The Grave Digger team of monster trucks, considered to be one of the most influential monster trucks of all time, is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary and racing in the United States Hot Rod Association (USHRA) Monster Jam series.
The Monster Jam tour begins in the late winter each year and ends in March — visiting major cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The large venues that host these events, such as Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center arena featured in this photo, begin their preparations for the show almost three weeks before the night of the event.
After laying down a 10,000-yard stockpile of dirt with an 8- to 10-inch base, the constructing of the obstacles begin. Junkyard cars from towing companies are brought to the arena and painted over with vibrant colors to enhance the audience experience.
The Grave Digger's imagery of green flames and foggy graveyard scenes has earned it a wild reputation and unceasing popularity. The trucks have become the poster child for Monster Jam, and in some cases monster trucks in general.
The Grave Digger #18 was constructed from a 1950 Chevy Panel Van with a 540 CI size engine and a Coan 2-speed transmission. Sitting in the driver's seat of the car, one sees the immensity of the estimated 10,000 lbs. truck — standing at about 11 ft tall and 12 ft wide.
Every Monster truck is equipped with three safety shut offs. As seen from the front seat, the driver has one on the inside of the truck; another is clearly marked on the rear of the truck; and an official holds a remote kill switch in case the safety of onlookers is compromised.
One of the Grave Digger's most visible trademarks is the red headlights that glow menacingly whenever the truck is in side-by-side racing competition. The first truck to cross the finish line moves onto the next round until it is eliminated or triumphs over the competition.
Grave Digger driver Rod Schmidt stuns audiences inside Washington's Verizon Center, as he takes his monster truck vertical towards the end of the show. Today, the Grave Digger is traditionally the last truck to freestyle and is featured in the "grand finale" which caps off the show.
The Grave Digger truck received its name in 1981, when its builder Dennis Anderson, jokingly trash-talking with his fellow racers, said the now famous line, "I'll take this old junk and dig you a grave with it!"