Part 1: Birth of the Monster Truck
For much of our 30-year history, this magazine has had a love/hate relationship with monster trucks. We were the first to write about the very first monster-Bob Chandler's Bigfoot-in 1979, just a couple of years after he built the then-huge truck.
We soon realized that putting monster trucks on our covers meant newsstand sales gold. For a while, anyway. That trend pretty much peaked in 1986, when most of our covers featured one monstrous creation after another.
On the other hand, there was a growing cadre of readers-and writers, too-that bemoaned our monster coverage. They believed our pages could be put to better use showing "real" 4x4s on the trail, in mud bogs, crawling rocks, and so on, rather than glorifying what some saw as the 4WD equivalent of pro wrestling. As early as the Nov. '85 issue, then-Editor John Stewart voiced what many were thinking when he wrote in his very first 4xForward column, "I love monster trucks. I hate monster trucks."
After 1986, our monster coverage shrank. The last monster featured prominently on the cover was Bigfoot 11, Sept. '93. For a while not a single monster graced our pages, until they started to appear again in 2001 as part of Jamboree event coverage.
Which brings up an interesting point: Monster trucks may have nearly disappeared from our magazine, but they're still a vital part of four-wheeling entertainment. Chandler's Bigfoot 4x4 Inc. campaigns six to seven Bigfoot trucks each week at various events in the U.S. and internationally. The Monster Truck Racing Association has "about 100 members and probably a couple dozen trucks" participating in events, Chandler told us. And a whole new generation of monster-truck fans has made the Emmy-nominated "Bigfoot Presents: Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks" one of the most popular shows on The Learning Channel.
This installment in our 30th anniversary retrospective kicks off a two-part review of the monster truck phenomenon. To start, we present an in-depth interview with Bob Chandler about Bigfoot's past and present. Next month, we'll look back at some of the other significant monsters that have graced these pages in the past.
4WOR: Where did the idea for Bigfoot come from?
BC: I opened a four-wheel-drive shop called Midwest Four Wheel Drive Center and put a lot of the products on my own truck so I could show others what was available for theirs. I kept putting new items on my truck, some unique to the industry. I liked big things.
4WOR: And the tires?
BC: I started changing the tires on my F-250 right away, went through all kinds of tires, including several different kinds of tractor tires. I got interested in a turf tire that Firestone and Goodyear made at the time. They were for fertilizer spreaders that had 66s in back and 48s in front, and we eventually went to the 48-inch tires. When we had trouble breaking axles I went with 2 1/2-ton military axles. We did some really ridiculous things-pulling sleds, mud bogging. We were really hard on the axles.
4WOR: Where did the Bigfoot name come from?
BC: I came back to the shop almost every Monday with a broken truck. My general manager, Ron Magurder, started calling me "big foot" because I could not keep my foot out of the throttle. I liked the way it sounded, and since I had big tires on the truck, I put it on the side of my truck.