Driver marks 40 years of ‘Grave Digger’ as Monster Jam revs into FedEx Discipline


This yr marks the fortieth anniversary of the enduring monster truck Grave Digger. On Saturday, the truck revs into Monster Jam at FedEx Discipline in Landover, Maryland.

Hear our full dialog on my podcast “Past the Fame.”

WTOP’s Jason Fraley salutes 40 years of Grave Digger (Half 1)

This yr marks the fortieth anniversary of the enduring monster truck Grave Digger.

On Saturday, the truck revs into Monster Jam at FedEx Discipline in Landover, Maryland.

“This yr is the thirtieth anniversary for Monster Jam and the fortieth for ‘Grave Digger,’” Driver Adam Anderson advised WTOP. “I can’t let you know how excited we’re for this occasion. First time ever there, one of many closest to house for us [in the Outer Banks], I’m pumped for this.”

Don’t fear, soccer followers; he received’t tear up the sector for the Washington Commanders.

“They arrive in with a sort of product to put over the grass,” Anderson stated. “We then cowl it with a whole lot of 1000’s of yards of filth. It’s a fairly unbelievable course of. The filth crew is the toughest employees. They’re the primary ones there loading into the occasion and the final ones loading out. … We roll in, roll out, you simply gotta mow the grass after we’re completed.”

Anderson’s father, Dennis, created Grave Digger in Chesapeake, Virginia, again in 1982.

“He labored on a farm, didn’t have any cash in anyway, and he was simply mainly taking previous junk elements, whether or not it was previous vans but in addition farm tools to piece this stuff collectively,” Anderson stated. “The proprietor of the farm, his son had all the most recent, finest, model new tires, new truck, elevate kits, something you may have that you may purchase, he had it.”

This sparked a rivalry between his underdog dad and the rich farmer’s son.

“He got here in at some point … speaking smack to my dad, and my dad stated, ‘I’m gonna take this previous junk and dig you a grave,’” Anderson stated. “All the opposite employees within the granary began hooping and hollering and began calling him ‘Grave Digger.’ … He went out that weekend and kicked his butt … went house that night time and spray painted ‘Grave Digger’ on the facet.”

Gear heads will admire the resourcefulness of the early monster truck.

“To start with, all of the vans have been steel-bodied,” Anderson stated. “My dad’s very first ‘Grave Digger’ was on mix tires, it was a 1951 Ford pickup truck, it had a 327 Chevrolet motor out of a automobile he had, it had two transmissions to make up for the gearing, and the chassis he obtained an previous Jeep Kaiser with these large army axels beneath.”

The specs of the truck have developed fairly a bit over time.

“He constructed a second truck that was larger, then he obtained just a little extra money, then he obtained an even bigger motor, then he obtained larger drive prepare, then he obtained larger tires, which it’s important to have now a 66-inch-tall, 43-inch-wide tire to be thought of a monster truck,” Anderson stated. “My grandparents helped him get his first set [of tires] in 1985 and the remainder is historical past.”

Monster Jam didn’t exist till 1992, so he drove for different promotions to start out.

“To start with, tractor pulling was the principle attraction,” Anderson stated. “Monster vans have been a facet act to tractor pulling and dirt bogs. … As soon as the expertise within the monster vans began to develop, the leisure worth started to develop. … It was only a single occasion referred to as Monster Jam, and it went over so effectively that it simply developed into the model.”

Rising up, he by no means as soon as questioned his dad’s distinctive occupation.

“It was tremendous regular to me, as a result of that was simply my dad’s job,” Anderson stated. “He created ‘Grave Digger’ in 1982, created me in 1985, and it’s been my complete life. … I used to be there on the observe as a younger child, sitting within the seats. … Through the summer time, I’d exit on the street for a month or so with my dad, engaged on vans. After I graduated, it was on!”

He took over driving Grave Digger in 2015 as his father shifted towards retirement.

“I maintain the world file for essentially the most Monster Jam vans jumped [over],” Anderson stated. “They stated eight is what I needed to do and I’m like, ‘That’s not that dangerous,” till I really noticed all eight of them sitting up in a row and I’m like, ‘Oh, boy, that is farther than I assumed.’ There’s photographs and video on Discovery Channel of [me] breaking world information.”

Does it ever get intensely bumpy behind the wheel?

“Each single weekend of my spouse for the previous 17 years,” Anderson stated. “Final weekend, we have been in Foxboro, Massachusetts. … I’m on the market going nuts, doing all these loopy stunts, backflips, saves, wheelies. … You don’t care what is going on in that second. You’re so centered and your adrenaline is pumping so exhausting to be the most effective showoff there may be.”

Fortunately, security has improved drastically over time.

“My dad had an element in, form of just like the [Dale] Earnhardt stuff, in creating not solely externally what Monster Jam vans are, however internally for the motive force,” Anderson stated. “All people has their very own particularly tailor-made seat, you’re absolutely contained, you’re sporting a fireplace go well with, a head and neck restraint, a helmet, shoulder pads constructed into the seat.”

Even so, he doesn’t stroll out unscathed.

“It bumps and bruises you up,” Anderson stated .”While you take a 12,000-pound truck and also you fall from the air 30 toes, you’re gonna really feel it. You’re completely going to really feel it the subsequent day and the subsequent day, however we’re fantastic. The roll cages are unbelievable in this stuff now. We now have specifically-built bars only for doing backflips in case we don’t land it.”

The truck-crunching motion usually damages the fastidiously hand-painted cranium exterior.

“There’s one man that paints, his identify is Jim McShea, he’s been doing it over 20 years,” Anderson stated. “The unique paint artist handed away, his identify was Fred Bauman from the Chesapeake space. … It takes about 50 man hours to do one in every of these our bodies and I can destroy it perhaps 50, 30, in all probability 10 seconds. You’re feeling horrible as a result of it’s a murals.”

He, his dad and his siblings have pushed a complete of 41 Grave Diggers over time.

“This yr there was 5 ‘Grave Diggers’ competing across the nation,” Anderson stated. “I ran on one of many stadium excursions, then my sister runs on the sector excursions, so the smaller venues … then my youngest brother, Weston Anderson, additionally did the smaller venues. … My brother, Ryan Anderson, drives the ‘Son-uva Digger,’ a by-product of the household deal.”

Of all of the opponents, who’s Grave Digger’s arch nemesis?

“It’s all the time been Max-D: Most Destruction,” Anderson stated. “He began a rivalry with my dad. My dad retired in 2016 and even up till then it was a relentless battle forwards and backwards with him and it nonetheless is. I had him all yr this yr and it was simply unbelievable.”

Who will win Saturday? It’s as much as the stay viewers to search out out.

“You may watch Monster Jam on TV … however till you see it stay, it’s a distinct story,” Anderson stated. “You may have all these ‘Grave Digger’ toys, however when that little child involves the present and has that ‘Grave Digger’ toy in his hand and walks up and sees the actual factor, it’s awe-inspiring to not solely him but in addition the mother and father. … I’ve seen mother and father turn into followers!”

WTOP’s Jason Fraley salutes 40 years of Grave Digger (Half 2)

Hear our full dialog on my podcast “Past the Fame.”

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