1 Oct 2014

The Day I Crushed A Daewoo With A Monster Truck

Can you make it to Sussex next Wednesday they said, you'll be driving a monster truck and crushing cars they said. God damn right I said, I'll cancel whatever I have on.

They being a PR team from MoneySuperMarket who are organising this day out (we crush cars, they crush car insurance quotes, geddit?) and the monster truck being The Grizzly but to be renamed Speedmonkey for a couple of hours one early autumn day.

And so it was I came to be sitting in a static double decker bus with the rain bouncing off the roof, drinking tea whilst being briefed on what we'd be driving that day.  The instructor was full of beans because stage 1 was driving a Land Rover Defender - his favourite thing ever, apparently.

Tea drunk, briefing over, the camera crew and PR people milling around and we step outside just as the rain stops and into the Landie.  20 years old, 2.5 non-turbo diesel and terrible on the road (experience - I used to own one) but perfect for a rutted, muddy, off-road course through the woods.

With barely road legal but utterly effective off-road tyres the 90 served as our first training machine. Half an hour behind the wheel each (the other driver being Tim from Sick Chirpse) and we were loving it.

The ruts were massive, and the mud deep but we ploughed through, getting stuck infrequently and climbing hills and plunging into ooze frequently.  Wet branches tried to make entry into the cabin and whack us through the windows as the photographer's camera flashed away from the side of the track.

Fun done and back to the double decker.

Training, stage 2, jacked up Toyota Hilux - the theory being it's a halfway house to the 12 foot high and 12 foot wide monster truck.  OK, the car of choice for African militia is nothing like a monster truck but it's the next best thing so let's go!

We stay in a field but find some big obstacles to challenge the drivers and give us an appreciation of width and height. Woah! Sky, bonnet, ground, some of those hillocks are steep.  The Hilux takes it all in its stride and we gather valuable mind-data for the experience ahead.

That was also fun.  The HiLux is agricultural and has the turning circle of an ocean liner but it's perfect for the job.

Which is preparation for the monster truck.

It's on, I'm in it, 12 foot in the air atop a Chevy Silverado body, 7.4 litres of V8 goodness and a massive steel ladder chassis with only two disc brakes attached to the transmission.

The climb up and into the cabin is performed via a stepladder, the harness is on loose (so I can peer out the window at the 6 foot, 800kg front wheel) and a Go-Pro is attached to my helmet.  I bang it on the door frame constantly, to the chagrin of the film crew.

The instructor instructs, calmly.  We're in the practice field with a figure-8 course and some pre-squashed cars.  Ready? Yes.  He fires up the engine (glorious noise) and selects D from the auto-box.

We're good to go.  The steering is light, the throttle responsive, the brakes almost non-existent - they're a two feet affair with all your strength and even then it takes a while to stop.

The view is epic from up here but I'm focussed on where I'm going.

First up, a nice big berm.  'Slow ahead and get your front wheels on the top then stop,' says the instructor.  I do, and do it well - hurrah!

Then up and over and around once again for another go.  It's all about lining the huge truck up just right.  When we get to the cars we want to be spot on, or else you're rolling sideways in 7 ton of truck, and none of us want that to happen.  It would ruin the film, never mind the Chevy.

Before hitting the pre-crushed cars I have to stop between two cones to see how I judge the width of the thing.  Perfect. Luck or skill?  I like to think the latter, it could be the former.

A reverse into a box of cones is also done well and we're off over the cars.  Stop in front, slowly does it, gas the V8 and stop with the front wheels on the bonnets, pose for the camera and more gas.  The truck sits atop the cars and we creep forwards on the brakes so the back wheels can plop off smoothly.

It goes well.  Time to crush some real cars.

The film crew want to do a piece to camera, "Hi, I'm Matt from Speedmonkey. I'm in East Grinstead with MoneySuperMarket dot com and I'm about to crush some cars in this monster truck."  Extreme cheese but it feels OK.

Tim goes first.  His victims are a pair of Astras.  He crushes them well and then they are flat.

My turn.  A Daewoo and a Ford Focus.  They are intact save for fluids and windows.  They're strapped to the ground so the truck doesn't just push them all around the field.

I haul myself up and into the truck, helmet on, harness on.  Listen to the instructor.  This is it.  Crushing time.

Gas it, crawl to the cars.  Line up the wheels with the bonnets.  Two feet from the cars.  'We're in position, good job, want to do it?'. 'Yes.'

I accelerate a bit too much and forget to brake until we're actually on the cars and most definitely destroying them.  Oops, I was meant to stop with the truck's front wheels on the bonnets, but it feels right and looks good for the cameras.

We sink as the cars buckle under the truck's weight.  Metal strains then gives in to mass.  Great stuff!

This whole experience is thrilling, steering the truck, driving over obstacles, crushing the cars, getting it almost right.  Adrenaline courses my veins but I keep calm and focus on the task in hand.

That task being getting it right this time, which I do.  Power, get the wheels on the bonnets, pose for cameras, creep forward, drop off the back of the demolished cars and then another circle to finish the cars off with one more crush.

Gas it again and drive in a big circle to have another go at the poor old Daewoo and Focus which by now look rather dead.

That's it!  Job done, we've crushed four cars. It was epic fun and a tick on the bucket list.  I've driven a monster truck and, more importantly, I've crushed some cars with it.

Thank you to MoneySuperMarket for organising the day and letting me drive the truck and to Leisure Pursuits for supplying the instructors and vehicles.

By Matt Hubbard