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In the late 1970s, modified pickup trucks were becoming popular and the sports of mud bogging and truck pulling were gaining in popularity. Several truck owners had created lifted trucks to compete in such events, and soon competition to hold the title of "biggest truck" developed. The trucks which garnered the most national attention were Bob Chandler's Bigfoot, Everett Jasmer's USA-1, Fred Shafer and Jack Willman Sr.'s Bear Foot, and Jeff Dane's King Kong. At the time, the largest tires the trucks were running were 48 inches in diameter.
In April 1981, Bob Chandler drove over cars in Bigfoot in what is often believed to be the first monster truck to crush cars. Chandler drove Bigfoot over a pair of cars in a field as a test of the truck's ability, and filmed it to use as a promotional tool in his four wheel drive performance shop. An event promoter saw the video of the car crush and asked Chandler to do it in front of a crowd. Initially hesitant because of the "destructive" image that could be associated with Bigfoot, Chandler eventually caved in. After some smaller shows, Chandler performed the feat in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982. At this show, Chandler also debuted a new version of Bigfoot with 66 inch (1.7 m) diameter tires. At a prior event in the early 80's when BIGFOOT was still running 48″ terra tires, Bob George, one of the owners of a motorsport promotion company named Truck-a-rama (now the USHRA), is said to have coined the phrase "monster truck" when referring to BIGFOOT. The term "monster truck" became the generic name for all trucks with oversized terra tires.
Debate over who did the first car crush is often discussed. There are claims that in the late 1970s, Jeff Dane's King Kong (who referred to his truck as the "Bigger Foot") had crushed cars at Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Another truck, known as High Roller, also claimed to have documented car crushes in Washington State before Bigfoot, though said documentation has never surfaced. Cyclops, then owned by the Dykman Brothers, also claims to have crushed burning cars before Bigfoot. However, the earliest, widely-available and verified video footage showing a monster truck crushing cars that exists shows Bob Chandler driving Bigfoot while crushing two mid-seventies automobiles in April 1981. This video was what the promoter viewed that motivated him to ask Chandler to perform the car crush in front of a crowd.
King Kong and Bear Foot each followed Bigfoot to 66-inch-diameter (1,700 mm) tires, and soon other monster trucks, such as King Krunch, Maddog, and Virginia Giant were being constructed. These early trucks were built off of stock chassis which were heavily reinforced, used leaf spring suspension, a stock body, and heavy military axles to support the tires. As a result, the trucks were incredibly heavy (usually 13,000 to 20,000 lb.) and most times had to crawl up onto the cars.
For most of the early 1980s, monster trucks performed primarily exhibitions as a side show to truck pulling or mud bogging events. In 1985, major promoters, such as the USHRA and TNT Motorsports, began racing monster trucks on a regular basis. The races, as they are today, were in the form of single elimination drag races, held over a course littered with obstacles. The change to racing eventually led truck owners to begin building lighter trucks, with more power.
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