All of the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam trucks and drivers have passionate followers, but the top truck–the mightiest of the monsters–is none other than the legendary Grave Digger. Everyone loves Grave Digger, so there are likely going to be quite a few stoked fans out there when they learn that the fun doesn’t have to end when the show is over. Traxxas–the official hobby-grade RC of Monster Jam–has the hook up for all of those potential RC’ers filling the stands in the form of a 1/16-scale version Dennis Anderson’s mean machine that is both potent and portable. If you’re already into RC, you’ll probably quickly recognize that the 1/16 Grave Digger Monster Jam Replica shares the same platform as Traxxas’ other 1/16-scale vehicles. This means it’s a proven platform and there are a lot of hop-ups already available. You may have also have heard that this version is 2WD. Keep reading to see if this truck lives up to the Grave Digger legend.
DID YOU KNOW?
Dennis Anderson’s Grave Digger was originally a mud racer. In 1982, the Grave Digger name came from Dennis stating the truck (then a primer red pickup) would dig the graves of his competitors after they joked about his mismatched creation. The now famous Grave Digger paint scheme debuted in 1985.
> Fully licensed Grave Digger body
> 2WD (upgradable to 4WD)
> 550-sized brushed motor
> Waterproof electronics
> AM radio system
> Fully assembled
> Independent suspension with cantilevers and inboard shocks
> Includes battery and wall charger
> Backpack carrying case
> $209.99 (price varies)
DID YOU KNOW?
Dennis Anderson’s sons, Adam and Ryan, also drive monster trucks. They pilot Grave Digger The Legend and Son-uva Digger, respectively. Adam won the Freestyle World Championship in 2008 at the age of 22. He is the youngest driver to ever win the award, and Ryan was Rookie of the Year in 2010.
The Grave Digger uses a molded composite plastic chassis, and the design is noticeably sophisticated with side pods battery compartment and a center spine section with tabs on the end for the drivetrain and suspension to bolt to. It is essentially a 1/16-scale version of the E-Revo chassis design. The chassis is a modular design concept that is used by the whole Revo family. The drivetrain is well protected as is the battery (or batteries, but more on that later) and the inboard suspension system. The underside is smooth to allow bashing over all sorts of terrain.
DID YOU KNOW?
The real Grave Digger’s elaborate tube frame chassis is welded out of mild steel which is used because the material will have some flex or give and help preserve the equipment. The frame wasn’t painted in the trademark green until 1992. From start to finish, the Grave Digger team can make an entire truck in less than two weeks.
The suspension used on the Grave Digger is more like a F1 car than an Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam truck. That doesn’t mean it’s some low-slung track machine with no off-road capability. Just the opposite. The Grave Digger can go off-road and it has plenty of ground clearance. The suspension, however, features progressive cantilevers and inboard fluid-filled shocks. The shocks have plastic threaded bodies and all of the links (suspension push rods and steering links) are fixed length. Because the suspension arms feature pivot balls, camber is easily adjustable and track width can also be adjusted.
DID YOU KNOW?
Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam is a product of Feld Motor Sports, and Feld Motor Sports is also the name behind the famous Monster Energy AMA Supercross series with top racers such as James “Bubba” Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed currently competing.
Besides the whole Grave Digger scheme, the biggest departure this truck takes from the other Traxxas 1/16-scale machines is that it is 2WD. It is fully upgradeable to 4WD. The center transmission is the same as Traxxas’ 1/16-scale models and features a machined aluminum motor plate and a cast aluminum motor mount that is finned to help dissipate heat. The rear differential is of the gear variety (it can be tuned with silicone fluid) and gears are made out of hardened steel. The axles are Traxxas trademark plastic sliders, and the entire drivetrain spins on ball bearings.
Traxxas’ blue electronics stand out, and they are said blue color to identify them as waterproof. This means wet grass, mud, snow, etc are no longer off limits. The AM receiver is protected in a sealed box, so you could even run your Traxxas vehicle completely underwater. Be warned that while Traxxas has solved the water and electronics don’t mix problem, metal still rusts, so any wet condition excursions will require post-run maintenance in the form of cleaning and drying. The speed control included is the XL-2.5 which can handle up to an 8-cell or 9.6V setup, but you’ll need to upgrade the power system if you want to take full advantage of the chassis’ ability to hold two batteries. One of the coolest features of speed control is the Training Mode that limits power for newer users. There’s also a Race Mode that eliminates reverse. The 2080 steering servo is plastic geared and puts out 41.7 oz.-in. of torque.
While the blue speed control and servo stand out, the big 12-turn Titan 550 motor is impossible to miss. Instead of going with a small 380-sized brushed motor, Traxxas went big-block. The 550 delivers the power of a 380 brushless motor but at a lower cost.
To control the Grave Digger, Traxxas includes its simple-but-reliable TQ AM transmitter. The TQ is a no-frills unit, but it is comfortable and reliable. Rounding out the package are the included 6-cell NiMH battery and wall charger.
DID YOU KNOW?
