The photos in this collection come to us from a man named Jeff Bates. We could tell you about him, but he does it much better on his own. Here is his story, in his own words:
“I have really enjoyed looking over the IMTM site, especially the old stuff. Maybe cause I am getting to be an old guy these days. But my roots in monsters run deep. In 1983 I promoted several mud races (we called them Mud Bogs) in Oklahoma. I was a welder by trade, in the oilfields of Oklahoma. I had gone to many truck and tractor pulls and had gotten to see Bigfoot on 48s showing off pulling the sled.
At the first mud event I held, a couple of brothers brought their Jeeps and ran them in the mud. I found out later that they and another brother owned the local Jeep dealership. When I held my next event they showed up again. This time they had a “monster” of a mud rig sitting on 56 inch rice and cain tires. It was a 1979 Jeep pickup, called “Love Sweat & Tears”. It had dana 60s and the lift to get the tires under it was obviously done the night before. It consisted of chunks of square tubing pieces welded together to make huge blocks. The truck went further than anyone else had gone all day. This was when the mud used to be deep.
But the 60 hubs didn’t hold up. After the event I talked with the owner. He told me that he had a set of GMC 2-1/2 ton axles he wanted to put under the truck. I offered him my services. I rebuilt the lower end of the truck for him, and put new centers in his wheels. But we had steering issues. He was working on a budget and did not want to go with full hydro steering. So I built a huge steering arm. I had my doubts, but on the initial test run the arm worked very well. The 401 ran out really good.
At my next mud event the truck put on a great show. Then the show after that, the truck took a violent turn into the dirt bank of the mud pit and broke the steering arm. I happened to be riding with the owner of the truck, at the time. The truck went up and over in the mud. The truck was later fixed back up with new steering, and raced the rest of the 83 season. In 84 the owner and I went to Kansas and picked up a set of 66 inch terra tires. I built new wheels for the truck.
The owner, Stuart Landwehr, was a body guy at the dealership, and a darn good one. He put a new bed on the truck, and streatched the rear fenders out so they would look right for the 66 inch tires. He blew a coat of candy metalic orange on the truck, and the first “High Risk” was born.
Later I re-built the chassis using a Mack truck frame and 5 ton military axles. The 2 1/2 ton axles are real tuff, but we snapped the front shafts at the knuckles fairly often. So Stuart found some 5 ton axles. I put new centers in the wheels and started over with the new frame. At that point in time heavy trucks were “in”, and the old truck was a lightweight. The new truck was much more heavy. But we didn’t have to baby it around to keep from snapping a front axle.
Stuart brought the truck up to the grand opening of my Offroad shop. I had been doing offroad fabrication out of my welding shop, and decided to hit the offroad market. Stuart and his family, and my wife and I started taking the truck as many places as we could. It is a tough business, but we had some fun. We got to meet a lot of people. I got pretty busy, working on the truck, and selling t-shirts, and didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked.
Stuart started working on the new electric tilt hood, and the 671 blower. When it was finished we had a huge monster, but it was stiff in the suspension. It was really heavy and flattened the cars down easy. At our next event, we got a lot of air and really impressed the crowd. We also snapped an input shaft in the T-case. And had to scramble to get it fixed for the next show.
I had the offroad shop for alittle more than two years before the local economy crashed and I was forced to close. In those two years I got to build a lot of trucks and jeeps and dune buggys, and other great projects. One of the most fun times of my life. In 1987 I took a Ford Bronco that I had built for show, to sell in Denver. Soon after that I moved to Colorado.
A few years later the Jeep dealership also closed down. I really didn’t keep up with Stuart, but I understand the truck was sold, and became the Storm, then was made into a ride truck with a van body, named after Rollin Thunder.
So Monster Trucks went full circle, from stripped down speedsters, to heavy monsters, and back to light weights. I am really happy to be a part of the early history and I hope you all enjoy the photos.” – Jeff Bates
All photos are copyright to their respective contributors and are used with permission by IMTM.