck drivers would be protected during the more dangerous stunts. The rise of Monster Jam introduced “celebrity” trucks like the famous Grave Digger.
These changes allowed the sport to evolve, pulling away from their tractor-pulling origins. Now, monster trucks as we know them entertain the masses at shows around the world–from the USA to Australia. The tours run through winter and spring, culminating in the Monster Jam World Finals every March in Las Vegas.
- Caitlin MoranEditor
A born-and-raised Jersey girl, Caitlin Moran lives in Dayton, Ohio at the moment and loves getting down and nerdy with English. After recently graduating from the University of Dayton with her Masters in English Literature, Caitlin is now combining her love of writing and cars for The News Wheel. She is also continuing her love affair with traveling, broadening her knowledge of foreign automobiles. See more articles by Caitlin.