It might just be the most American thing ever: the monster truck. It’s no secret that we love our trucks, and adding a whole bunch of lift, power and spectacle to the equation only makes things more mesmerizing.
These motorized beasts, with their tuned engines and maxed-out suspensions, rip and roar through sports colosseums across the country, crushing old cars, jumping dangerous obstacles and racing each other around dirt tracks, all for the sake of a thrill. As with every invention, somebody had to think this stuff up. But who? And when? And — as some will undoubtedly wonder — why?
The father of the monster truck, and the man who helped make it the centerpiece of famously loud events, is a guy named Bob Chandler. In the mid-1970s, the longtime off-roading enthusiast took advantage of his St. Louis-area truck parts business to mod his own Ford F-250 pickup and see just how far he could push it. Things naturally grew from there, including his and his customers’ trucks. In local circles, his signature truck earned the fitting name “Bigfoot.”
By 1979, Chandler was entering Bigfoot in tractor pulls. Eventually, enough people were impressed with the presence and power of Chandler’s creations that the hobby caught on. The monster truck rally as we know it today was soon born.
As more people got involved and the trucks grew bigger and bigger, the question went from “what can they do?” to “what can’t they do?” Monster truck events today range from the tried-and-true car-crushing events to on-track racing to acrobatics competitions. Some records of note include the first back flip in 2010, the first front flip in 2017 and, most recently, the monster truck speed record set in June 2020 by the “Mohawk Warrior” at 100.31 miles per hour.
Sometimes old-school demolition derbies are the opening act at the events, ensuring that the ends and sides of all the participating cars are crushed. The Monsters, the main event, soon arrive to flatten what’s left.
Though the sport has changed over the years, it hasn’t forgotten its roots. In fact, Bob Chandler still stays involved, and at least 20 Bigfoot trucks have been built over the years. There’s even a Bigfoot racing team, and a special model called Bigfoot #5 still holds the world’s record for biggest monster truck. Its tires — just the tires — are ten feet tall.
Where To Go To Get In On The Fun
Monster truck events will be gearing back up as warm weather returns. The Monster Truck Racing League is a great resource for finding out what’s coming to your area and when. There’s also the highly popular Monster Jam show circuit. And if you’re thinking you might want to get in on the action yourself, the parts to begin converting your everyday pickup into a monster truck are widely available.
Whether these raucous events have stoked a lifelong love in your heart or left you scratching your head, you have to agree that the sport — the perfect marriage of carnage and engineering — is hard to look away from once you get caught up in it.
Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on modding your truck, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.