Monster Truck Icon: Bigfoot
It was around that time when the American taste for pick-up trucks and their ability to do more than just carry people and load from place to place began to form. From that point, all the way to today's Monster Jam, the monster truck, as it is now known, has become the motorized version of a Wrestlemania wrestler.
As we said, the monster truck began to take shape back in the 1970s, fueled by the increased interest in pick-up truck use for mud bogging and truck-pulling competitions. Their use in such competitions called for a higher-than-usual ground clearance, a factor which led to so called suspension lifted truck.
As more and more lifted trucks came to be, human nature stepped in and the all-mighty "mine is bigger" war began. The need to determine who has the biggest truck led to national or local competitions to settle the dispute.
The monster truck and its use as we know it today were born in early 1970, when former construction manager Bob Chandler decided to buy a 1974 Ford F250 pick-up truck. Passionate about off-roading, Chandler used his own garage and his neighbor, Jim Kramer, to create the Midwest 4 Wheel Drive Center, a place where they could repair the off-road battered pick-up truck.. The poor F250 became the testing ground for both Chandler's and Kramer's engineering experiments.
Soon, taking the modified F250 truck for a spin on rugged terrain was no longer good enough for Chandler. Experiments continued at an accelerated pace, with Chandler now trying to adapt US' Army idea of a two axle steering mechanism to his truck. But with a twist... What Chandler eventually came up with was the 4x4x4 truck: four wheels, four wheel drive, four wheel steering truck.
At the same time, Chandler began advertising his business with the help of the truck and in order to better relay the message needed a name for it. Taking advantage of a nickname given to him by his partners, Chandler christened the F250 Bigfoot.
By 1979, Chandler began taking Bigfoot at truck and tractor pulls, to show off its capabilities and to advertise his business. Soon, truck pulling became boring.
A video camera, two decaying cars and a open-minded neighbor, willing to give up his field for a strange experiment...That's all it took for Bigfoot to usher a new era in both entertainment and passenger cars destruction methods. Chandler took the two cars, placed them in the field, set up the camera and sadistically videotaped the two cars getting squashed by Bigfoot.
Of course, childish "look what we did" behavior and the need to further advertise his business made Chandler show the tape around his block. Off road and motorsport enthusiasts started spreading both the news and the images, until the latter caught the attention of a motorsport events promoter. He convinced Chandler to reenact the stunt in front of a crowd...
All hell broke loose after that...(passenger car hell).
As the news of the new act in town spread, more and more truck owners began altering their vehicles. Soon, car crushing events became sideshows in tractor and truck pulling events. This didn't last long, as monster trucks, better looking and more damaging than their untweaked counterparts, took the lead.
Television network ESPN began broadcasting monster truck events, soon creating, together with the increasing number of monster trucks out there, the need for a championship. The first televised monster truck confrontation took place in 1983 and stared Chandler's Bigfoot and Everett Jasmer's USA-1. Driven by rookie Rod Litzau, USA-1 managed, in a spectacular manner, to beat Bigfoot in Louisville, Kentucky, thus sending the Bigfoot team back to the garage, to focus more on R&D than racing.
And so they did. With the help of technological advancements (read computer), Chandler designed a tubular frame and a two feet travel suspension system, which gave the next generation Bigfoot four times more suspension travel than all previous generations.
The new Bigfoot made its debut in 1989, in Indianapolis, at the Four Wheel and Off Road Jamboree. It was also a special event for Bigfoot, as it celebrated its 5,000th show, a perfect opportunity for all Bigfoots ever built to come together in one place.
In the 40 years since it invented the sport, Bigfoot has a 18 version family (1 through 19 – this is because the Bigfoot 13 name was skipped in the line-up, due to the pandemic American 13-related superstition) and an additional four cousins: Ms. Bigfoot, Bigfoot Shuttle, Bigfoot Fasttrax and Unnembered Bigfoot. The Bigfoot 1, the one which started it all, took its rightful place as a display vehicle.
Most of the Bigfoots are still in service (10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17). Of the existing ones, most have been sold or are being used as display trucks. The 9 managed to get confiscated in Brazil in 1998, where it remains to this date, while 14 set the record for longest monster truck jump in 1999, clearing a 202 feet long 727 jet (61.5 m).