Monster Truck Gravedigger celebrates 30yr anniversary!
Driver(s) Dennis Anderson, Pablo Huffaker, Charlie Pauken, Gary Porter, Rod Schmidt, Randy Brown, Carl Van Horn, Chad Tingler, Paul Cohen
Home city Kill Devil Hills, NC
Year created 1981
Body style 1950 Chevy Panel truck
Engine 540 CI Merlin ~1500HP
Grave Digger (often referred to as simply Digger) is the name of a team of monster trucks currently racing in the USHRA Monster Jam series. There are several Grave Diggers being driven by different drivers to allow them to make appearances at more events, but their flagship driver is creator Dennis Anderson. Grave Digger is considered to be one of the most influential monster trucks of all time.
Grave Digger was originally conceived in 1981 by Dennis Anderson as a mud bogger. This first truck was a red 1952 Ford pickup truck, which was later converted to a silver and blue 1951 Ford Panel 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. Paul, 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 Clear Channel 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, NC now also houses the other trucks which Feld Entertainment owns.
Additional History: Oceanfront Accident
On October 17, 1998, a Grave Digger truck carrying twenty-five passengers flipped over, crushing passenger Joy Kubitza’s right arm between the truck and the sand. This took place at a promotional show on Virginia Beach, featuring rides in Grave Digger for only US $5. All twenty-five passengers were treated at a hospital and released; Kubitza later returned for an additional 37 surgeries to help with the pain the accident caused.
Kubitza was formerly a preschool teacher, but the extent of her injuries prevented her from going back to work. She subsequently sued Grave Digger Inc as well as the show’s promoter Cellar Door Entertainment. A settlement was reached the day of the trial and Kubitza will receive US $12 million to be paid over her lifetime.
There have been a total of 25 Grave Digger monster trucks built. There are 9 trucks currently 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)
Grave Digger 2 – Leaf-sprung race truck. Currently rebuilt and out front of the shop to draw in visitors.
Grave Digger 3 – 4-link race truck. Rebuilt into WCW Nitro Machine in 2000-2001, Flashfire in 2001-2002 and later ran as Inferno until it was retired in 2008.
Grave Digger 4 – Leaf-sprung race truck, only run for a few months.
Grave Digger 5 – Jack Koberna built 4-link race truck, only run for a few months. Chassis sold to another monster truck operator, body sits in the team store for children to climb on.
Unnumbered Grave Digger – 4-link Racesource chassis race truck. Originally built by Pablo Huffaker as Jus’ Showin’ Off and was originally intended to be a Grave Digger for just a few weeks and ended up used for several months.
Grave Digger 6 – Rebuilt as Son Uva Digger mud bogger. Was originally the “Street Digger.”
Grave Digger 7 – 4-link race truck. Retired. Currently on display at the team’s headquarters, Digger’s Dungeon.
Grave Digger 8 – 4-link 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 the “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 – 4-link race truck. Run by Pablo Huffaker, has been retired and scrapped.
Grave Digger 11 – Ride truck, ran as the War Wizard ride truck but currently owned by Randy Brown since late 2006 and turned in to Pure Adrenaline ride truck in March 2010, has since been sold to a unknown buyer somewhere between Oct 2010-Dec 2010
Grave Digger 12 – 4-link Racesource chassis race truck. Originally retired as a Grave Digger in 2010 but is being used by Tony Farrell as Grave Digger The Legend. It is unknown if Grave Digger #12 will be back for another racing season.
Grave Digger 13 – Grave Digger #7’s nickname after its rebuild in 1999 for the MJ season.
Grave Digger 14 – 4-link Patrick chassis race truck. Retired in 2010 after extensive beatings to the chassis, much like #15
Grave Digger 15 – 4-link Racesource chassis race truck. Retired in 2008 after extensive beatings to the chassis.
Grave Digger 16 – 4-link Racesource chassis race truck. Currently driven by Pablo Huffaker.
Grave Digger 17 – Pro Modified drag racer sponsored by the team. (The IHRA and USHRA are under the same ownership.) No longer racing.
Grave Digger 18 – 4-link Patrick chassis race truck. Currently driven by Rod Schmidt.
Grave Digger 19 – 4-link Cohen chassis race truck. Currently driven by Randy Brown.
Grave Digger 20 – 4-link Cohen chassis race truck. Currently driven by Dennis Anderson.
Grave Digger 21 – 4-link display truck. Was hauled around in a trailer for Advanced Auto Parts
Grave Digger 22 – 4-link Patrick chassis race truck. Originally ran as Batman from 2006-2008. Currently driven by Charlie Pauken.
Grave Digger 23 – 4-link CRD chassis race truck. Currently driven by Carl Van Horn.
Grave Digger 24 – 4-link Cohen chassis race truck. Currently driven by Chad Tingler
Grave Digger 25 – 4-link Cohen chassis race truck. Currently driven by Gary Porter.
Digger’s Dungeon, 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.
Although Gravedigger is really popular because it’s a panel truck and not the usual pickup, it’s not the oldest. The Original Bigfoot was built in 1975 and introduced in 1979. Making its 37yr anniversary!
Even Corporate America got on board:
A Special Thank You to ESPN for bringing Monster Trucks and other lesser known sports to television.