Bigfoot VIII: The Innovative and Controversial Monster Truck

Dustin ParksAnalyst IJune 28, 2009

When it comes to controversy in motorsports, often it is because of actions that happen on the race track.  Sometimes it is an incident that happened in the garage or an accident on pit road.  Whatever the case may be, it is mostly the actions of the drivers that stirs up controversy.

However, in some cases, controversy can happen because of a vehicle.

That happened in 1990 to the Bigfoot monster truck team.

The controversy started the year prior when Bob Chandler, the owner of the Bigfoot team, started running the TNT Renegade Monster Truck Circuit after finishing second in 1988 to the USA-1 truck.

Chandler elected to pull Bigfoot in the TNT series later in the year, but did compete at other shows for other promoters throughout the year.

During that time, Chandler and his team decided to create a new truck that would not only compete with the drivers and trucks that he faced, but to also take the industry to a new level.

The trucks that were being run at the time were considered to be "stage two" monster trucks.  The chassis consisted of a boxed frame, leaf spring suspensions, and mostly steel bodies.  This put the weight of the average truck running at the time at around 14,000 pounds.

Chandler wanted to build a truck that would withstand the long jumps and high speeds that were common at the time.

Enter Bigfoot VIII, which was finished in July 1989 after months of design, fabrication and testing.  This truck was unlike any that was competing with TNT or any monster truck series at the time.

Chandler considered Bigfoot VIII a "stage three" monster truck.  It was built completely with a tubular frame, much like that of an off-road vehicle.

The suspension on the truck was completely different, utilizing nitrogen-charged gas shocks and sway bars.  This truck had nearly two feet of suspension travel, unlike it's stage two trucks which had only six inches of travel.

Chandler introduced the truck later in the year, but it made it's official debut in 1990 as it returned to the TNT circuit.

Upon arrival, many drivers were weary of what the Bigfoot team was doing, but decided to compete against the new truck and it's driver, Andy Brass.

At that point, the controversy began.  Bigfoot VIII began to dominate the series, winning on a weekly basis while the drivers that were still running the leaf-spring trucks were unable to keep up with the technological advances that Chandler and his team instituted into the truck.

Some drivers were very vocal about their disdain for the truck, most notably Scott Stephens, who was driving King Krunch.  On a weekly basis, he would speak his mind on the truck and the team in how they were steps ahead of the competition.

Stephens had statistics backing him and the other competitors on how dominant the truck was.  Through the season's first 15 events, Bigfoot VIII won 12 of them.

Seeing this, TNT made a decision.  Prior to a TNT event in Dallas, Texas, the promoter announced that Bigfoot VIII was banned from competition.

Chandler was outraged at this motion, but because his truck had the points lead, had to make a move to keep competing and maintaining it's status.  So, Chandler decided to race one of his older trucks, Bigfoot IV, at the TNT events.

In an ironic twist of fate, at an event in Louisville, Kentucky, Bob Chandler was present when Bigfoot IV was racing on the unique "figure-8" course at Louisville Motor Speedway.

Bigfoot IV normally was driven by John Piant, however he was injured a few weeks prior, so it was Bigfoot VIII driver Andy Brass piloting the truck.

On that particular weekend, Brass took the older truck to the finals on both days of racing, and won the second event.

Chandler, meanwhile, took the extreme measure of filing suit against TNT Motorsports for banning his new truck, saying that the rules implemented at that time would "set monster truck racing back 10 years."

Finally, TNT balked and the truck was allowed to compete once again during the summer of 1990, but had to follow the other guideline put in at the time the truck was banned of having an engine no larger than 500 cubic-inches.

Bigfoot VIII won the TNT series that year, finishing the season by winning 60 percent of the races it competed in.

The controversy had finally gone away once the truck was back on the track, but at the same time, the truck influenced the drivers and teams to build more sophisticated trucks that could compete and win against the new Bigfoot.

In 1991, the tube frame chassis became the industry standard for monster trucks, and as years passed, innovations and improvements have made the sport what it is today.

Today's monster trucks are now more well-designed, more powerful and safer because of what Bob Chandler started back in 1989.

When you look at the old-style monster trucks, fans can appreciate how the industry began and can honor it's heritage.  However, much like many forms of competition, the industry had to change with the times.  Chandler happened to be the first one to make such a change, and the other drivers were not prepared for it.

Chandler still has Bigfoot VIII touring the United States, however the truck has retired from racing.  It is now mostly used for displays and special events, but is still recognized as the first modern-day monster truck.

The truck was innovative for it's design.  The truck was controversial because of it's domination.

However, had Chandler not built Bigfoot VIII, the monster truck industry would not be what it is today.