Grave Digger (truck)

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Grave Digger
Owner and Driver Information
Owner Feld Entertainment[1][2]
Driver(s) Dennis Anderson, Jon Zimmer, Chad Tingler, Carl Van Horn, Charlie Pauken, Randy Brown, Pablo Huffaker, and Colton Eichenberger.
Home city Kill Devil Hills, NC
Truck Information
Year created 1982
Body style 1950 Chevy Panel Van
Chassis Patrick Enterprises, Inc. (PEI), Cohen-designed ("house built"), Carroll Racing Development (CRD), and Racesource
Engine 540-555 cubic inch Merlin 1450hp-1700hp
Transmission Coan 2-speed transmission
Tires Sudden Impact Racing, EcoWork, Goodyear Terra

Grave Digger is the monster truck racing team in the Feld Entertainment Monster Jam series. There are nine Grave Diggers being driven by different drivers to allow them to make appearances at more events, but their flagship driver was creator Dennis Anderson. Grave Digger is considered to be one of the most influential and iconic monster trucks of all time.[3]

History[edit]

Grave Digger was originally conceived in 1981 by Dennis Anderson as a mud bogger. This first truck was a red 1952 Ford pickup truck. Later on a silver and blue 1951 Chevy Panel Truck was his new mud truck that would become the first Grave Digger monster truck . The truck received its name when Anderson, amicably trash talking with his fellow racers, said the now famous line, "I'll take this old junk and dig you a grave with it", a reference to the age of his old pickup in comparison to their relatively modern trucks. Anderson gained a reputation for an all-or-nothing driving style and quickly became popular at local events. At one show, a scheduled monster truck failed to show up and Anderson, who already had large tractor tires on the truck, offered to crush cars in the absence of the full-size monster. The promoter accepted and Grave Digger was an instant success as a car crusher and led Anderson to leave mud bogging and pursue monster trucks instead.

In 1986 Grave Digger underwent a transformation to complete monster truck and first received its famous black graveyard paint scheme. In 1987 and 1988 Anderson drove the truck primarily at TNT Motorsports races and became a crowd favorite for driving hard despite lacking major funding that more well known teams, like Bigfoot, had. In 1987, Anderson beat Bigfoot in St. Poodle, MN on a show taped for ESPN. It was the first major victory for Grave Digger.

Anderson moved to Grave Digger 2 in 1989, with a new 1950 Chevy panel van body. It was during this time that the reputation for wild passes was developed, and the popularity of the truck increased. TNT recognised his rising popularity and began promoting Grave Digger heavily, especially for races on the Tuff Trax syndicated television series. This was helped by Bigfoot not racing for points in the 1989 championship, leaving Grave Digger as the most popular truck on the tour.

When TNT became a part of the USHRA in 1991, Anderson began running on the USHRA tour and debuted his first four-link truck, Grave Digger 3. Throughout the 1990s, the popularity of the truck grew and forced Anderson to hire other drivers to run other Grave Digger trucks. Grave Diggers 4, 5 and 8 were built to suit this purpose, and were never driven in any major capacity by Anderson. Anderson drove Grave Digger 7, a direct successor to 3, for most of the decade. It was replaced by Grave Digger 12, well known as the "long wheelbase Digger", which was also the first Grave Digger with purple in the paintjob.

In late 1998, Anderson sold the Grave Digger team to USA Motor Sports (now Feld Entertainment Motor Sports). Anderson continues to drive and still is the most visible member of the team. However, the Grave Digger shop in Poplar Branch, North Carolina now also houses the other trucks which Feld Entertainment owns.

Accomplishments[edit]

Grave digger, at the 2014 Monster Jam, Edward Jones Dome, St Louis, MO
  • 1999 Monster Jam Points Champion (Dennis Anderson - Grave Digger #12)
  • 2000 Wrenchead.com Monster Jam World Freestyle Champion (Dennis Anderson - Grave Digger #7)
  • 2002 Monster Jam Points Champion (Dennis Anderson - Grave Digger #14)
  • 2003 Monster Jam Points Champion (Gary Porter - Grave Digger #12)
  • 2004 Monster Jam Points Champion (Randy Brown - Grave Digger #18)
  • 2004 Monster Jam World Racing Champion (Dennis Anderson - Grave Digger #19)
  • 2006 Monster Jam World Racing Champion (Dennis Anderson - Grave Digger #20)
  • 2010 Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam World Racing Champion (Dennis Anderson - Grave Digger #20)

