Big Pete and the Grim Reaper

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Tracie Beardsley caught up with Michael Murty, the man at the wheel of the world’s biggest monster trucks as his team prepares to rev into the main ring.

The main man and the monster – Michael Murty on Big Pete

How did you get into the world of Monster Trucks?

I grew up in a family of motorsport fanatics – motorbike stunt riders and drag racers.
My father and my brother both did it – it’s a family thing and very much in our blood.

Tell us about the sport

It originates from America – heavily modified trucks were popular during the 1970s and were used in the sports of mud bogging and tractor pulling.
Bob Chandler was the man behind the original. He was the first to put huge tyres on a truck and build what is considered the first ever monster truck – Big Foot. He started a worldwide phenomenon along with Jasmer Everett, who created another famous monster truck, USA-1. Now, monster trucks as we know them entertain at shows around the world! The tours culminate in the incredible Monster Jam World Finals.

Where do your Monster Trucks come from?

Big Pete and Grim Reaper both started out life in the USA, but they are both completely my own creations – they’re a hybrid of USA and UK engineering that
I’ve rebuilt and rebranded.
The work is never finished – owning monster trucks is very much a labour of love! I’ve owned five in total over the years, but these two are adapted perfectly for green field entertainment in the UK.

The Grim Reaper makes light work of a family car
Big Pete in action

Where do they get their names?

I always joke and say Grim Reaper is named after one of my ex-girlfriends!
It’s actually a nod to one of the most famous monster trucks of all time and our personal favourite – Grave Digger.
The red one, Big Pete, is a unique monster truck. It’s based on the type of truck built by the famous American Peterbilt Motors Company. They started life in the 1930s and are still making trucks today.

When did you start driving Monster Trucks?

I’ve been in this business for 20 years and am proud to be one of the most experienced monster truck drivers in the UK.
I actually started driving when I was about six years old – in a 10-tonne tipper truck which I drove on a disused airfield where my dad used to practice drag racing. I did pass my test first time when I was 17!
Cars, vans, lorries – I think I’ve driven most forms of vehicle and, with travelling all over Europe, probably slept in most too!

The Grim Reaper seems to shrink the ‘normal’ sized cars beneath its wheels

What’s it really like being behind the wheel of a Monster Truck?

It’s loud. And it’s intense. An assault on your senses. And the visibility is limited.
It’s also very uncomfortable! The suspension has to be extremely hard because the truck is so heavy.
To be honest, I could do with a long, hot bath after every show and a deep tissue sports massage, but we stay in caravans for six months of the year while we’re touring – so all I’ve got is a small shower!

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