Do you remember your first motorsports moment? Was it being at the local dirt track in the stands, hot dog in hand plus a soda in the other? Were you sitting in the garage watching your dad wrench on an engine, then hear it fire up and spook the neighbors?
Or was it something that you didn’t know you needed, a moment that at one time you never expected to come, but sticks with you and becomes your passion?
For me, it was the latter.
Back in the late 1980’s, I began my love for monster trucks thanks to some VHS tapes for Christmas, and the great moments on ESPN with folks like Mike Gallaway and Army Armstrong on the call. At the same time, I had not seen one with my own two eyes, touch a tire, or see a car be crushed.
Apparently my father knew this just as much, and found a way to make that a reality as he began finding an opportunity to give me my first dose of what I have since termed, “methanol medicine.” That came not far from home, and didn’t take a lot of time.
My then-local Chevrolet dealer landed an opportunity to have one of the few Pennsylvania-based monster trucks come out for a car crush on a Saturday afternoon. The truck, the Keystone Krusher, which I learned later was driven by Mark Miglicio. Despite the cloud cover, the truck looked bright and vibrant in white and blue, with a little Steelers gold to boot. Flags flying off the roll bar, tires shiny to the point you could wash your face in your reflection.
Walking around the truck with my family I remember the awe of the size, and not really being able to take in what I was seeing.
The crowd then began to gather around the outside of the dealership, because it was time to hear that truck start up and do what a monster truck does…crush.
A wave to the crowd, a couple moments to line up the set of six cars the local junk yard willingly let go, and Mark took to it. At the time, seeing a truck leap onto the cars was a new experience, and even sitting on top of my dad’s shoulders, it was a view I couldn’t get over. The truck made about six or seven passes over the cars, before waving to the crowd and then rolling around for one final hit at full speed. The iron-wall act landed squarely on the cars before rolling off and parking right at the end of the lot.
But, when the truck parked, and shut off, things got a little interesting.
As soon as the truck shut off, and the crowd was giving applause, a plume of smoke came right out of the grille, and liquid began pouring out the bottom side of the bumper. You could hear the entire crowd groan in disbelief as the truck just stood there at the end of the lot, fluid coming down like a faucet, as the entire crew tried to see what had happened.
The team had a megaphone available to thank the crowd for attending, and they made the announcement as to what happened. It turned out the cooling system had a failure as the radiator blew a hole in the side, and all the fluid coming out was antifreeze.
What surprised many was the fact that the hauler did not have a spare radiator available. However, the crush was at a Chevrolet dealer, and the truck was running what at the time was the largest big block Chevrolet engine available, a 454 cubic inch. So, the dealer looked into their parts inventory for a radiator that would replace the one that had just blown.
Keystone Krusher had another crush the next day, so being able to fix it was priority, and do so quickly.
Before we left, the parts department came back and had a fresh radiator for that truck, and everyone jumped in to replace hoses, fittings, and get the new radiator in.
Sure, it wasn’t the ideal way to end the car crush, but as a kid, seeing that big truck turn a few Buicks into scrap iron was a feeling that stayed, and to this day has never left. The first moment I saw a monster up close, in some way, I knew I wanted to be part of this industry. Fast forward, about 30 years later, and I am. Do I have a big part in the industry, no. I’m not a driver, a designer, nor do I own a truck.
I write, stand behind a camera, and state what’s been happening in the business. I’ve made friends, connections, and I’m sure a few enemies in the industry, but I’m still here because of that first moment.
The Keystone Krusher allowed a kid from the Keystone State become part of this amazing industry.