Blast From The Past: Hamburg, NY 1987 – “A Grimm Prospect”

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the “Blast from the Past’ blog where I, TMB Videographer Colby Marshall, review classic and especially not-so-classic shows from the glory days of monster truck competition. I’ll be doing this in a light-hearted, playfully sarcastic manner so don’t take offense, and let’s all sit back, have a few laughs and remember the way things used to be. Yes that’s right fans, I am back again…trucker hat, ringer shirt, cowboy boots, tight jeans and all…for another rousing romp of old school monster mayhem. This time out, it is TNT Motorsports in Hamburg, NY circa 1987 (YouTube would be a good place to look if you want to follow along). And boy-oh-boy do we have a treat for you all this time. There he is, microphone in hand, its DAVE GRIMM!!! I promise two things…incomprehensible yelling and ad nausea repetition. Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the first round to find out. The trucks will drag race over a large dirt roller, then two sets of four cars and finish at the top of another dirt roller.

Pulling to the line, its Allen “Dick Clark ain’t got nothing on me because I still look the same as I always have” Pezo taking on Steve “Not the gas stations” Hess in Nitemare. Senior official and expert flagman Ed Hart waves the green flag…no, wait, he waves the red flag…actually, he waves both of them for some odd reason. The drivers look at each other in a confused manner, shrug their shoulders, and mutually decide to start the race anyways. Rather than describing this race, I am going to turn to the transcript of Mr. Grimm’s expert analysis of this epic encounter:

“Here we go! Here we go! Here come the monster trucks! Here come the monster trucks! Here they come! Here they come! They’re on their way! Here comes the Chevrolet! Here…OH THERE THEY GO! OH WOAH! There they come. Here comes Nitemare! Here comes (checks flash card) the Lone Eagle. There they comes…OH! OHH! OHHHH! Hit em Hit em Hit em Hit em Hit em Hit em. There they go! There they go! There they go! Its gonna beeee the Looooooooone Eagle!”

Thanks, Dave! Allen Pezo moves on by a truck length.

For our second race, Gayle Mefford brings out Stomper 1 to the line. In the other lane, its (according to the on screen graphics) Barry Packaid in Little Bear Foot. And, in case you were wondering, you empty the packet of Packaid into a 2-quart pitcher, add a cup of sugar and water, then stir vigorously until dissolved for a tasty, refreshing beverage. Stomper leaves the line, while Barry Packaid stays put and tries to make sense of the directions I just gave. Stomper heads for the cars and Mefford absolutely airs out that uber-heavy truck, all but clearing the cars and sending the flags in the bed flying in all directions. From the sound of things, Dave Grimm had some combination of a heart attack, a stroke, his underwear on too tight, puberty and a velociraptor attack all at the same time, as he screeched into the microphone over this quite impressive jump. Oh, and apparently Barry finished off his glass of Packaid and decided to start the race. He makes it as far as the first car set before shutting down again. Dave Grimm tells us liquid is coming out of the truck. I failed to mention that adult supervision is required when making Packaid, and most of the rest spilled out of the truck and onto the track. My bad. Stomper moves on.

Jon Breen brings out Mad Dog, painted mostly yellow, for the third race of the first round, taking on Star Monster. It wears a very simple black and gray paint scheme that I think looks fantastic. Unfortunately, looking fantastic wasn’t enough to take down what was one of the few purpose-built race trucks trucks at the time. Mad Dog wins by a lot.

Sly Stallone and the Governator get to the chahppahs and line up for this race. It’s Rambo and Terminator in a battle of 1980’s action movies starring guys who talk funny. They are off and we go back to Dave Grimm for the call…

“Terminator and Rambo…Terminator and Rambo…Rambo on the inside, Terminator on the outside…Termbo and Raminator…” Wait, WHAT?!? Raminator?!? In 1987? I knew those Rams were fast, but so fast that they hit 88MPH, flipped on the flux capacitor, and traveled back in time to win an obscure race in New York? Apparently so. Mark Hall wins the race and moves…no. Upon further review, it was simply Dave Grimm getting ahead of himself and misspeaking the names of the trucks. What a let down! Tim Hall, if you are reading this, you guys would have made this race much more interesting. And safe. Rambo goes all bouncy like it has barely working, primitive suspension (which NEVER happened in the 1980’s) and almost runs over a cameraman. Terminator and Jerry Richmond win this one, and our intrepid videographer retreats to the third stall in the men’s room to change his shorts.

That brings us to the Semi-Fineals. I spelled it that way because that is the way it is spelled on screen. Remember our rule…1980’s television broadcasts are NEVER wrong. Ever. Allen Pezo in Lone Eagle takes on Gayle Mefford in Stomper. Interesting to note that Stomper appears to have about half the air pressure in its tires this round. I’m willing to bet that inversely correlates to the amount of pressure on Mr. Mefford’s kidneys after that air shot in round one. Stomper looks a bit gimpy in this one, with the left front leaning pretty bad. This opens things up, and like a “predator”, Allen Pezo takes advantage and moves on to the finals. Dave screams, “WE HAVE HAD AN UPSET!” That and a REALLY bad joke from the writer of this article, Dave.

