When one thinks of sports or exhibitions that are quintessentially American, it's football, NASCAR, and, if you were born in the last four decades, monster trucks. Although it doesn't enjoy the more than century-old tradition of some of the other sports, or even the law-evading mystique of its oval-track car-racing counterpart, there's no question that monster trucks have become an engrained part of Americana. The sound, spectacle, and stunts have made it a favorite of adults and kids across the country, with the series even going as far as Costa Rica and Finland.
The sport got its start like so many other great inventions and innovations did in America, with someone looking to address an unmet need. Bob Chandler, unhappy with the off-road shops in the St. Louis area, opened Midwest Four Wheel Drive and Performance Center with the help of his wife and friend. The opening of the shop marked the birthplace of Bigfoot, and the beginnings of the monster truck movement.
This list would not be complete with the originator of the genre, Bigfoot itself. Originally built in 1975, the first Bigfoot was the brainchild of Bob Chandler, a construction worker from the St. Louis, Missouri, area. Chandler took the family truck, a 1974 Ford F-250, off-roading frequently, but found there were few shops in the area that could handle making any needed repairs and upgrades to the truck. Taking things into his own hands, Chandler, with wife Marilyn and friend Jim Kramer, opened Midwest Four Wheel Drive and Performance Center. With oversized tires and a loud, powerful engine, Bigfoot soon became the shop's well-known promotional truck.
Bigfoot's big break came in 1981, when Chandler got permission from an area farmer to crush two wrecked cars in his field. He also had a video camera rolling to document the mischief. A motorsport promoter saw the video playing in Chandler's shop, and asked him to perform the stunt again. That led to a performance at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. In 1983, Bigfoot got factory sponsorship from Ford Motor Company, a relationship that continued for more than 20 years to 2005.
Although often referred to in the singular, there have actually been more than 18 Bigfoots over the years, including one named Bigfoot Shuttle, built with a Ford Aerostar minivan body, and Bigfoot Fastrax built on a M48 military personnel carrier chassis. Closely associated with the Ford brand for decades, the truck briefly featured the body shell of a Chevrolet Silverado for the Major League Basketball All-Star game, although in competition and exhibition, the truck still features a Ford body.
Always the originator, in 1991, the Bigfoot team also developed the first three-dimensional character bodied truck in the form of Snake Bite, with a custom fiberglass body giving the truck a snakelike front clip. Since that time, numerous other teams have created custom-bodied monster trucks.
Here are some of the other trucks that made our list of the 10 scariest monster trucks.
2) Snake Bite
As the first "character bodied" truck on the scene, Snake Bite gets the number two spot on our list. The original Snake Bite was actually a new body on top of the #8 Bigfoot chassis. This was part of Chandler's team approach to monster truck competition, running more than one vehicle in the quest for team points totals.
It wasn't long after Bigfoot burst on to the scene that Dennis Anderson created Grave Digger. Originally conceived of as a mud-bogger truck, the eponymous monster truck allegedly got its name when Anderson made an offhand comment to fellow competitors saying, "I'll take this old junk and dig you a grave with it," in reference to some of the other competitors making fun of his 1952 Ford truck versus the more modern trucks in the competition. But Grave Digger's permanent status in the monster truck pantheon came when it was built as a full-fledged monster truck. It defeated Bigfoot in 1987 in St. Paul, Minnesota, televised on ESPN, ensuring its status as one of the all-time monster truck greats.
Although originally built with a Ford body, since 1989, Grave Digger 2 and its successors have featured a 1950 Chevrolet Panel Van body, which is now considered the defining style of the truck. Grave Digger has become a signature competitor at Monster Jam events, and is often the last competitor of the day, frequently crashing or rolling over. Another signature feature of Grave Digger that has become part of its mystique are the glowing red headlights, reportedly originating from a schoolbus Anderson was converting from a transporter. Realizing that the round taillights fit into the headlight housings, it's been a Grave Digger defining trait ever since.
What could be more all-American than the combination of a monster truck and a famous comic book figure? Although a relative newcomer to the monster truck scene, making its debut in 2006, the truck has already made its mark on the sport by winning the Monster Jam World Finals in 2007 and 2008, driven by John Seasock, the former driver of El Toro Loco and Inferno, two other fixtures of the Monster Jam series. Batman is currently driven by Norm Miller.
Inspired by the style and concept of Bob Chandler's custom-bodied Snake Bite, Don Frankish of Alberta, Canada, decided to build his own character-bodied truck. Frankish held back a few years to see if the 3-D bodies were just a passing fad, or here to stay. Once convinced of their success and popularity, Frankish put his vision into reality, building the radically bodied Jurassic Attack, making it one of the most unforgettable trucks of the Monster Jam series. Frankish is also known for his Maniac monster truck, and Jurassic Attack has proved so popular, that he built a 10-passenger exhibition truck for private parties, fairs, and such events.
Following the "horns" theme of Jurassic Attack, El Toro Loco was created in 2001, and driven by Lupe Soza. Like Jurassic Attack, El Toro Loco's outlandish bodywork was a hit with kids, but the truck was never a particularly strong performer in outright racing competition. However, it found its niche in freestyle, with such memorable stunts as a corkscrew flip off an RV, and getting stuck on top of a cargo container.
Although not a stellar performer in competition, El Toro Loco is a big winner at the cash register, being among the top 10 most popular branded merchandise franchises in the Monster Jam series. Four El Toro Loco trucks have been built, with the newest featuring a Carroll Racing Development chassis, driven by Marc McDonald. One of the El Toro Loco trucks is also driven by the driver of the next truck on our list, Dragon's Breath.
7) Dragon's Breath
Featuring a body loosely based on a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, the finned and outrageously painted Dragon's Breath is a relative newcomer to the monster truck scene, debuting on January 8, 2011, at Ford Field in Detroit, driven by 24-year-old Becky McDonough, one of the few female drivers on the Monster Jam circuit. After just one year on the Monster Jam circuit, Dragon's Breath already has a 1:24-scale Hot Wheels toy car.
Driven by Mike Wine, this truck may not be as outlandishly styled as some of the other trucks on this list, but is distinguished by the body being mounted backwards on the chassis, making for some reality-warping visuals. The truck debuted in 2008 at the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Owned and driven by veteran Monster Jam driver Allen Pezo, Predator is well known on the circuit for its fearsome feline styling, also shared by its sister trucks Prowler and Pouncer. But Predator was the first, and with its bright-green "eyes" and purple-and-black paint job, it's the most menacing-looking of the trio. Although the name started out on some of Pezo's conventionally bodied trucks, the Predator name debuted on a Panther-design body in 1993. Pezo is well known as one of the best freestyle drivers in the series. The truck has been a Monster Jam world finalist in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2006.
It's been said dogs and their owners sometimes have an uncanny resemblance to each other, but how often can you say the same for monster trucks and their drivers? That's the case with Mohawk Warrior, driven by George Balhan, known for his mohawk hairstyle. So is his truck, with styling inspired by a Cadillac Escalade. The unique-looking monster truck debuted at the 2010 Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas.