Bigfoot (truck)

Bigfoot (truck)

Infobox Monstertruck

image_caption=Bigfoot racing in Arizona
owner=Bob Chandler
driver=Dan Runte, Rick Long, Ron Bachman, Rodney Tweedy, Nigel Morris, Alan Hartsock, Eric Meagher, Keith Sturgeon, Jerry Dalton , Brian Bertoletti & Madusa
style=2005 Ford Super Duty
engine=572 c.i. Ford Hemi
home_city=Hazelwood, MO

Bigfoot is regarded as the original monster truck and remains one of the most popular trucks in the United States. Bigfoot 4x4, Inc. is owned and operated by its creator, Bob Chandler.

Early history

A former construction contractor from the St. Louis, Missouri area, Chandler began building the first Bigfoot in 1975, using the Chandler family's 1974 Ford F-250 four-wheel-drive pickup. Chandler had been using the truck for off-roading on weekends and would find that automotive shops in the Midwest generally did not carry the parts needed to repair his frequently-worked 4x4. To remedy this problem, Chandler and his wife Marilyn, along with friend Jim Kramer, opened a shop called Midwest Four Wheel Drive and Performance Center in Hazelwood, Missouri, which remains as Bigfoot's headquarters to this day. The truck was used as a rolling billboard for the shop, adorned with the various accessories Chandler sold in his new shop, as it slowly became taller.

The truck's first attention-grabbing modification came when Chandler got wind of an idea proposed to the U.S. Army of making steering capable on both axles of their four-wheeled vehicles, so that in the event of breakage in the front axle, it could simply be switched with the rear axle and held straight with a pin so that the vehicle could resume regular use with steering. Chandler decided to test that theory on his truck, but in addition would actually enable steering on the rear axle. The end result was a new innovation in automotive technology — the "4x4x4," or a vehicle with four wheels, four-wheel-drive, and four-wheel-steering.

In 1979, Chandler started making appearances at truck and tractor pulls, as well as car shows, with his newly christened "Bigfoot" to show off the truck's capabilities as well as to promote his shop. The truck's growing popularity led to its appearance in the 1981 Gus Trikonis film "Take This Job and Shove It."

While these accomplishments were certainly admirable, Chandler's next experiment would not only change the life and fortunes of a middle-class pickup owner from the St. Louis area, it would change the motorsports world forever. In 1981, Chandler obtained permission from a local farmer to place two dilapidated cars in his field, so that Chandler could videotape himself crushing the cars with Bigfoot as a joke. When Chandler began playing the video in his shop, a man promoting a motorsports event in Columbia, Missouri asked him to duplicate the stunt in front of a crowd. After initial hesitation because of the destructive image it would convey, Chandler eventually agreed to perform at the event in April of the following year in what is believed to be the first public car crush. Later that year, a second Bigfoot (built to help meet the steadily rising demand to see the vehicle) received more major media attention by crushing cars at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. In 1983, Bigfoot began receiving sponsorship from Ford Motor Company a relationship which continued until December 22 2007 when an entry on the Bigfoot website announced that the sponsorship had ended.

By 1984, many truck owners around the country had taken to imitating Chandler's template of outfitting their vehicles with tires standing 66 inches tall, with some trucks sporting even larger tires. Promoters of truck and tractor pulls, such as SRO Motorsports (later the United States Hot Rod Association) and Golden State Promotions, noticed the exploding popularity of the giant trucks and began booking several to crush cars at their events, with the eventual result being the advent of side-by-side, drag-racing style car crushing events. A popular example of the early days of monster truck racing is portrayed in the 1986 home video release "Return of the Monster Trucks", which involves a truck pull, car crushing, and mud bogging all in the same course. That event, held in the Louisiana Superdome, was won by Bigfoot, as well as most of the events it was entered into in the mid 1980s. By this point, Chandler had already built an entire fleet of "Bigfoot" trucks to accommodate the vast demand for his vehicle, which remained as the most popular and marketable monster truck despite the large number of imitators. In 1987, Chandler added to his innovations by founding the Monster Truck Racing Association, which remains today as the chief voice in monster truck safety.

Another form of competition Chandler faced was the physical size of the competition. Many truck owners had taken to calling their vehicles the "World's Largest Monster Truck," so Chandler outfitted his "Bigfoot 4" vehicle with 10-foot-tall tires he had purchased from a junkyard owner in Seattle, Washington for only $1000. The tires had been previously used by an Arctic snow train in Alaska by the U.S. Army in the 1950s. In 1986, Chandler built a new truck, "Bigfoot 5", specifically for the tires. Upon its public debut in Indianapolis, Indiana, the truck immediately took the title of "World's Tallest, Widest, and Heaviest Monster Truck" and was eventually given official recognition of the title by the Guinness Book of Records in 2002. With a second set of 10-foot-tall tires attached, the truck stands 15 feet, six inches, measures 20 feet, 5 inches across, and weighs over 38,000 pounds.

Racing History

The fledgling all-sports television network ESPN also took note of the popularity of monster trucks in the 1980s and began showing events promoted by the United States Hot Rod Association and TNT Motorsports on a regular basis. With the frequent broadcasts of monster truck races, the next logical step was to create a championship series of monster truck races. TNT began the first recognized series in 1988, and was dominated by Bigfoot for much of the season. However, upstart rookie Rod Litzau, driving the USA-1 truck, gained momentum and closed in on Bigfoot up to the last race of the season in Louisville, Kentucky. With the way the points system and elimination brackets had been structured, Bigfoot (driven by Rich Hooser) and USA-1 met in the semifinal round with the winning truck being awarded the overall points championship. Litzau won the race in spectacular fashion, rolling his truck in the process, and took the championship. After losing the championship, the Bigfoot team made the decision to shift their focus less on competition and more on research and development in 1989, as well as running frequent events for the USHRA and USA Motorsports and a limited TNT Schedule.

During this time, Chandler began working with computer-aided design (CAD) programs, and using technology he had learned from professional off-road racing, designed a tubular frame for his next Bigfoot truck, along with a suspension system sporting two feet of travel. This innovation allowed Bigfoot to possess four times as much suspension travel as those used by nearly all previous monster trucks. Chandler would be awarded a patent for his designs. After testing the vehicle for three months, driver Andy Brass debuted the eighth incarnation of Bigfoot, with the new frame and suspension, in late 1989. It officially made its debut at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Four Wheel and Off Road Jamboree in a special 5,000th show for Bigfoot (where every Bigfoot vehicle gathered in one place for the first time). It made its debut in competition at a USHRA race in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, reaching the final round of competition before rolling over against Jack Willman's Taurus.

The following year, after running the USHRA races in Anaheim, California, and Pontiac, Michigan, the truck would debut on the TNT Motorsports Monster Truck Challenge points circuit in Memphis, Tennessee, and would find the Bigfoot 8# chassis briefly banned from the circuit on April 5th, 1990, due to a rule clarification that only allowed leaf, coil, and coilover suspensions to be run (Bigfoot #8 ran nitrogen shocks). Although TNT stated that safety was the primary reason for the clarification, they also admitted that another reason was that Bigfoot #8 was simply too technologically advanced and was upsetting the competitive balance of the series. Former BMX racer John Piant, piloting "Bigfoot #4" raced in place of #8 from Dallas, Texas to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Andy Brass did drive Bigfoot #4 to victory at the Louisville Motor Speedway. Bigfoot #8 returned to the TNT circuit after the temporary ban had been lifted. Chandler also took legal action against TNT.

Team Bigfoot ended up winning 24 events that season and took the 1990 TNT points championship over Greg Holbrook in Gary Cook's Equalizer and Gary Porter's Carolina Crusher, the first racing championship for the Bigfoot team. Also that year, Piant took the Special Events Triple Crown Championship, in addition to placing third in the USHRA's new point series. After not winning any championships in 1991, Team Bigfoot would go on a 12-year stretch from 1992-2003 of winning at least one championship a year, taking a total of 16 series championship victories during that span. The most notable of Team Bigfoot's recent series championship victories came in 2007, when Bigfoot #16 and driver Dan Runte won the first ever championship series held by the Major League of Monster Trucks. With that victory, Team Bigfoot now holds a total of 22 series championships.

Present day

Bigfoot continues to be in huge demand, even today. Partnerships with Microsoft, Firestone, DuPont, and Summit Racing have kept Bigfoot in the spotlight in recent years. The Microsoft sponsorship in particular has led to several PC and console video games starring Bigfoot. Always seeking to further innovate the sport, Chandler created monster truck racing's first open-invitation point series, ProMT, in 2000, which still in existence today, albeit only in Europe. As for closed-invitation promotions, Bigfoot ceased running events for the USHRA in 1998 (due to a dispute involving Team Bigfoot's usage of video footage and pictures) and has not returned since. Bigfoot appeared frequently for USA Motorsports and Motorsports Entertainment Group until both of those companies were purchased by the USHRA's parent company, Live Nation. Bigfoot still races for the Special Events Promotion Company (which hosted many ProMT races before ProMT ceased sanctioning races in North America after 2004), Chris Arel Motorsports, Checkered Flag Promotions, and AMP Live Events, among others. In 2007 the BIGFOOT team brought back Midwest 4 Wheel Drive at the Home of BIGFOOT in Hazelwood, Missouri.

As a token of appreciation for fathering a brand new form of motorsport that remains widely popular today, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inducted Chandler into their Class of 2006.

In May 2006, Bigfoot signed former professional wrestler and Live Nation driver Debra Miceli. Miceli drove the "Bigfoot 10" chassis until the end of the 2007 Major League of Monster Trucks (MLMT) season.

In December 2007, Bigfoot's 23 year relationship with Ford ended. []

In April 2008, Bob Chandler and Jim Kramer were inducted into the Official Monster Truck Hall of Fame. [ ]

Other Bigfoot Facts

* There is no Bigfoot 13. After Bigfoot 12 was constructed, it was decided that the next Bigfoot truck to be built would be called Bigfoot 14, due to superstition about the number 13.
* In 1998, Bigfoot 9 took a tour of Brazil. When it was due to return to the United States, however, a customs incident caused the truck to be confiscated. It is currently used by an independent company within the country, and legal obstacles have made it all but impossible for the truck to return to the United States.
* Bigfoot got its name when Bob Chandler asked friend Ron Magruder why he was breaking so many parts on his truck. Magruder responded, "It's because of your big foot."
* Dan Runte, driving Bigfoot 14, set the world monster truck long jump record on September 11, 1999 in Smyrna, Tennessee, when he jumped the truck a total of 202 feet, clearing a 727 jetliner in the process.
* In 2003, Nigel Morris partnered with Bob Chandler to build Bigfoot 17, the first Bigfoot to compete exclusively outside of the United States. Bigfoot 17 competes primarily in the United Kingdom.
* Bigfoot has several alternative names and identities for their trucks when two of their trucks are scheduled at a show. Among these have been "Summit Bigfoot", "Power Wheels Bigfoot", "Tonka", "Xbox", "WildFoot" and "Snake Bite".
* Snake Bite (using Bigfoot 4's chassis) was originally driven by Gene Patterson, under the pseudonym of Colt Cobra. He wore a mask to hide his identity and came from the fictional town of Cobra Creek, Colorado. Eric Meagher became Colt Cobra in 1993 (now with Bigfoot 8's chassis) when Gene drove Bigfoot #10 to second place behind Andy Brass in Bigfoot #11. Dan Runte drove it as Ricky Rattler for a short time, but Ricky also came from Cobra Creek, Colorado. Since 1997, a regular Bigfoot driver under his own name has been driving Snake Bite.
* There was an animated cartoon featuring the Bigfoot Monster Truck, Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines in the 1980s. The truck has been frequently licensed for use in toys.
* Bigfoot is referenced in two different episodes of Futurama.
* A video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System of the same name was released in 1990 by Acclaim Entertainment.
* Bigfoot was one of the main characters of the animated series, "The Power Team". It (or "he" in the show) was added to advertise the NES game above.

List of Bigfoot Vehicles

The following is a list of all the vehicles built or owned by Bigfoot 4x4, Inc., and their current status.

External links

* [ Bigfoot 4x4, Inc.]
* [ Guinness World Records: Biggest Monster Truck]
* [ "Bigfoot and SFX Motor Sports — 1 Year Later"]
* [ UK Bigfoot]
* [ Legend- Dedicated to Bob Chandler]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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