The story of the BIGFOOT monster trucks and their creator Bob Chandler truly is a personification of the American dream. Chandler not only achieved unparalleled success in the monster truck industry, but actually fathered the industry itself. And while Chandler and his BIGFOOT team now enjoy international recognition and a great deal of success each year, their path to greatness began with a very humble start.
Chandler spent his early years in the St. Louis, MO area, eventually moving to California, where he attended
high school. After a stint in the US Navy, Chandler returned to St. Louis to take up the family vocation as a construction site manager and carpenter, and in 1965 he married his wife Marilyn.
Bob and Marilyn enjoyed the great outdoors and camping, so in 1974 they ordered a brand-new F-250 pickup truck to enhance not only their cargo capacity but also their off-road capabilities. It was not long before Chandler became frustrated with the lack of available parts and services in the St. Louis area for 4x4 owners such as himself. In lieu of that, Bob and Marilyn partnered with neighbor and long-time friend Jim Kramer to form Midwest Four Wheel Drive, which had its grand opening in 1975.
Business quickly took off, and within a couple of years Midwest Four Wheel Drive had out-grown its facility in Ferguson, MO, eventually re-locating to nearby Hazelwood. Chandler's F-250 became the de-facto company vehicle, running errands and delivering parts for the fledgling shop. Chandler's continued interest in taking the vehicle off-road inevitably led to parts breakage, which in turn spurred him to improve and modify the truck in an effort to soak up the abuse. The truck and Midwest Four Wheel Drive began to garner a local following and a strong customer base, helped in part by the fact that Chandler and his family spent many a weekend at local off-road events and running the gravel-bottom rivers of southern Missouri. The Chandlers saw their truck as the best method to prove the quality of their shop and the products they sold; accordingly, Chandler drove the truck hard.
As the parts bills increased and the F-250 grew bigger and bigger, Chandler was soon nicknamed "Bigfoot" by one of his shop employees due to his heavy-right-foot driving style. The nickname stuck, and soon the truck itself was christened "BIGFOOT". The shop was getting bigger, the trucks getting worked on in the shop were getting bigger, and of course BIGFOOT was getting bigger. Bigger tires demanded bigger axles, which in turn dictated a bigger motor.
Bob and BIGFOOT soon began appearing and competing in local truck & tractor pulls, in addition to mud runs and off-road events. The BIGFOOT moniker soon became something of a household name in much of the Midwest. But word of this behemoth truck, which now featured military axles (complete with four-wheel steering), 48" tall tires, and a souped-up 460ci big block V8 engine, was quickly spreading beyond the heartland.
In 1979, Chandler and BIGFOOT made their first paid public appearance at a car show in Denver, CO. Soon thereafter, event promoters were booking the truck as a half-time act at truck & tractor pulls nation-wide. At some events Chandler would simply parade the truck around, showing off its rear -steering capability and its custom tilt front-end; at other events, BIGFOOT would hook to the pulling sled and prove to the crowd that despite its show-quality looks, BIGFOOT was
indeed a working truck.
As BIGFOOT's popularity on the live event circuit grew, national four wheel drive magazines took notice and soon BIGFOOT was a featured vehicle in a number of publications. Despite BIGFOOT's growing popularity, Chandler wasn't one to slack off, so he continued to push his big blue truck in new directions. 1981 would prove to be a watershed year for BIGFOOT. In addition to enjoying great success at various off road events, Chandler and his BIGFOOT truck (now dubbed a "monster truck" by the press) appeared in their first Hollywood film, "Take This Job and Shove It." BIGFOOT's debut on the silver screen caused the nation's awareness of the truck to skyrocket. Many BIGFOOT fans might even argue that the truck was the best actor in the film!
But beyond the film appearance, the hills topped and the mud bogs conquered, 1981 is known as the year that BIGFOOT and Bob Chandler became the first monster truck to do what monster trucks are now best known for: crushing
cars. However, the first car crush did not take place in a packed arena or stadium, nor did it happen at a bustling county fair or mud bog. Rather, it took place in an empty cornfield in the rural Missouri countryside, with one video camera rolling and a small crowd of onlookers present. On a whim, just to see if he could do it, Chandler piloted BIGFOOT over a pair of junk cars parked side by side. The truck bruised its way over the clunkers without so much as
a whimper. History had been made.
Shortly thereafter, a truck pull promoter saw the "car crush" video playing while at Midwest Four Wheel Drive, and, after some convincing, Chandler agreed to duplicate the stunt in front of a live audience at a truck pull. Chandler was initially reluctant to crush cars in public for fear that the seemingly destructive act would hurt the public's positive opinion of the truck. He eventually agreed to perform the stunt at live events, a decision that would prove to be the catalyst that ignited the monster truck industry's meteoric rise in popularity.
As the number of requested appearances for BIGFOOT grew, Chandler and his Midwest Four Wheel Drive crew were all but forced to clone BIGFOOT to meet the demand. BIGFOOT #2 was born in 1982, and debuted at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, MI late in that year. BIGFOOT #2 was the first monster truck to utilize the now industry-standard 66"x43"x25" terra tires, more commonly referred to as "monster truck tires." These tires immediately became the industry standard, and today help define what a "monster truck" is. On the heels of BIGFOOT #1 and #2 was a growing field of imitators, capitalizing on the growing popularity of this new form of motorized entertainment.