“There we go ladies and gentlemen! Take off! Take off! Take off!” signals the beginning of an epic contest between Terminator and Mad Dog. Terminator uses about 450 feet to runs this 300 foot race as Jerry Richmond zig-zags across the track. Jon Breen keeps ‘er straight and narrow and races out ahead to an easy victory. As he crosses the line, yet another velociraptor attacks Dave Grimm as he screams at something happening to Terminator that we never see. “WOAHAHAHHHA! Mad Dog is gonna win it with ease. Terminator will finish…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………behind.”

Final round time it is, as Jon Breen and Jerry Richmond pull to the line. Wait, didn’t that JUST happen? Well, the on-screen graphics strike again. It’s actually Mad Dog and Jon Breen taking on Allen Pezo and Lone Eagle. Voice over guy tells us that they are both Chebbies. Thanks, voice over guy. He goes on to explain that Mad Dog is specially constructed for just this kind of competition. So, Mad Dog can only win if there is non-carbonated soft drink, TERRIBLE announcing, time travel, Mark Hall and vicious dinosaur attacks involved in the event. Well, it just so happens to be Jon Breen’s lucky day. In the annals of monster truck coverage, there are certain calls that transcend the sport and become a thing of legend. The late, great Jan Gabriel, Army Armstrong, Scott Douglas. All have made their mark on this industry with legendary race calls and became legends in their own right. They did so by NEVER spouting lines like the one that follows:

“Mad Dog on his way. Mad Dog on his way. Mad Dog on his way. MAD DOG ON HIS WAAAYY! Mad Dog on his way. And Mad Dog is gonna win it.”

Inspiring. Voice over guy is back and tells us that Mad Dog is built for running. And rabies shots. That’s not true. I made that last part up because I thought it was funny. For some odd reason, we go to an on-track announcer that didn’t appear at any other time during this competition. He interviews Jon Breen who tells us the truck is built for circuit racing. Circuit racing? For some odd reason I pictured Jenson Button quaking in his driving suit as he looks in the rear view of his McLaren and sees the engineering marvel that was Mad Dog. That wing could be intimidating.

This event is an interesting one to me. Here we have a long, straight line course at a time that TNT had not yet settled on this as their defacto track of choice. This was a strange mix of trucks, including what is one of the few TNT TV appearances of Lil’ Bearfoot. With the exception of Mad Dog, these were “stage one” trucks built for show and for exhibition crushing. I always found events like this way more interesting, as trucks that had no business racing bounced all over the place, performed terribly, but still looked amazing doing it. Well, my six month old has managed to find an l.e.d. flashlight and is beating on the computer chair with it. I had better get going. Until next time, OLD SCHOOL RULES!

Blast From The Past: Minneapolis, MN 1988

Hello Monster Bloggers!   Welcome to the very first edition of the “Blast from the Past” feature article. I, TMB Videographer Colby Marshall, will be reviewing classic and not-so-classic shows from the glory days of monster truck competition. I’ll be doing this in a light-hearted, playfully sarcastic manner so don’t take offense, and let’s all sit back, have a few laughs and remember the way things used to be. Quite often in this article series, I plan on reviewing the lesser-known and lesser-celebrated events – why, you ask?  More material!

The first event I am going to cover is no exception. Welcome to the fantastipotomus (cough cough) that was the Minneapolis USHRA event in 1988! (YouTube would be a good place to look if you want to follow along) In addition to the monster trucks, this event featured pulling and mud racing. This being THE MONSTER BLOG, I will only be focusing on the monsters. As I start watching…oh no…no…it can’t be! LARRY HUFFMAN AND MARGO KING CALLING THE ACTION?!? For the love of all that is sacred, this is gonna be interesting.

We are immediately reminded that the winner of this particular event will be facing the Virginia Beach Beast in some kind of existential battle of good and evil…or something. My first thought is that the year before called and said, “You know, guys. We tried this. A LOT! And it really wasn’t that exciting.” Yet, here we are quite a bit past this “attraction” running its course. Margo and Larry play this up as one of the very first times this has happened (if you ignore the 745 other times before) and that it is some kind of major challenge. Whatever. On to the first race.

Oh, look, its Heartbeat. Wait a minute. It has a different driver. Who is the “Brent” Engleman guy? Must be Brett’s cousin. Kinda looks like Brett, so it must simply be a case of family resemblance, because USHRA broadcasts in the 1980’s would NEVER misspell a name, would they? He is lining up against Fred “Don’t call me Bob Chandler” Shafer in the 1988 Chevy-bodied Bearfoot. They will race down the pulling track, make an outside turn and hit six cars. The finish line is about thirty feet past the cars.

