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Steve Rushin
March 08, 1993
All over America, monster trucks are crushing cars, spraying mud and spreading joy
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March 08, 1993

Monster Mash

All over America, monster trucks are crushing cars, spraying mud and spreading joy

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Imagination abandoned by Reason produces impossible monsters.

The crowd is going lug nuts. Spinning tires pitch mud lumps high above spectators at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, each filth bomb falling to Earth like a seat-seeking missile. Beers are befouled. A little boy is besmirched. A bald man's bean is bespattered.

In the world of monster trucks, there are two immutable laws: 1) What goes up must come down, and 2) spinnin' wheels got to go round.

Round the spinnin' wheels go tires that can be 66 inches tall, with treads that are 43 inches wide. "We pulled into New York City at rush hour once," recalls Dennis Anderson, who keeps his beast called Grave Digger in training wheels in a semitrailer when transporting it from arena to arena. "I tell you what, I thought about throwin' on the big tires right there and unloadin' that sumbitch in traffic."

Alas, it is illegal to loose six tons of Chevy-powered hell fury on the heathen streets of Gotham, no matter how much Manhattan's cabbies might deserve to shudder beneath the hooves of Digger's 1,500 horses. Several states have passed monster truck laws that proscribe circulation by vehicles whose bumpers are more than 30 inches off the ground. "Thirty inches off the ground," says Fred Shafer in the long, dark shadow of his Dodge Dakota Bear Foot. "My bumper's seven feet off the ground."

Seven feet off the ground. Shafer throws his head back, and the Civic Arena's concrete corridors echo with diabolical laughter.

Orphaned by Reason, the imagination of the American gearhead has indeed produced impossible monsters: trucks 12 feet tall with as much giddyap as stock cars. The engine in a monster truck displaces up to 575 cubic inches, a space that sublets for $2,000 a month in Manhattan. Monsters consume four to five gallons of alcohol with each three-second voyage over the crush cars.

Crush cars are the monster truck's raison d'être. In layman's terms crush cars are cars that trucks crush. Just as a flower is most fragrant when crushed, a car has not realized its full potential until Bigfoot or Snake Bite or the Jersey Outlaw has rendered it the kind of flattened junk heap that Jimmy Hoffa would be caught dead in. "People seem to like the noise," says Bigfoot owner Robert Chandler, monster trucking's Abner Doubleday. "They seem to like the sound of metal being crushed."

And, of course, this is the only sport that reproduces on a grand scale the sweet sound one savors when collapsing a beer can against one's forehead. Nearly every weekend, somewhere in North America, monster trucks slake their thirst for crush cars. Let lesser bumpers ask, HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR CHILDREN TODAY? The question painted on the back of the Chevy monster Carolina Crusher is: HAVE YOU DRIVEN OVER A FORD LATELY?

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is no joke," the P. A. announcer warns fans at a critical point in the Pittsburgh monsterama. "This will be a plenty-big explosion. If you have a pacemaker, leave now!"

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