Crushing the Benchmark

Monster trucks started terrorizing smaller defenseless cars in the early 1980s, when a behemoth called Bigfoot performed the first-ever public crushing. Since then, the beasts have grown in size and left countless vehicles demolished in their dirt-covered paths.

Maximum Destruction

Tom Meents will attempt to perform a double back flip in Maximum Destruction. Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

Today, monster trucks are typically 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, weighing as much as 12,000 pounds. Tires are 66 inches high and 43 inches wide. And with all that size comes
not only ferocious power, but remarkable agility. Like a graceful gymnast, these vehicular monstrosities take to the air, flying high and before sticking a landing.

As in any sport, monster trucks have its superstars who push the boundaries and set new benchmarks.

This Father’s Day weekend, 10-time champion, Tom Meents, will do just that in his Maximum Destruction truck at Monster Jam.

Held at MetLife stadium in New Jersey, spectators—including Meents’ 14-year-old daughter, Hannah—will witness him attempt the first-ever double back flip.

In 2009 Meents became the first driver to perform a single back flip in the truck. And since then, he’s been eager to take it to the next level. Especially because several other Monster Jam competitors have completed flips as well.  “I’ve never wanted to be an imitator, I always wanted to be the main man,” he says.

Meents and his five-man team built a special truck for the double flip stunt, which includes additional safety features.

Tom Meents

10-time champion Tom Meents stands in front of his monster truck. Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

“To rotate a 10,000-lb. truck in air twice will not be easy,” he admits. “It’s going to take some timing, different ways to set the truck up, and most importantly it’s going to take a go-for-it-all attitude.”

Meents will approach the 12-foot, near-vertical launch ramp at about 50 mph from about 200 feet away.

“There’s a 50% chance we make it, 50% we won’t,” Meents says. “But we’re 100% going for it.”

The Maximum Destruction driver has known no other job in the last 20 years and has remained injury free, despite flipping over more than 300 times.

“I’ve never been seriously hurt, though I’ve had some Monday morning pain,” he says.

He’s also crushed thousands of cars and school buses. All of Monster Jam’s sacrificial vehicles are gathered from local junkyards and are returned after each event.

But Meents doesn’t limit his demolition to modes of transportation. When Maximum Destruction earned him enough money to buy a new home, he naturally crushed the old one.

Yet, despite such experiences, this upcoming Father’s Day will be Meents’ most dangerous yet.

“I’m excited and worried at the same time,” daughter Hannah says. “I think it’s cool what he’s doing, but worried he’ll be ok.”

Of course, she’s been around monster truck mayhem her entire life.

“Dad is a go-for-it guy, so the family lets me do it,” Meents says. “I’ve been crazy since before she was born.”

© Marc Hartzman

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The Horsey Horseless

Discussions about transmissions, differentials, torque and other vehicular intricacies may rattle amateur auto enthusiasts. But the ambitious conversationalist can impress gearheads by shifting the chatter to the subject of horsepower. More specifically, the power of one horse.

As you know, long before the might of 400 horsepower enhanced the state of a driver’s masculinity, vehicles were powered by actual horses.

However, like any who are left behind during times of technological wizardry and advancement, horses began to lose their jobs as motored vehicles took to the roads in the late 19th century. These wondrous machines were referred to as horseless carriages. In fact, car manufacturers tried to persuade horse owners to make the switch by claiming: “If you can afford to stable a horse, you can afford one of our cars.”

Of course, horseless carriages were a brave new world to be explored by the curious and adventurous, those who sought greater enlightenment, speed, and status as an early adopter. Such courageous souls drove these amazing but “infernal machines” down the streets, startling every horse and pedestrian along the way. Frightened horses became such a problem that some owners threatened to shoot drivers on sight.

In 1899, an inventor named Uriah Smith of Battle Creek, Michigan came to the rescue of modern transportation. In an attempt to ease the transition to engine-powered carriages — for both the driver and the horse — he created a vehicle called the Horsey Horseless Carriage.

The Horsey Horseless

This early concept vehicle was designed to prevent horses from getting scared upon seeing a approaching automobile.

This early concept vehicle was designed to prevent horses from getting scared upon seeing a approaching automobile.The design called for a large, wooden horse head to be attached to the front of the buggy, thereby resembling a typical horse and carriage. “The live horse would be thinking of another horse,” said Smith, “and before he could discover his error and see that he had been fooled, the strange carriage would be passed.”

It’s unclear whether any Horsey Horselesses were ever produced, or if it only existed in theory. It is, however, perfectly clear that those now in the know will not only forever drive with a greater sense appreciation for the bold coup of the automobile and a sensitivity for the mass unemployment of horses worldwide, but will remember to quit the conversation while ahead.

© Marc Hartzman

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