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The Evolution of Monsters

When I started gathering information about our cover story on monster trucks, the engines and Monster Jam in general, I quickly realized the world of monster truck entertainment is immense. So much so, I couldn’t cram all the information I wanted into the cover feature starting on page 22. Therefore, enjoy a snippet of that article right here…

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As the story goes, the name Grave Digger came from Dennis Anderson running his mouth to his competition at a mud bog. It’s a famous story where Dennis said, “I’m going to dig you a grave” at one of those events. They spray painted Grave Digger on the side of his truck and that’s how it’s been for 35 years. 

“Monster trucks started on a very grassroots level back in the days of Bigfoot, Bearfoot and the Thunder Nationals,” says Jared Alderson. “It’s neat to go back and look at what was really impressive in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – watching them go crush cars. They don’t really crush cars much anymore, because as silly as it sounds, cars today crush too easily. They don’t make good ramps anymore because they flatten out like a pancake. 

“Today, they do more manmade obstacles and constructed dirt ramps. To Feld’s credit, they put in a lot of effort and money into testing and putting on the show. It’s still about the racing and the race, but the show element has really grown to be better than it ever has been. They try to engage and highlight different aspects of the trucks and what they can do. There’s different itineraries for different kinds of shows.”

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One such show is called the Triple Threat Series where they’ll have the truck drivers also race on quads and side-by-sides in an effort to show the crowd something different than maybe they’ve seen before. Both from a technological standpoint and from an engineering standpoint, the trucks are way, way better today than they ever were then. 

“It’s interesting to go back and watch some of the old videos of the leaf sprung trucks with 600 horsepower big blocks jumping over cars,” he says. “That was really exciting back then, but now it wouldn’t rate in the show at all. If you’re not standing on two wheels and idling across the floor with the steering wheel hanging out the window, it’s not as impressive by today’s standards.”

The aerobatics these drivers are able to perform in 12,000-lb. trucks is simply incredible. Monster Jam drivers are constantly challenged with creating amazing spectacles for their audiences and with each successful trick, the challenge is raised to go faster, higher or farther than the time before. Donuts, backflips, double backflips, wheelies, big air – there’s something new being done at every show.

“Donuts are hands down the hardest thing that we have found on the engines. That is the hardest load the engine ever sees. The oil slings away from the pickup, the driver gets dizzy, it’s wide open load, and it’s really hard on parts.” 

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However, if it weren’t for tricks like donuts or cyclones, we wouldn’t be innovating and engineering better engines and components to up the ante the next time out. For that we say, keep mashing that throttle! EB

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