Get in,” said Benn Milne, driver of the Demon Energy monster truck, motioning towards the passenger side of the massive vehicle sitting quietly on the gravel. I stood there for a while, craning my neck upwards towards the door, well out of reach of my six foot frame. I could tell everyone was watching, I could feel the smirks.
“Climb the tyres!” someone yelled from behind. The pressure mounted as I rued my decision to wear skinny jeans that morning. Apparently, I had to do the splits and climb up the massive 66-inch high tyres with a foot on each. I did eventually get up and into the cab of the Nissan Navara, but to say it was an ugly ascent would be a serious understatement.
HB Monstertrucks’ Navara has a lot of history here in New Zealand, first built in 1987 and known as Kiwi Thunder. New Zealanders grew up watching this machine crush cars and fly through the air, so when the beast came up for sale on Trade Me, interest was strong.
“I saw it online,” says Benn. “I just thought ‘why not? You only live once’.” Picking up the Navara without a engine, transmission or wheels, Benn and his HB Monstertrucks team spent the next year putting it all back together, the cost of which, as you could imagine, is just as super-sized as the 3.5-metre tall truck itself.
“Everything is more expensive when you are working with something this size. A puncture repair, for example, costs us $350 each time.”
Back on the gravel, I’m now strapped into a basic seat in the dust-coated cabin, I’ve noticed just how high up the vehicle sits on its massive wheels. Benn fires up the 427 big block Chev and it thunders into life, roaring out through short exhaust pipes right next to my feet. The noise is absolutely immense, and as Benn throws the B&M shifter into gear and squeezes on the accelerator, we jerk forward. Slowly. To be honest, it sounds as though we are going 100kph, but we are going maybe 30.
“It’s pretty low geared,” Benn explains. “You’ve got to remember that the wheels weigh 440kg each, and it takes a lot of torque just to move them, let alone climb up stacks of cars. Speaking of which…”
I look forward to see a mound of car wrecks fast approaching, the 6.1 tonne machine crashes into the first of them, rearing up in the air before bucking hard as the rear Goodyears hit home. Despite the mass of suspension under the truck, this is no smooth ride as we bash over old Holdens, Hondas and everything in between. The whole experience gives off a very “yeeehaw” deep-south kind of a feel – and I love it.
So does Benn. “Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that there is very little out there that can stop you. We push the truck further and further each time we drive it. I’m sure we’ll find the limitations at some point.”
With plans to acquire two more monster machines this year, and some Guinness world records in their sights, the Demon Energy monster truck boys have a busy year ahead. Now, if only you could make something like this road legal – imagine driving this bad boy to work every day!
Words: Peter Kelly