Gary Porter also won the WMTRL Championship in 2004 driving Grave Digger #12.[4]

Many Grave Digger team drivers have won world championships in other trucks. Regular Grave Digger driver Pablo Huffaker won the 2007 Monster Jam Freestyle Championship driving Captain's Curse, and son of Dennis Anderson, Adam Anderson won the freestyle championship in 2008 driving Taz, and Grave Digger driver Charlie Pauken won the 2010 Monster Jam World Finals Freestyle Championship driving Monster Mutt. In 2013, Adam Anderson won another world championship but this time in racing, driving Grave Digger The Legend.

Trucks[edit]

There have been a total of 30 Grave Digger monster trucks built. There are nine trucks running.

  • Grave Digger #1 - Original truck. Truck has been taken apart and sits in back of the shop. (Recently made an appearance at World Finals 8 (2007). It now sits around the front of Diggers Dungeon.
  • Grave Digger #2 - Leaf-sprung race truck. was rebuilt with a new frame for the world record sound crossing, now sits out front of the shop to draw in visitors.
  • Grave Digger #3 - Race truck. Rebuilt into WCW Nitro Machine in 2000-2001, Inferno in 2001-2002 and continued to run as Inferno until it was retired in 2007.
  • Grave Digger #4 - Jack Koberna built leaf-spring race truck, only run for a few months. This truck now runs as Mr. Big.
  • Grave Digger #5 - Racesource designed race truck. Originally ran as Jus-Show-N Off/Purina Mainstay only run for a few months. Chassis sold to Mark and Sherry Wheeler formerly of the Terraduster Monster Truck Team and ran as Brett Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin sponsored WWF Wrestle Trucks, when the sponsorship ended, they ran it as Terraduster until they left the industry in 1999. It has been sold many times since, and was last ran as Dave Radzierez's Diesel Monster Truck. The Grave Digger body that the truck ran sat in the team store for children to climb on for some time. The truck is now up for sale.
  • Grave Digger #6 - Rebuilt as the Son-uva Digger mud bogger. Was originally the "Street Digger." The body was sold. Now owned by a couple in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania
  • Grave Digger #7 - Race truck. Retired. On display at the team's headquarters, Digger's Dungeon.
  • Grave Digger #8 - Race truck. Retired from competition, was on display as part of a temporary museum exhibit in Chicago.
  • Grave Digger #9 - Ride truck, sold and is now Extinguisher ride truck.
  • Grave Digger Boneyard Boogie - Ride truck, a school bus built by Sam Sturges and used for a ride truck on the western United States.
  • Grave Digger #10 - Racesource designed race truck. Run by Pablo Huffaker, then became Radical Rescue. Chassis has been retired and scrapped.
  • Grave Digger #11 - Ride truck, ran as the War Wizard ride truck but owned by Randy Brown since late 2006 and turned in to Pure Adrenaline ride truck in March 2010. Starting at the 2012 Advance Auto Parts MONSTER JAM World Finals, it ran as a Grave Digger 30th Anniversary ride truck. It has been rebuilt again in 2013, and is a Grave Digger ride truck again.
  • Grave Digger #12 - In-house designed race truck. Originally retired as a Grave Digger in Wildwood, NJ as of 2010. The truck was refurbished for 2011 due to a last minute change where Tony Farrell had to drive the second Grave Digger The Legend as a field-filler for Son-uva Digger. Now, #12 is retired.
  • Grave Digger #13 - Grave Digger #7's nickname after its rebuild in 1999 for the 2000 Monster Jam season.
  • Grave Digger #14 - PEI chassis race truck. Retired in 2010 in Philadelphia, PA as Monster Mutt, after extensive beatings to the chassis, much like #15
  • Grave Digger #15 - Racesource chassis race truck. Retired in 2008 after extensive beatings to the chassis.
  • Grave Digger #16 - Racesource chassis race truck. Was driven by Pablo Huffaker. Retired in 2014.
  • Grave Digger #17 - Pro Modified drag racer sponsored by the team. (The IHRA and USHRA were previously under the same ownership.) No longer racing.
  • Grave Digger #18 - PEI chassis race truck. Retired in 2012. Originally driven by former Grave Digger driver, Rod Schmidt.
  • Grave Digger #19 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. Was driven by Randy Brown. Retired in 2014.
  • Grave Digger #20 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. Was driven by Dennis Anderson. Retired in 2014.
  • Grave Digger #21 - Display truck. Was hauled around in a trailer for Advanced Auto Parts.
  • Grave Digger #22 - PEI chassis race truck. Originally ran as Batman from 2006-2008. Retired in 2013. Was driven by Charlie Pauken. Appeared on Conan in 2012.
  • Grave Digger #23 - CRD (Carroll Racing Development) chassis race truck. Currently driven by Carl Van Horn.
  • Grave Digger #24 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. Currently driven by Chad Tingler
  • Grave Digger #25 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. This truck will be driven by #MoreMonsterJam rookie Colton Eichelberger in 2015.
  • Grave Digger #26 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. Currently driven by Jon Zimmer.
  • Grave Digger #27 - CRD (Carroll Racing Development) chassis race truck. Currently driven by Charlie Pauken.
  • Grave Digger #28 - Racesource chassis race truck. Currently driven by Pablo Huffaker.
  • Grave Digger #29 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. It will debut in 2015 and it will be driven by Randy Brown.
  • Grave Digger #30 - Cohen-designed chassis race truck. Currently driven by Dennis Anderson.

