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How Are Monster Trucks Made?

You know how they look, sound, fly, and destroy—but how are monster trucks made?


Bob Chandler, the putative inventor of the monster truck, had no idea where the project would take him when he began. But as he added larger and larger tires to his Ford truck, and made many adjustments to the structure in order to accommodate new demands, a legacy was born. This original monster truck, Bigfoot, one of the most popular monster trucks of all time, paved the way for a whole new, exciting style of entertainment.

But many monster truck fans may still be wondering: just how are monster trucks made? With the incredible feats they (and their drivers) perform, they must have incredible durability and strength. They also need incredible safety features, to protect their drivers and bystanders from the dangers of the many risky stunts they take on. There’s a reason you can’t "fly" in your old Ford F-150, or crush another car under its wheels—it’s simply not designed for it. It takes a lot of very particular specifications to build a monster truck.

Tires

The most striking feature of monster trucks is, of course, the massive tires. While the tires can of course be modified in certain ways to fit a particular track or event, there are certain requirements and standards.

These monstrosities (no pun intended) are 66 inches high and 43 inches wide, and can each weigh up to 900 pounds—though they may be cut in particular ways to reduce this weight substantially. Of course, having massive tires creates other issues—so, while it might seem beneficial to have the heftiest, biggest tires, it’s actually generally preferred to have lighter tires that allow the truck to get up to speed more quickly, maneuver more easily, and ease the strain on the rest of the parts. How long should a new set of tires last? Not long when they're put through this.

Axles

Anyone wondering how monster trucks or made needs to have an understanding of the role of the axles, and the strain that they come under. Normal trucks simply do not need to withstand the kind of torque and weight that monster trucks do. As a result, the axles are one of the weakest parts, and a part that required a lot of tweaking to make work. Even military grade solid axles were found to break too easily under heavy torque and impact, so most monster trucks are now made with custom axles designed specifically for this purpose—a design largely attributed to Bob Chandler and Bigfoot.  

Engine and Transmission

Photo by Rob Lambert on Unsplash

A monster truck may have its engine replaced as many as five times in a year, depending on how much action it sees. Obviously, the engine is extremely powerful, and much larger than that of your standard truck. This is another reason that monster trucks require such uniquely designed axles.

Most monster trucks, including Bigfoot and Grave Digger, have automatic transmissions.

Gas Shocks

Obviously, monster trucks see a lot of high-impact action. So they have to have impeccable shock absorption. As a result, most monster trucks use gas shocks—usually nitrogen gas shocks. They may have as many as two shocks per tire, and never fewer than one. This is how they’re able to withstand the incredible jumps and landings for which they are so famous.

Brakes

While the "go" part of a monster truck event like Monster Jam is probably more exciting, the stopping is one of the most important things. So to answer the question of how monster trucks are made, we need to understand one of the most important safety features.

First of all, monster trucks have more separate brakes than standard automobiles. While most cars and trucks have two sets of brakes—one for the back, one for the front—monster trucks have four, ensuring that any brake failure can be compensated for by the others. This is especially important because monster truck drivers may spend quite a bit of time on fewer than four tires—especially when landing from a high-flying stunt, like the feat of Joey Sylvester of a ramp jump of 72.42 meters, one of the world of monster trucks’ most impressive Guinness World Records. Monster truck drivers always have to been on the lookout for the signs it is time to get new brakes.

Appearance

What fun would Monster Jam be if all the trucks just looked like really high Fords? Well, probably still pretty fun, but it’s just not in the spirit of the thing. No, it’s impossible to ask how monster trucks are made without considering how they’re made to look. After all, they are a method of entertainment.

The body of a monster truck is usually custom fiberglass, and painted to the preferences of owners, drivers, and sponsors. While some monster trucks, like Grave Digger, are still airbrushed for their appearance, most use vinyl wrapped stickers.

Safety Features

Monster trucks and their drivers have a reputation for being big, loud, reckless and dangerous. But in reality, these drivers and mechanics value safety above all else—for drivers and fans alike. As a result, the question of how monster trucks are made is largely a question of safety features.

Unlike on standard trucks, every wheel of a monster truck has its own brake—this is especially important for big stunts, in which the truck may land on only two wheels. If the truck only had the standard two sets of brakes (one front, one back), and those brakes failed, the driver would have no control upon landing.

Monster trucks are also built with manual backups for many of their most important functions, providing a failsafe should something break in the ruckus of an event. For example, the gas pedal has a special hook attached so that the driver can use his toe to pull the accelerator up, in case it gets stuck. In addition, most monster trucks—like the infamous Grave Digger—have manual emergency handles or levels that will cut the fuel and/or engine when pulled, giving the driver a figurative parachute in case of emergency. They also come equipped with easily deployable fire extinguishers.

Another important safety consideration is the stability of the truck as a whole—that is, the need for all the parts to stay in place, and not risk flying off and hitting someone. So, when considering how monster trucks are made, we have to consider how they are held together. This requires a number of extra pieces, of the strongest, highest quality materials, to keep everything tied together and stable. This can’t prevent everything from breaking, but it will certainly keep everyone safe in the event that pieces do break. 

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