In normal farm applications these oversize tires are not modified. Their wide stance and deep treads are meant to help pull heavy equipment across soft terrain. They provide enough buoyancy to help move a vehicle over swamps and marshes. They even displace enough water to help a vehicle float across a river. More importantly, they can do all of this without damaging crops. The extra weight of a stock tire however affects the performance (and safety) of monster trucks. So the tires are shaved using a hot tool. Hundreds of pounds of rubber are cut from each tread. The process of shaping each tire can take over two days. Teams sometimes have different treads or patterns that they cut depending on the types of shows they perform in.
If a truck performs on mainly concrete courses they would have almost no tread. If they performed on mixed courses with dirt, and asphalt then a light tread would suffice. They would cut very little off if they performed on sand. There were no templates to work from in the early days of monster truck construction. Each vehicle was completely unique. Builders were figuring out how to create suspensions, what types of motors and transmissions to use, and even the different sizes of terra tires to go with. The profile, or stance of each truck was different. This was something that I absolutely loved about the early days of monster trucks. Each truck had its own personality. Today the sizes and frames are almost all uniform with just a different fiberglass body on top. Back in the '80s a long-bed or short-bed truck determined the wheelbase, or distance between the wheels. Longer trucks tended to race better and turn quickly. Shorter wheelbase trucks tended to bounce when racing, and lose control quickly because their center of gravity was very high. Yet for many of these builders the look of the truck was more important than how it performed.
Everyone knew that the big trucks could crush cars, but how many could look good while doing it? Some trucks were considered more for show rather than for sport. One of these was Showtime. It had a bright yellow paint job and a lot of chrome detailing. It did compete in many events but it also looked so amazing. It boasted a powerful sound system, and it showed up perfectly polished in many car shows. The 1978 Ford Bronco had a shorter wheelbase than others, and when it that was combined with 73 inch tires, then it really stood out. There were a fewer number of trucks that used 73 inch Firestone Flotation 23's rather than the 66 inch Goodyear Terra's that most ran with. These trucks included Casper by Dale Harris, High X-pectations by Scott Palmer, Lon-Ranger by Gary Bauer, and the Giant by Kirk Dabney. When those trucks lined up against others the difference was noticeable. The extra size of tires also meant they raced slower and broke parts with more frequency. It was a small price to pay to stand out from the crowd. But like I said, in the early days bigger was better, and some builders started going to extremes.
The Dabney brothers, Kirk and Kevin, experimented with different monster building techniques. Instead of a truck for example Blue Thunder was a 1968 Camaro SS. It was piloted with a joystick from a Huey helicopter. That bar not only controlled the front wheel steering, but also the lights, nitrous, hydraulics, and rear wheel steering. Then they built two Nissan King Cab trucks. Mega Force and Alien. They started with 66 inch Goodyear Terras as well, but then made the switch to 80 inch Heavy Duty Deep Tread Firestones. When paired against other monsters these compact trucks looked gigantic. In fact the Nissan's were advertised as the "world's largest mini trucks." The only other import trucks that compared were The Toy. A 1985 Toyota Hilux compact by Joe Rinke that also sported the 80 inch Firestone's. It actually had a giant metal wind up key in the truck bed that rotated, making it look like an enormous toy. I have very vivid memories of seeing this truck as a child. Then there was So High Too by Dave Bell. The 1985 Toyota Hilux long bed had 73 inch Firestones, however the body rested on an elevated frame that made it stand over 13 feet in height.
Shots kept getting fired at Bob Chandler and his Bigfoot team as monster trucks got bolder. Every new build was a chance to do something original, and try to dethrone the king of the monster trucks. I had mentioned in the previous series that Jeff Dane's Awesome Kong II had a 3000 hp engine from a helicopter. In the golden age of monster creators Scott Stephens built the Coors Brewser, and Coors Silver Bullet with engines from a jet airplane, each generating over 1,800 hp. Then there was the diesel powered beast Godzilla. It took years to build, and when it was unveiled the monster truck community took notice. With its "standard" 73 inch tires, and custom features, it was much bigger and heavier than Bigfoot. The builders Al Thurber Jr., and Al Thurber III wanted to make their beast incomparable so they got even bigger tires. With 96 inch Firestones (and gold plated rims) Godzilla stood 14 feet in height, taller than So High Too. Many thought that Bigfoot couldn't compare. History would prove them wrong.
