This week, we go back in time to take a look at what most consider to be the first true RC monster truck: the Marui Big Bear. Back in 1984, this 1/12 scale crusher set the standard for a fat-tire stance with real monster proportions. the Big Bear is positively stone-age compared to today’s trucks, but it put monsters on the map.
This beautifully restored Big Bear by UltimateRC forum member “poika6” shows off just how nicely proportioned the truck was, and the injection-molded body Datsun body is very well executed.
Tamiya’s wheelie-popping Wild Willy from 1982 inspired Marui’s “Super Wheelies” series in 1983, which would go on to spawn the Big Bear in 1984. Photo: shodog, RCUniverse.com
With the body off, you can see how simple the Big Bear was. The chassis isn’t much more than a tray, nothing like today’s trucks. Note the spring-supported bumper and rear trailing arm suspension, like the Wild Willy. Photo: bigbear.mirage-performance.com
The undamped and stiffly sprung suspension made for a sketchy ride on the rough stuff. Look how long that steering arm is! (bigbear.mirage-performance.com)
We reviewed the Big Bear in the Summer 1986 issue of Radio Control Car Action. You would never guess from the photos, but the Big Bear is 1/12 scale and only 12 inches long and 12 inches wide.
In 1987, Tamiya released the Midnight Pumpkin and Lunch Box, which further simplified the Wild Willy’s basic design and kept 1/12 scale alive as the scale for monster truck models. By going with 1/12 scale, the trucks were about the same size as 1/10 models of other vehicles, with basic running gear underneath to keep them light and rugged, and able to operate with decent performance on a 6-cell NiCD battery and 540 stock motor.
Then this happened… The Tamiya Clod Buster was released in late 1987 and it quickly took over as the king of the monster trucks. Its large size and dual motor power made it hard to resist. Aftermarket companies quickly jumped on the wagon and that helped move the Clod Buster into legend status. This truck paved the way for the monster trucks that we know and love today. Go here to see more pics of my classic Clod build, and click here to see the history of Tamiya’s solid-axle monster trucks.
The Big Bear and similar “small monster” designs soldiered on even after the debut of the Clod Buster, and the Big Bear was a part of our monster truck shootout in the May 1988 issue. It was up against some big hitters including the Clod Buster, MRP High Roller and the Tamiya Bruiser. Guess what: the Big Bear ended up taking the overall win.