Is Grave Digger the 1st Monster Truck?

For those who dream of a little destruction and mayhem, there’s nothing like a Monster Jam rally. Seeing humongous trucks racing over smaller vehicles is a thrilling experience for drivers and audience members. As with most sports, some trucks have become more popular than others, however, and the Grave Digger is one of the top picks. Is it the original monster truck, however, or does that title go to another?

Grave Digger is a Monster Jam legend

The Grave Digger monster truck flying in Rotterdam
The Grave Digger monster truck | Andy Jones / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Getting a chance at driving a monster truck on major circuits isn’t easy, especially when it comes to Monster Jam. Grave Digger got lucky, however. A competitor that was supposed to jump in and crush some cars didn’t show up, and Grave Digger was given the slot. So, ever since, it’s been a fan favorite.

According to Motor Trend, “Originally built as a mud-bogging machine, Grave Digger got its name after its owner, Dennis Anderson, told his competitors that he’d dig their graves using his beat-up old truck. The first Grave Digger was a 1952 Ford pickup shod in mud-bogging tires and powered by a Chevrolet small-block engine.”

Monster trucks take quite the beating, however, and it’s common to replace them. The heir to the Grave Digger name was a 1957 Chevrolet Panel Wagon. It was given black and green paint and red headlights that gave it a creepy but appealing look that suited its name perfectly.

There are currently nine Grave Digger trucks on the circuit, and each is outfitted with a supercharged V8 engine that pushes out 1,500 horsepower. While Motor Trend refers to the Grave Digger as the OG Monster truck, that title actually belongs to another.

Bigfoot started it all

Bigfoot is the original monster truck and was created by Bob Chandler. He decided to put huge tires on his Ford F-250 in 1975, and a monster truck was born. It had a 640-cubic-inch Hemi engine and made quite the impression of crushing cars and zipping through mud runs.

Since then, Bigfoot stars in an average of 1,000 shows a year, according to Car and Driver. It’s been in over seven movies, the first of which was Take This Job and Shove It. There are now five Bigfoot trucks making the circuits, and it’s appeared all over the world. There’s one place you won’t see Bigfoot, however, and that’s Monster Jam. 

More about Monster Jam

There is no more well-known monster truck show than Monster Jam. It’s sort of like the NASCAR of the monster truck world. For those who dream of designing and driving monster trucks, it doesn’t get any bigger than Monster Jam.

Monster Jam was created in 1992 and took a different approach than other competitors. To perform in a Monster Jam show, the creator and owner of the monster truck must sell it to Monster Jam. This stipulation is due to licensing issues. When Monster Jam owns the truck, it owns the rights to things like photos, videos, and advertising rights. It makes things easier when Monster Jam puts out a new game and doesn’t have to worry about which trucks appear.

However, not all monster truck owners want to play by Monster Jam’s rules, which costs them. Chandler was one of them. He decided not to perform in Monster Jam because the company wanted to buy Bigfoot before advertising it. Chandler refused, and as a result, Bigfoot hasn’t been in a Monster Jam show in decades.

In an interview with Car and Driver in 2017, Chandler did express some regret for not “tying in” with Monster Jam because it would have gotten Bigfoot more of the attention that is now going to Grave Digger.

RELATED: How Much Does a Monster Truck Cost?