Have you ever seen a monster truck? Unlike the cars and trucks most of us see on the streets every day, monster trucks are larger than life and can do some incredible things.
Monster trucks got their start in the late 1970s and early 1980s. People who liked to drive off-road for fun and adventure began modifying their trucks. They added bigger tires and more sturdy suspensions, so that their trucks could drive over rough terrain and obstacles, like big rocks and creeks.
One of the first monster trucks was created by a man named Bob Chandler. His modified Ford F250 became known as “Bigfoot." Chandler would often take Bigfoot to truck shows and auto exhibitions, so that others could see the off-road modifications he had made.
One fateful day in April 1981, Chandler decided to do something kind of crazy just to see if he could do it. In an empty cornfield in rural Missouri, Chandler drove Bigfoot over two old junk cars parked side by side.
A friend caught Bigfoot's first car crush on video and the rest, as they say, is history. An event promoter saw the video and asked Chandler to repeat the car crush in front of a crowd at a local auto show. Before long, car-crushing monster trucks were being built all over the country.
Bob George, an owner of a motorsport promotion company, called Bigfoot a “monster truck" and the name stuck. Today, all trucks with oversized tires, large engines and heavy-duty suspensions are known as monster trucks.
At first, Bigfoot and other monster trucks had 48-inch (diameter) tires. These tires were about three times larger than the tires used on most trucks. Eventually, though, even those tires weren't big enough.
Today, monster truck tires are 66 inches in diameter! These tires — known as “Terra" tires — are also used on large farm equipment, such as fertilizer spreaders. Monster trucks have more than just monstrous tires, though.
Monster trucks feature hydraulic steering in both the front and the rear. This means that the driver can steer both the front wheels and the back wheels at the same time. This is necessary so that the huge tires on monster trucks can still make tight turns.
Monster trucks look like trucks (mostly). Early monster trucks were “regular" trucks that had been heavily modified. Most modern monster trucks, however, are specially-built from the ground up.
Monster truck builders use custom tubular frames, powerful supercharged engines and military-grade suspensions to create their powerful machines. Most still use a lightweight fiberglass “body" placed over the frame to make their creations resemble a truck.
Since driving monster trucks can be dangerous, the trucks have many safety features, including three different kill switches that allow the truck to be shut off remotely in case of a rollover or fire. Drivers also have to wear fireproof suits, safety harnesses, helmets and head and neck restraints.
Today, Monster Jam is a well-known monster truck event promoter that hosts events throughout the United States, Canada and parts of Europe. A typical show features car crushing, one-on-one races and a “freestyle" event. During the freestyle event, drivers get to show off their monster trucks doing a wild variety of tricks and stunts, such as donuts, wheel stands and jumps.