It always seemed weird to me that in a huge dome stadium, they would use a track that would fit in some hockey arenas. Was minimalist art in vogue in 1988? Maybe Ken Donat was considering a monastic lifestyle or something. Speaking of Ken Donat, he waves a flag and runs for his life. Fred jumps out to a gigantic lead as they make the turn. A bunch of awkward camera cuts later, and your winner is…Brent Engleman?!? How the heck did that happen? I wish I could tell you, but the production work was AWFUL for this first run. Even the Brett Engleman look-alike has no clue who won. He looks all confused until someone standing at trackside decides its time to tell him he was the victor. Brent pumps his fist in a glory not seen since Tiger Woods…oh nevermind. Heartbeat moves on.

The little pony that could, Black Stallion, is out next. Mr. Vaters will be taking on Jeff Bainter in Hot Stuff. Its for sale as I type this. Not much to report here. Hot Stuff wins by ten seconds on a twenty second course. You know, this young Vaters kid might turn into something some day. But this ain’t that day.

All hail the beauty that is Samson 1. My goodness, what an absolutely stunning vehicle! Don Maples as usual. Suddenly, a bird goes rocketing across the floor, and two stones are dead. This can mean only one thing. Bigfoot 4 levitates into place on the line, this time taking Rich Hooser along for the nirvana-like experience. Of course, this was two years before MC Hammer learned the hard way that 4, in fact, can touch this. No doubt in this one as Foot 4 completes the course 14 times before Samson 1 hits the turn. Bigfoot 4 moves on, but not before building a snowman out of rain.

Kodiak and Mark Bendler stroll to the starting blocks next to take on another of the most amazing looking vehicles ever built. Its pulling icon Diehl Wilson and Virginia Giant. Run, Donat, RUN! Wilson grabs a three-truck lead, but struggles with the turn. Kodiak makes up most of the ground, but not enough. This was a good race, but Virginia Giant moves on. Maybe there is something weird about that left-side turn. Might explain what happened to Fred, but we will never know because the director was having a seizure of some kind during that first race.

Sound the trumpets! Its time for round number two of the Monster trucks! Brent Engleman pulls back up to the line in the stolen Heartbeat truck. He lines up against the world’s largest jeep, Hot Stuff. The Ken Donat self-preservation run of doom signals the beginning of this contest. They are even, but Hot Stuff grabs a slight lead just before the turn. Brent proves that he is more talented than his identical twin cousin Brett by mastering the horrid left lane turn and retakes the lead. Both trucks race towards the cars in what is turning into a fantastic race. Its close! OH &%#$!!! Hot Stuff breaks pretty much everything in the front end! That looks expensive. We are told that Heartbeat won at the line, and while we don’t see it, I am sure that another fist pump of satisfaction was had. In a related story, I turn on the VOICE BASSIFIER AND REVERBERATOR 9000 to announce that it is time for…


“Where is Big Tow when you need him?”

and that was your MARGO KINGISM OF THE NIGHT! Back to the races.

Virginia Giant struts its blinged out self to the line as Foot 4 teleports itself from the pits to the starting box. Donat runs for his life again and the competition commences. Diehl Wilson leads at the turn as Bigfoot 4 takes time out to solve that pesky scientific issue about cold nuclear fusion. Virginia Giant spins on the ball bearing-covered teflon ice that is the floor of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Bigfoot 4 wins, but you already knew that.

We come back from a long-forgotten commercial for the final round, but not before a special bonus MARGO KINGISM OF THE NIGHT!

“Now, there aren’t many things that intimidate Monster Trucks, but Monster Tanks do!”

A two for one deal on THE MARGO KINGISM OF THE NIGHT, and now you all owe me.

Bigfoot 4 remains in the pits, but wishes a second version of itself into existence for the final round race against the man of 1000 faces, Brent “I am fairly certain that is a typo” Engleman. Foot 4 takes a lead going into the turn, but spins out so that it can set an ant on fire with a magnifying glass. Indoors. This leaves things wide open for Brent, who inexplicably stops to take a phone call from cousin Brett’s lawyer. 4 slams a revolving door and calmly finishes the course for the easy win. The crack production team misses the Bigfoot celebration donut while holding on a shot of the far lane cars while waiting for Heartbeat to finally hit them. YAY for lack of desire!

And now it is time for the most epic battle since the Austria-Ottoman Wars of 1529 (thank you, Google) as Bigfoot 4 takes on the Virginia Beach Beast. Aaaaaannnnnd Foot 4 wins by three truck lengths. The left front tire of 4 comes off the ground 10 inches, thus saving a small puppy that wandered onto the track. This doesn’t stop Larry Huffman from screaming that the truck “ALMOST GOES OVER!!!” Right, Larry.

We will be right back with the driver…I’ll be watching Alf.

Fun event that was typical of USHRA at the time. Seemed like they were in a rut of doing as little as possible in track design. It is still more interesting to me that straight line track #496 of the season over in that other tour.

That’s all, folks! I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it. Until next time…OLD SCHOOL RULES!