Bob Chandler got tired of comparisons and wanted to settle the issue once and for all. Bigfoot was the King of the Monster Trucks. To prove it he built different versions of Bigfoot that could support 10 foot tires. That's not a typo. He has several sets of 120 inch Firestone tires. Their origins of those tires are fantastic. The LeTourneau Land Train started off as a military project in the 1950's. The company wanted to create an off road vehicle that could cross any terrain, especially extreme locations like the arctic or desert environments. This was to support research stations that could not be accessed by helicopter or ship. Roads were not readily available where this beast was headed. The company created hybrid diesel, electric motors that went into each wheel and helped pull the train over everything. Several versions of the land train were built, each better than the last. Each of those sported the enormous 10 foot tires. Sadly the military stopped testing the train, and parts of it ended up scattered all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
In the mid '80s Bob Chandler was on tour with Bigfoot when he saw some of the enormous tires at a salvage yard in Seattle. The owner was asking tens of thousands for them, so Chandler let it go. He returned later and offered to buy multiple sets at a lower price. After lots of back and forth they finally agreed on a price. Chandler then started work on Bigfoot V. Not satisfied with being able to run with a single set of 10 foot tires he created rims that could connect two sets, or "duallys." Its total weight jumped from 28,800 lbs to over 38,000 lbs. Each tire weighs a ton, with the aluminum wheel they jump to 2,400 lbs. In dually configuration that is over 19,000 lbs. In the end Bigfoot V stood 15' 6" tall, 13' 1" wide, 20' 5" wide with duals. In 1986 Chandler set the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest, tallest and heaviest pickup truck. By this point Chandler was on top of the world. It was apparent that Godzilla and the rest could try to take the title, but his best could never be beaten. With the Bigfoot name out there it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling again. Silver Pictures needed an expert to build a monster truck for a very expensive stunt. Chandler's shop rose to the occasion and they created Bigfoot VII so it could be used in the 1989 movie Roadhouse.
Bigfoot VII originally had the traditional 66 inch tires. In the movie they used the truck to drive through an auto dealership, crushing every car inside. Estimates say the shot cost about a half million dollars to put together. I'm sure most of that went into building Bigfoot VII. After the movie Chandler returned it to his shop configured the truck so that it could also use the 10 foot tires. Chandler was approached by the Race Rock Cafe, to sell them Bigfoot VII for their collection. The cafe was a themed restaurant in Orlando Florida that had racing memorabilia from all over the world. The engine and transmission were removed and the truck sat outside as a show piece. The restaurant closed down in 2007 and all the memorabilia was sold off. Bigfoot VII ended up at Fun Spot USA in Kissimmee. The amusement park painted the truck slightly different and changed the name to BigFun. This version of Bigfoot was so iconic that an homage to it appeared in the Splat Pack, a video game expansion to Carmageddon. The Mac and PC title from 1997 had a cult-like following (I was a huge fan). The truck went by the name of the Monster Masher. It sported "Firestarter" tires and was driven by Herman Monster.
With the Bigfoot legacy secure this piece of history could be laid to rest. But if you know me then you know that I like to dig a little deeper. What if I were to tell you that there was a monster truck even bigger than Bigfoot VII? It turns out that in the super heavyweight category Godzilla had the third biggest tires, and Bigfoot VII was the runner up. There was a colossal monster truck from Canada that owned the title. This enormous beast went by the name of Superfoot. It was the undisputed champ of gigantic monster trucks. It used 150 inch tires, that's 12 feet, 6 inches of rock hard rubber. The tires came from an earth mover, one of those enormous yellow dump trucks that Tonka modeled their toys on. The tires were designed for enormous mining equipment and definitely not for regular trucks. It didn't stop the madman Richard Arel from trying the impossible. Richard was known for tinkering with engines, transmission, and making his own vehicles for use on his pig farm.
The original name of the 1980 GMC 3500 truck was Suberfoot, it was the French-Canadian spelling of Superfoot. Arel had actually put two GMC trucks together to make his ultimate farm truck. This was way back in 1982, making him a pioneer of the culture. He put his (then) black and red truck on 66 inch terra tires, and it became the first Canadian monster truck. He did stadium shows all over the country. He was joined by the Super Toy, a Ford monster truck and fellow early Canadian monster. Suberfoot was eventually painted hot pink with bright blue lettering on the side. The spelling was changed to English. When the monster truck shows slowed down Arel decided to use his truck as a centerpiece at Le Madrid, a hotel-restaurant that he owned. The restaurant was a popular rest stop, it was situated on the long road between Montreal and Quebec City. It featured a number of roadside attractions, including a collection of giant cement and fiberglass dinosaurs. Superfoot would fit right in with them.
To make it really stand out however Arel built an extended frame and mounted the 12 foot tires on the truck. The engine and transmission were removed and it remained outdoors for years, just like Bigfoot VII. The downside was that he let the truck fall into disrepair. He would tell patrons that he was going to restore it someday but that day never came to pass. The truck ended up rusted and covered in graffiti near the end of its life. Arel sold off the property in 2011 and the truck vanished. Many assumed to the scrap yard, but I like to imagine that it got bored and instead ran away. It now roams the countryside looking for abandoned cars to flatten. Like a cryptid it pops up every now and then to startle young motorists. So if you're ever driving alone in the middle of nowhere and see a bright pink giant off in the distance, just keep moving, or you'll be next! As always if you enjoyed this blog and would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!