The latest Grave Digger truck built is Grave Digger XXV (25) driven by Gary Porter. Dennis Anderson currently drives Grave Digger XX (20) which was first raced in 2006. Grave Digger XVII (17) isn’t a monster truck at all. It’s a IHRA Pro Mod drag car campaigned by Alan Pittman. Grave Digger VI (6) was a street-legal Truck built on 44-inch tall TSL Super Swampers, and there was never a Grave Digger XIII (13).
Tires, Wheels & Body
The Lexan body comes pre-detailed and ready for action. It’s fully licensed and a spot-on replica. The look is achieved via a mix of screen-painted graphics and pre-applied stickers. The tires are all-new and molded to look like real monster truck racing tires. They are pre-glued to the rims, but foam inserts are not used. The rims are molded plastic and also realistic looking. 12mm hexes are used. As an added bonus Traxxas packages the 1/16 Grave Digger in a youth-sized backpack. The backpack can be used to transport the truck or as a school pack.
While Traxxas doesn’t label its 1/16-scale fleet as minis, I’ll go on the record as saying the Grave Digger is the mini that doesn’t act like a mini. You see, while RC trucks can be scaled down, terrain can’t. Some minis struggle on the terrain we are accustomed to running bigger RC vehicles on. The Grave Digger doesn’t skip a beat and functions more like a 1/10-scale basher, so maybe this 1/16-scale truck isn’t a mini after all. How does it perform? Well, if you have any reservations because its 2WD and not 4WD, I wouldn’t worry one bit. The Grave Digger is fun. In 2WD, it’s fun. It may be even more fun. I’ll find out because I plan to convert mine to 4WD. I’m making the transformation because I can, not because I feel the 2WD drivetrain is holding the truck back.
The first place I ran the 1/16-scale Grave Digger was in my driveway and around my yard. I was pleased to see the truck had some scoot. I’d say it had more than enough power and speed for the area I was running it–exactly the type of space the vast majority of people will use the Grave Digger. Where there was enough traction, the Grave Digger pulled wheelies and often flipped over onto its roof. Tightening the slipper will increase the wheelie action, but be warned that doing so will subject the drivetrain to more abuse and potentially make the truck harder to drive. After tearing up some pavement, I ran the Grave Digger across some dirt, grass and uneven ground. This is where the Revo-style suspension absolutely shines. The Grave Digger stayed stable and controllable no matter how fast I went over the rough stuff.
Up next was a trip to the skate park for some fun and some durability testing. The fun part was easy. I’ve taken a number of RC vehicles to the skate park and I’ve had fun with everyone of them. I also eventually broke everyone of them. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t experienced failure on every trip to the park, but skate parks are exceptionally tough on equipment and each successful run on the concrete quarter pipe, steps and steel rails just leads to more recklessness on the next trip. To cut to the chase, the 1/16-scale Grave Digger survived the beating. And, it was a beating. More than once I missed a jump and had to watch the truck crash down onto unforgiving pavement from some unfortunate heights.
On a trip to the track to enjoy a little sunny-day racing practice, I busted out the Grave Digger for some extra action video footage. I also let some fellow racers take the wheel to get let them have some fun and get their opinions. Everyone was amazed by the truck’s performance and agreed it was the most fun they had in a while. Out on the track, the 1/16 Grave Digger is about as fast as the average non-boosted 17.5 short course truck. It can clear all the jumps the 17.5 race trucks can and can even keep up with them. That’s just more of a fun fact since this truck isn’t intended for competitive racing.
DID YOU KNOW?
There are sometimes as many as eight Grave Diggers in competition at the same time at different venues around the United States and the world. In addition to Dennis Anderson the following drivers are active on the Grave Digger team: Randy Brown, Pablo Huffaker, Charlie Pauken, Gary Porter, Chad Tingler, Rod Schmidt and Carl Van Horn.
I love this truck. Okay, there, I said it. Traxxas has a hit on its hands with this one–especially with the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam fans. I understand that RC enthusiasts will immediately question the lack of 4WD. Trust me, as soon as you actually drive the truck, I highly doubt you’ll care. If you do care, it’s fully upgradable to 4WD. Moving on, the fact that Traxxas speed controls have a Training Mode makes them truly viable for beginners, and the fact that the 550-sized motor gives this truck some real power means the 1/16 Grave Digger will satisfy experienced RC’ers too. I know because I put the truck in my 4-year-old son’s hands, I’ve driven it a lot, my not-so-into-RC wife has piloted the rig and a few of the always-jaded racer types have also had a shot. All drivers have had the same “Wow, that’s fun!” reaction. I do wish it had a 2.4GHz radio system, but only because the long AM antennas are a nuisance compared to the barely-there 2.4GHz antennas. I also don’t have the patience for wall chargers, so I don’t bother with them. It is nice that Traxxas includes one, however. By including the simple charger, someone completely new to RC will only have to buy eight AA batteries to get the Grave Digger up and running–everything else is included.
> It’s Grave Digger!
> Training Mode is a huge plus for new or young drivers
> The backpack is brilliant
> The big Titan 12-turn 550 motor
> AM radio system means huge metal antenna
WIN YOUR OWN 1/16 TRAXXAS GRAVE DIGGER
To win simply leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen at random. A winner will be selected and announced April 2.
To learn more about Grave Digger, click here.