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…
THE MARGO KINGISM OF THE NIGHT!
“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!