NOTE: Entire article is written by Shane Carlson, student at Winona State University. Article is also posted in the February issue of The Midwest Racing Connection. For viewing on their site, click here.
Ham Lake, MN – Located just off of Highway 65 about 30 miles North of St. Paul, sits a monster truck time capsule, and you may just miss it if you don’t look hard enough.
A lone Chevrolet Silverado sits in the parking lot at the facility where monster truck history was made and a sport was engineered. The facility still houses a brand recognized across the world.
A business which formerly employed as many as 15 people is now staffed by just one man.
Everett Jasmer is the owner of USA-1 4×4 Inc. and the innovator behind the iconic USA-1 Chevrolet monster truck which was one of the founding names in the first generation of monster trucks.
Jasmer, along with building a brand for his truck, has created a branding image for himself.
Clad in denim jeans and a denim button-down shirt, with a large gray beard, long hair, and a well-worn cowboy hat, Everett Jasmer’s appearance is unmistakable. He’s the kind of cool guys want to be. Especially when he puts on his trademark aviator sunglasses.
Jasmer quit high school after 10th grade and then went onto a vocational school for two years. He didn’t need teachers to tell him what he should do with his life. He already knew.
Jasmer was wrenching on cars and trucks, creating his own shop business and also building hot rods and drag cars in what little free time he had. Over time, he progressed into building 4×4 trucks long before there was an aftermarket for 4x4s.
In an effort to promote his business, he and a handful of others, notably Bigfoot owner, Bob Chandler, began to beef up their trucks like no one had ever done before with bigger tires, monstrous motors, stronger drivelines, and taller suspensions.
Jasmer told The Midwest Racing Connection “As time went on, to promote our own four-wheel drive businesses, we started building our trucks bigger and bigger…as a matter of fact, what people now know of as monster trucks happened quite by accident.”
Monster truck racing is largely a byproduct of the innovation that was behind building big 4x4s to race through the mud.
“The trucks evolved rapidly from just being big mud trucks, into the first generation of monster trucks with the 48-inch tires,” Jasmer said.
Bob Chandler and Everett Jasmer forged a close relationship off the track, and a fierce relationship on the track.
“It was the first rivalry in what we now know as monster truck racing, having come from NHRA Drag Racing background and idolizing The Snake and The Mongoose. I always wanted Bigfoot and USA-1 to be the monster truck version of The Snake and The Mongoose,” Jasmer said.
Together, the two drivers were featured in the first televised monster truck race on the TV show, That’s Incredible! in 1983.
Fans who watched that first race saw two trucks similar in stature and color. The Ford of Bigfoot was blue, as was USA-1 at the time. With just a handful of trucks built, Jasmer wanted to stand out, so he repainted the truck pearl white with all new USA-1 graphics, as it remains to this day.
He continued to use the truck for promotional purposes and car crushes, but Jasmer had grander visions.
In 1987, he began to build a 1988 Silverado, with factory backing from Chevrolet for everything Jasmer needed to build a new truck. He signed a three-month contract with Chevrolet to tour the country in early 1988 to promote Chevrolet at auto shows and garner attention to the brand.
He had been pushing for an organized racing series for a number of years, but nothing had materialized.
“I built the ’88 USA-1 with the intention of racing, knowing that there wasn’t a racing series yet,” he said.
Soon after he contracted to tour with Chevrolet, an official monster truck racing series was formed, starting immediately. The TNT Monster Truck Racing Series was unveiled in 1988 and would crown the first monster truck racing champion at the end of the season.
Jasmer was very concerned about having to miss the first three months of the new racing series, but honored his contract to Chevrolet for the duration, and joined the TNT circuit having missed roughly a third of the season.
The only way to go was up.
“My intention was just to do the best we could in ’88,” he said. “I started driving the first two events, and my dream had come true, only that I couldn’t fulfill it because I wasn’t a good driver anymore. The business had grown so big, and I had so much on my mind, from building, to promoting, to maintaining these trucks, that I realized (Everett) wasn’t a good race driver anymore. That was when I made one of the most difficult, but probably one of the best decisions I made in my career.”
Instead of driving the truck himself, Jasmer tapped then-hauler driver, Rod Litzau, to execute the driving duties of USA-1.
“I knew in my heart he was going to be a good driver, even though he had never driven the truck before, except for loading and unloading it,” Jasmer said. “It was the best business decision for USA-1 because he went out and won that first championship for USA-1 in 1988.”
