Every major motorsport has an icon – the one person who personified the sport and became the focal point for appealing to the mass market. In stock car racing, it is Richard Petty; in Indy car racing, it is Mario Andretti; and in drag racing, it’s “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. The monster truck sport has its own icon: BIGFOOT creator, Bob Chandler. He paved the way for his sport’s wide appeal. His achievements are even deeper, though – Bob is the only motorsport icon to “invent” his own sport!
Bob spent his early years in St. Louis, before going to California, where he joined the Navy right out of high school. He served on a Mine Sweeper as an engine-man, visiting Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea. Returning to St. Louis and his family vocation as a carpenter and construction manager, Bob met Marilyn and they were married in 1965.
In 1973, a motorcycle accident put an end to Bob’s construction career. The next year, he ordered a 1974 F250 pick-up truck, and soon Midwest 4 Wheel Drive Center was born in the family garage. Neighbor and good friend, Jim Kramer, became Vice President and business was good, but they all still took time to go four wheeling. The Chandler family, which now included three children, spent their weekends at off-road events and running the gravel-bottom rivers in southern Missouri. Due to Bob’s lead foot, the truck was christened “BIGFOOT”, and to keep down on breakage and to show off 4-wheel drive products, Bob added bigger axles and made his truck bigger and stronger. Rear steering was another especially popular innovation, and soon BIGFOOT was attracting attention wherever it went!
In 1979, BIGFOOT performed at its first paid event, a Denver car show. Exhibition truck pulls in arenas and stadiums soon followed. Magazines came calling and BIGFOOT’s popularity continued to grow. Never one to rest on his laurels, Chandler then tried something that Bigfoot first car crush really caught the public’s imagination. He drove BIGFOOT over a couple of junk cars! A promoter saw a taped copy of the aptly named “car crush,” and a few months later Bob duplicated the stunt in a stadium show.
The rest is history.
Because of the popularity of BIGFOOT, Chandler was forced to clone BIGFOOT to try to meet the demand! In addition, inspired by the success of BIGFOOT, numerous imitators came forth and the “monster truck” name was coined and an industry was born. There are now monster trucks throughout the world.
Given the strong audience appeal of monster trucks, the next logical move for the industry was to start racing, which quickly replaced everything else! Chandler immediately leaped to the forefront by using computer aided design (AutoCAD) technology to create a new generation of race trucks. These trucks came to feature radical new tubular chassis and patented cantilever-based suspensions that represent the current state of the art in race truck design. The first of these trucks was BIGFOOT #8, built in 1989, which became the 1990 World Champion. In 1992, Chandler became the first to utilize the team approach to racing, and saw BIGFOOT #10 and Snake Bite (BIGFOOT #9) race to a one-two finish in points. In 1993, Team BIGFOOT took first, second and fourth, and improved to a top-three sweep in 1994. Since then, Team BIGFOOT has won first or second place almost every year in various points’ championships! To date the team has 41 championships!
Over the years, Bob and his BIGFOOT crew have also been the sport’s safety leaders. In 1987, Bob co-founded the Monster Truck Racing Association (MTRA), an organization created for the sole purpose of promoting safety in the monster truck industry. Since then, Bob has led the organization and been the driving force behind many of its safety rules. One of his most important safety ideas was to adapt the use of RII (Remote Ignition Interrupter or “killer” radio) that allows a monster truck’s ignition to be shut off by remote radio signal. MTRAE, its European counterpart, was added in 2001 when BIGFOOT licensed Nigel Morris in the UK to run BIGFOOT #17 on the European circuit.
Year after year, with the continued help of Jim Kramer and the rest of the BIGFOOT crew, Bob has kept BIGFOOT ahead of the crowd with his creative ideas. Team BIGFOOT has won 40 monster truck racing championships and has appeared in almost every major stadium and dome around the world. BIGFOOT has visited 26 countries and been in seven movies starting with “Take This Job and Shove It” in 1981 and, more recently, “Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle,” where Drew Barrymore drove BIGFOOT #15.
In 2006, Bob was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and in 2013 was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. Bob and BIGFOOT have appeared in hundreds of TV shows, including the most recent National Geographic Channel show on Monster Truck technology. Firestone, Summit Racing Equipment, Odyssey Batteries, Lucas Oil and the “who’s who” of automotive aftermarket companies now sponsor Team BIGFOOT, which currently includes competition, exhibition and display vehicles.
In 2012, the BIGFOOT team took a huge leap forward in technology and innovation when BIGFOOT #20 was completed. It is the world’s first and only battery-powered monster truck. It runs on an electric motor powered by three banks of 10 Odyssey Batteries (30 batteries total for power) putting out 360 volts! There are an additional 6 batteries that power the steering and brakes. Beyond this “green” monster, BIGFOOT #22 is in the works. It is sure to have the latest advancements in technology built into it.
Bob’s wife, Marilyn, is co-owner, and the first woman to drive a monster truck, BIGFOOT, of course! The Chandler children, Ann Trent, President of BIGFOOT, Penny Chandler, her Executive Assistant, and Bob C., Licensing/IT/Sales Manager, are all following in their parents’ footsteps. Bob Trent, Ann’s husband, is in charge of sponsors and the BIGFOOT crew, making BIGFOOT a true family business and bringing the sport into the next generation!