There’s a lot more to monster trucks than just rolling over cars. What started as an effort to build better off-roaders has evolved into vehicles with the power of dragsters and the jumping ability of motocross bikes.
Beginning with Bigfoot
Bob Chandler, co-owner of Midwest Four Wheel Drive, used his Ford F-250 as a test bed for the company’s parts. Simply put, whenever something broke, he’d replace it with something bigger. By the end of the decade, the truck, nicknamed “Bigfoot” by company employees and a “monster truck” by the press, had a 460 c.i. big block, military axles, four-wheel steering and 48-inch tires. It was used for demonstrations at tractor pulls but didn’t really gain fame until 1981 when Chandler filmed his truck running over a couple derelict cars. A promoter saw the footage and encouraged him to replicate the stunt live. The audience went wild, making it a staple of monster truck events.
By 1987, these trucks had evolved from novelties to full-on race machines leading to the formation of the Monster Truck Racing Association (MTRA). The introduction of Bigfoot #8 in 1990 revolutionized the sport, replacing the stock truck base with a purposely built tubular frame and fiberglass body. This improved safety, reduced weight and added a modern suspension, allowing spectacular jumps.
The Modern Monster Truck
There are dozens of race promoters worldwide which use the MTRA standards, allowing drivers and crews compete in several series. Under these rules, the trucks weigh around 10,000 pounds and have mid-mounted, methanol-burning race engines producing 1,500 hp. The four-link suspension design has four feet of clearance, while stock 66-inch by 45-inch “Terra” tires, usually used on fertilizer spreaders, are hand-carved for optimum traction. Since driver visibility is limited, the motor can be shut off remotely by the pit crew to prevent potential accidents.
Like skateboard and motocross events, monster truck freestyle gives trucks a time limit to perform tricks with deductions for crashes and backing up. Races are a fine balance of speed and control, keeping the vehicle balanced over obstacles and landing in time to make sharp turns.
The tracks are built in arenas, using a plastic sheet and plywood base, which is covered in as much as 7,500 tons of dirt. Tracks are painted on, and obstacles are buried both on the track and around the edges of the arena to act as barriers. It takes about 10 days to transform an arena into a race track and then back again.
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