Happy 4th of July!
I bet you never thought you'd see Bigfoot on here, but think about it: before Bigfoot, putting gigantic tires on your off-road truck was something that only a few thought of doing. Re-engineering the truck to handle punishment before off-road suppliers had started engineering and selling parts was a significant obstacle as well, and should be applauded.
In fact, Bob and Marilyn Chandler started their own company, Midwest Four Wheel Drive and Performance Center, in order to support what Bob wanted to do…which was to drive the most bad-ass truck on the planet.
This truck is, in some small way, Genesis for many off-road enthusiasts who grew up watching Bigfoot crush cars. What many don't know is that the first Bigfoot was actually quite a novel invention. When you're the first monster truck, well, you're not going to have an easy time buying suspension parts, brakes, wheels, tires, and all that—so you better get used to fabricating.
The most novel thing about Bigfoot—and the feature all monster trucks have to this day—is its rear wheel steering, said to have been added after Chandler heard that the U.S. Army was considering adding the feature to its off-road vehicles. It offered an amazing amount of maneuverability essential for the tight confines of the mud pits, fairgrounds, tractor pulls, and the other events the Chandlers took the truck to.
On the outside, the truck was fitted with a number of accessories available at Midwest Four Wheel Drive and Performance Center, and as a rolling billboard, it's difficult to top Bigfoot. Chandler was also the first to publicly crush a car with Bigfoot. (Kids, this was pre-YouTube. The clip was recorded and then played on a VHS tape—on a loop—in the Chandlers' shop.)
What powered it?
A massive, modified, and alcohol-burning 10.48-litre (640 cu.in.) in Ford V8—when the wheels and tires weigh something like 317 kg (700 lbs) for each corner, power is important. Tires? On the first Bigfoot, they're from fertilizer spreaders. Oh yes.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed Chandler earlier this year (2015 is the 40th anniversary of Bigfoot and, by extension, monster trucks), and quoted him as saying, "I was never satisfied. I always wanted it bigger—tires, axles, engine. Then one day a promoter from Chicago asked if we’d attend an event at Soldier Field. He said, “I’ll pay you.” I’m thinking: “I can get paid to do this?” From that point on, a new motor sport blossomed—racing huge trucks and driving them over cars. At one show, the announcer used the term monster truck and the term stuck."
On this 4th of July, I ask you: is there anything more American than Bigfoot? Or, more to the point: is there anything more American than a guy who used mechanical ingenuity to build a complex vehicle able to drive over any obstacle?
I say: no, there is nothing more American.
While I may personally take exception at people using Ford F-150 SVT Raptors to haul air on their morning commutes, starting an entire movement because other off-road enthusiasts wanted to make their trucks as bad-ass as Bigfoot is a pretty special thing. Seeing a lifted truck on the road is commonplace now, but in the late '70s, there was nothing like Bigfoot out there.
Today, channel your inner Bob Chandler and ask, "What can I do that's bad-ass?"
Then go do it—maybe you'll start something.