Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monster truck history and Hot Wheels Monster Jam diecasts

When I was growing up in the ‘80s, one thing I always looked forward to was the annual visit from the traveling monster truck tour.  Of course, it wasn’t like it is now.  Back then, monster trucks crushed cars.  And that’s really all they did.  They really were monsters, weighing in at some 18,000-lbs.  They didn’t jump things.  They didn’t race.  They didn’t do “freestyle” competitions.  They just lumbered over a line of old cars, crept up over them, and buckled the tops and popped the windows out.

Today’s monster trucks are much different, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the fun atmosphere and kid-friendly environment that these shows have to offer.  My son probably enjoys going to these shows more that I did, so we used his 1:64-scale monster truck collection to illustrate this story.  We’ll look at a brief history of this motorsport, and touch on this fun line of collectable diecasts.

I’ve always heard that the first monster truck was Bob Chandler’s Bigfoot, and that’s generally what you read everywhere else too.  Chandler was a home-state off-road enthusiast, hailing out of St. Louis.  He drove over his first cars in 1981, and put on his first show in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982.  Other trucks began to follow, and soon there were car-crushing exhibitions all over the country.

Of course, when you get competitive people together, they tend to want to compete, and by the mid-‘80s these exhibitions had morphed into racing competitions.  But back then, they weren’t the main attractions.  Most of the shows that I remember seeing these trucks compete in were primarily sled-pulling events with monster trucks as the sideshow.  And that’s not a bad thing.  They usually had several classes of sled-pullers, two- and four-wheel-drive trucks and tractors that had intense competitions to see how fast and how far someone could pull a very heavy sled with a moving weight.

Sometimes these events were also combined with mud-bog or (later) tough truck competitions.  Mud-boggers would see how fast they could get through a big, old wet, nasty mud pit without getting stuck, and tough truck guys would run through an obstacle course to get the best time without destroying their trucks.  These people really were competing intensely hard to win, but the results were so ridiculous that it was impossible not to be entertained.

Back then, the monster trucks were still based off of real street trucks.  That means they had real bodies, real factory chassis, and heavy-duty axles and things off of military vehicles.  Manufacturer loyalty was a big deal as a result.  Ford, Chevy, and Dodge people would cheer their heads off to root for their brand of preference.  Of course, as in any form of racing, money talks, and I can’t recall ever seeing the Ford-sponsored Bigfoot ever lose a race.

As monster truck shows started getting bigger, the sled-pullers and mud-boggers came with them. When we moved to Kansas City, I remember watching all of these events in Arrowhead Stadium (which was a great venue for these due to its size). Bigfoot was still the big star, but they'd have others like USA-1 or the occasional Grave Digger appearance.

There are still places to see sled-pullers, mud-racers, and even Tough Trucks, but not at a big-time Monster Jam event. These have been relegated more to rural venues, county fairs, and the like. Of course, with their attempt to sanitize and de-redneck these big monster truck shows, they've scoured out a bit of the fun.

Today’s monster trucks are incredible vehicles. There’s obviously nothing even remotely factory about them anymore, as they are sophisticated racing machines. The best trucks seem lighter than air; able to leap completely off the ground with a blip of the throttle. But they still weigh some 10,000-lbs, which makes this all the more amazing.  And they do take a beating. It’s nothing for one to jump 30-feet off the ground, slam back to earth, and keep on going like nothing ever happened.

If you are able to go anywhere and watch a monster truck show, I suggest going to the biggest venue that you can.  The Sprint Center in Kansas City is pretty small, so you’ll get all the action up-close-and-personal, but they really can’t cut loose in there.  The biggest stage is the annual World Finals in Las Vegas, where you’ll see some insane stunts that almost defy logic and the laws of physics.

And with that, I leave you with this slideshow of (mostly) Hot Wheels diecast pictures.  Hot Wheels is a big sponsor of Monster Jam events, and these little trucks have become quite popular.  All of the well-known trucks have been immortalized with their own toy; many in several paint schemes and styles.  So influential is this line of toys that some real trucks were actually built to resemble the diecasts instead of the other way around.  This is just a small sample.  They have made hundreds of these over the past decade.  Click here for a nicer version of the slideshow if the one below is giving you fits.

2 comments:

  1. Hi,
    Might "refresh" the site, that helps
    sometimes. Good Luck,
    Don - Basehor,KS

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm looking to buy bigfoot 1:64 diecast Hot Wheels anyone selling one

    ReplyDelete