Hallmarks[edit]

Grave Digger is well known for its many crashes.

Grave Digger's origins, the imagery associated with the truck, and the truck's wild reputation, are all considered part of the mystique of the truck and have contributed to its continued popularity. Although originally a Ford, the 1950 Chevy Panel Van body is now considered the traditional Grave Digger body style and is not likely to be changed in the foreseeable future. Likewise, the paint scheme, combining green flames, letters dripping blood, a foggy graveyard scene with tombstones bearing names of competitors, a haunted house silhouetted by a full moon, and a giant skull shaped ghost, is considered a part of what Grave Digger is and, although being tweaked over the years, has not strayed far from the first incarnation of the paintwork from 1986.

Perhaps the most visible trademarks are the red headlights which glow menacingly whenever the truck is in competition. The lights were first used when Anderson was building a transporter out of a school bus and removed the red stop lights. After realizing they would fit in the headlights of the van, he installed them and the truck has had them ever since. During the TNT days, announcer Army Armstrong started telling fans that when the red lights were turned on, the truck was 100% ready to run and Anderson was going to go all out. Fans began to take notice and Anderson, who would keep the lights off if something was not working properly, began receiving letters saying that he was not at 100% at certain shows because the lights were not on. To this day, the lights are turned on for every run.

Grave Digger 7 with part of its body missing

The reputation Grave Digger gained shot the truck to super stardom in the 1980s and continues to draw fans today. In the late 1980s Anderson gained the nickname "One Run Anderson" for his spectacular but often destructive qualifying passes which entertained the crowd but put the truck out of competition for the rest of the event. With the advent of freestyle, Anderson gained a means by which he could entertain the crowd with wild stunts while also focusing on winning races. Today, Grave Digger, no matter which driver is appearing, is traditionally the last truck to freestyle at most events, providing the "grand finale" which caps off the show. These freestyles often end up in rollover crashes, at much higher rates than other trucks. The crowd typically loves to see the wrecks but some criticize the team for what they feel is the glorification of crashing.

The immense popularity of Grave Digger has made it the poster child for Monster Jam, and in some cases monster trucks in general. There is much debate over whether Grave Digger has taken over the title of "Most Popular Monster Truck" from Bigfoot. As a result, the Grave Digger vs. Bigfoot rivalry is one of the strongest in the sport, despite the fact the trucks only race each other a few times each year.

Drivers[edit]

Current drivers[edit]

  • Dennis Anderson
Hometown: Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Driver Since: 1982
Championships: 2000 Freestyle & 2004, 2006, 2010 Racing Monster Jam Champion
Currently driving Grave Digger #30
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #1, #2, #3, #7, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #19, #20, #24, #25, #30
  • Pablo Huffaker
Hometown: Tomball, Texas
Driver Since: 1991
Championships: 2007 Freestyle Monster Jam Champion (in Captain's Curse)
Currently driving Grave Digger #28
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #5, #10, #16, #28
  • Charlie Pauken
Hometown: Maumee, Ohio
Driver Since: 1999
Championships: 2010 Advance Auto Parts MONSTER JAM World Finals Freestyle Champion (in Monster Mutt)
Currently driving Grave Digger #27
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #14, #15, #20, #22, #27
  • Randy Brown
Hometown: Camden, North Carolina
Driver Since: 1984
Currently driving Grave Digger #29
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #18, #19, #29
  • Carl Van Horn
Hometown: Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Driver Since: 2011
Currently driving Grave Digger #23
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #14, #23
  • Colton Eichelberger
Hometown: Paxton, Illinois
Driver Since: 2015
Currently driving Grave Digger #25
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #25
  • Jon Zimmer
Hometown: Albany, New York
Driver Since: 2013
Currently driving: Grave Digger #26
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #23, #26
  • Chad Tingler
Hometown: Stuarts Draft, Virginia
Driver Since: 2006
Currently driving Grave Digger #24
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #14, #20, #24

