A monster truck is a specialized truck with a heavy duty suspension, four-wheel steering, and oversized tires constructed for competition and entertainment uses. Originally created by modifying stock...
A monster truck is a specialized truck with a heavy duty suspension, four-wheel steering, and oversized tires constructed for competition and entertainment uses. Originally created by modifying stock pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), they have evolved into purpose-built vehicles with tube-frame chassis and fiberglass bodies rather than metal. A competition monster truck is typically 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, and equipped with 66-inch (1.7 m) off-road tires.
Monster trucks developed in the late 1970s and came into the public eye in the early 1980s as side acts at popular motocross, tractor pulling, and mud bogging events, where they were used in car-crushing demonstrations. Today they are usually the main attraction with motocross, mud bogging, ATV racing, or demolition derbies as supporting events.
Monster truck shows typically have two main events, a race and a freestyle competition. Races are conducted as a single-elimination tournament on short, symmetrical tracks, which may include obstacles such as junk cars or dirt mounds. The length and complexity of the track can vary with the size of the venue, with courses in indoor arenas typically being shorter with fewer obstacles.
In freestyle events, each driver puts on a performance consisting of stunts such as obstacle jumps, backflips, wheelies, and doughnuts. A panel of judges assign points to each performance and the driver with the most points is declared the winner. Historically, additional vehicles for the drivers to crush, such as motor homes and school buses, were placed on the track specifically for the freestyle event. However, incidences of debris flying into the stands and causing serious injuries have influenced most event promoters to turn away from such obstacles. Most freestyle courses now consist mostly of large mounds and ramps erected to allow the trucks to perform large jumps and wheelies upon landing. Freestyle performances have a set time limit and only one truck is allowed on the track at a time as a safety measure. Freestyle events are typically the final competition of a show, as damage to the trucks would make them unable to race.
In the late 1970s, heavily modified pickup trucks were becoming popular and the sports of mud bogging and truck pulling were gaining in popularity. Several truck owners had created lifted trucks to compete in such events, and soon competition to hold the title of "biggest truck" developed. The trucks which garnered the most national attention were Bob Chandler's Bigfoot, Everett Jasmer's USA-1, Fred Shafer and Jack Willman Sr.'s Bear Foot, and Jeff Dane's King Kong. At the time, the largest tires the trucks were running were 48 inches (1.2 m) in diameter.
In April 1981, Bob Chandler drove over junked cars in Bigfoot in what is often believed to be the first monster truck to crush cars. Chandler drove Bigfoot over a pair of cars in a field as a test of the truck's ability, and filmed it to use as a promotional tool in his four-wheel drive performance shop. An event promoter saw the video of the car crush and asked Chandler to do it in front of a crowd. Initially hesitant because of the "destructive" image that could be associated with Bigfoot, Chandler eventually agreed. After some smaller shows, Chandler performed the feat in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982. At this show, Chandler also debuted a new version of Bigfoot with 66-inch tires. At a prior event in the early 1980s, when Bigfoot was still running 48-inch tires, Bob George, one of the owners of a motorsport promotion company named Truck-a-rama – later known as the United States Hot Rod Association (USHRA) – is said to have coined the phrase "monster truck" when referring to Bigfoot. The term "monster truck" became the generic name for all trucks with oversized tires.
King Kong and Bear Foot each followed Bigfoot to 66-inch-diameter (1.7 m) tires, and soon other monster trucks, such as King Krunch, Maddog, and Virginia Giant were being constructed. These early trucks were built on stock chassis which were heavily reinforced, used leaf spring suspension, a stock body, and heavy axles from military-specification vehicles to support the tires.
For most of the early 1980s, monster trucks performed primarily exhibitions as a side show to truck pulling or mud bogging events. In August 1983, Bigfoot and USA-1 competed in the first side-by-side monster truck race, which was filmed for the television show That's Incredible. By 1985 major promoters, such as the USHRA and TNT Motorsports, were racing monster trucks on a regular basis. In 1988, TNT Motorsports created a series to establish the first national championship of monster truck racing; USA-1 and rookie driver Rod Litzau edged out Bigfoot, driven by Rich Hoosier, for the title.