“As excited as I was about winning that championship, I believe I was more excited about the prospect that we had set the foundation for a new motorsport.”
Jasmer got what he wanted; he had a competitive monster truck racing series that met his standards of straight-line drag racing with an emphasis on the motorsports aspect, and he had the first title in the history of monster truck racing.
The TNT series gained the attention of others and brought with it faster trucks. It was hard for Jasmer and the USA-1 team to keep up, but they still remained one of the toughest outs on the circuit.
As the sport moved into the 1990s, it ushered in a new era based more on entertainment than racing. The TNT series folded, and so did Everett’s vision of having a series solely focused on racing.
A few other series popped up sporadically within the ‘90s and early 2000s, but nothing stuck other than what is now known as Monster Jam.
“I wanted to see the sport go a different direction, and I was very disappointed, and that’s why I was out of the scene for many years, because I didn’t care to go the direction the sport was going,” he said. “I wanted a legitimate racing series and the sport took a different turn, and more power to them. They’re making millions and it’s turned into an incredible series.”
Though Jasmer’s vision of a true racing series may have been derailed, he’s still proud of the contributions he has made to the sport.
“It’s gotten much bigger than I ever dreamed it would, and I’m proud to be one of the founders of the sport,” he said.
USA-1 was largely out of the fray until this past December, when Monster Jam returned to Minneapolis for the first time at the newly-christened U.S Bank Stadium.
“I’ve had an opportunity recently to get back involved with the biggest people in the business, Monster Jam and Feld Entertainment, and we’re starting to do some things with them now, and I’m excited and look forward to the future.”
Jasmer took part in the festivities that weekend and brought out the 1988 USA-1 as he was honored in front of 52,000 of his hometown fans.
Jasmer said of the experience, “I expected a good response from the crowd, but I didn’t expect the response that I got. It was very exciting and very humbling at the same time.”
“It was quite an honor to have the younger generation of fans come out and see the truck. I never got to put the pen down at the pit party,” he said, smiling.
“It turned out to be one of the neatest experiences of my career, after all these years.”
Those words are not to be taken lightly, coming from an International Monster Truck Hall of Fame member.
He was among the Hall’s inaugural class of inductees in 2011, alongside Bob Chandler, Jeff Dane, Dan Degrasso, Jack Willman and Fred Shafer.
“I don’t think of myself as being any different than anybody else, whether it be the fans or the other guys in the sport.”
USA-1 hasn’t competed in nearly 30 years, but Jasmer and his trucks have found a new mission.
“I’ve devoted my own personal time and my trucks to what I call my new mission. It’s a Christian Patriotic mission, the idea behind it is ‘America needs the Spirit of Christ’ and the secondary mission is to ‘Pray for our troops, they protect our freedom’. It’s been a longtime interest of mine to do anything I can for our military. Not only our current military, but I also try to draw respect and honor to our past military. I’m involved in conservative political activities and Second Amendment issues. They’re all things I believe in.”
Jasmer did not shut the door on the prospect of returning the USA-1 name to the competitive monster truck racing scene.
Early in 2015, Jasmer put together a deal with Roger Gauger to run his new truck with the new USA-1 identity.
Shortly after the interview with The Midwest Racing Connection, Jasmer announced via the USA-1 4×4 Inc. Facebook page that USA-1 will be making a return to Monster Jam in Minneapolis after nearly 30 years away.
“I’m very excited to announce that Roger Gauger and the new USA-1 will be competing at this event.”
Gauger and Jasmer partnered up in 2015 in an effort to keep the brand alive and well with the older generation of fans, and also to introduce the winning heritage to a brand new generation of fans.
“He’s (Gauger) running the truck as the new USA-1. It’s his truck, my identity and he’s been doing a great job of representing the USA-1 name while running small series and events across the country.”
If the new USA-1 is anything like the old USA-1, it won’t take long to return to monster truck racing prominence.
For fans wishing to see USA-1 and meet Everett Jasmer, he will be at Monster Jam at U.S Bank Stadium on February 11, 2017 with the 1988 USA-1, as well as Roger and the brand-new USA-1. They will be available to sign autographs and interact with fans at the pit party before the event starts.
For fans in attendance, Jasmer is working on a surprise sure to bring back fond memories of the origins of USA-1 and the early years of monster trucks.