Former drivers[edit]

  • Gary Porter
Hometown: Wadesboro, North Carolina
Drove Grave Digger: For the 2001-2014 seasons
Currently drives: Carolina Crusher
Drove the following trucks: #7, #12, #25


  • Adam Anderson
Hometown: Poplar Branch, North Carolina
Drove Grave Digger: Subbing for his father, Dennis Anderson, for the first quarter of 2007 in Grave Digger #20
Currently drives: Grave Digger The Legend
Drove the following trucks: Vette King, Taz, Grave Digger #20, Grave Digger The Legend
  • Jason Childress
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Drove Grave Digger: For the 2003-2005 seasons
Currently drives: Retired
Drove the following trucks: Grave Digger #7, Grave Digger #14, Batman
  • Rod Schmidt
Hometown: Charles City, Iowa
Drove Grave Digger: For the 2002-2012 seasons. Also drove Grave Digger #20 in Tampa in 2013 subbing for Dennis Anderson who was unable to make it due to illness
Currently drives: Monster Mutt Rottweiler
Drove the following Grave Digger trucks: #7, #8, #14, #18, #19, #20 (Tampa 2013)
  • Les Anderson
Hometown: North Carolina
Drove Grave Digger: For the 1992 season
Currently drives: Retired
Drove the following trucks: Grave Digger #2
  • Lyle Hancock
Hometown: Barco, North Carolina
Drove Grave Digger: For the 1992-1999 seasons
Currently drives: Retired
Drove the following trucks: Grave Digger #3, Wrenchead.com, Blue Thunder, Traxxas T-Maxx, Sudden Impact
  • Robert Parker
Hometown:
Drove Grave Digger: Subbing for a couple of shows
Currently drives: Ground Pounder
Drove the following trucks: Grave Digger #8, AM/PM Boss, Samson 1, Pouncer, Predator, Prowler, Hyperactive, War Wizard
  • Scott Pontbriand
Hometown:
Drove Grave Digger: Driver of #8 and #14 for a couple of years
Currently drives: Retired
Drove the following trucks: Grave Digger #7, Grave Digger #8, Undertaker, Bear Foot, Monster Mutt
  • Tony Farrell
Hometown: North Vernon, Indiana
Drove Grave Digger: Subbing for Ryan Anderson as a field filler in the first quarter of 2011 in Grave Digger The Legend
Currently drives: Retired
Drove the following trucks: Blue Ribbon Bandit, Wild Thang, Sting, Blue Thunder, Grave Digger The Legend

Digger's Dungeon[edit]

Digger’s Dungeon,[5] located in Poplar Branch, North Carolina, is the official home of Grave Digger. Besides the usual gift shop, there is a Grave Digger located outside for photographs, as well as a truck that one can sit in within the shop. There are also various pieces of other Grave Diggers hanging throughout the store, all of which have been damaged from various accidents. While there is plenty of merchandise for sale, these parts are not.

Digger’s Dungeon hosted the 2010 No Limit R/C Monster Truck World Finals. It took place from May 28-May 30, the World Finals is the largest RC Monster Truck Race in the world.

Digger Block Party[edit]

In 2009, Feld Motor Sports (the company that owns the Grave Digger brand) announced a contest whose winner would win a catered party, including the appearance of Grave Digger and its principle driver, Dennis Anderson.[6] The winner of the 2009 sweepstakes was Randy Conrad of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At its height, the party had over 70 people in attendance.

The 2010 Digger Block Party sweepstakes started on October 6, 2009 and ran until July 18, 2010. The winner received a prize package totaling around US $11,850 dollars, including the visit from Grave Digger and Anderson, as well as catering, prizes, a DJ, and party equipment.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]