Originally created 01/09/98

The monsters will clash



Half-machine, half-beast, fire shoots from its tail and mouth.

Powered by turbines and a 700 horsepower V8 motor, its blood-red eyes light up with the intensity of more than 2 million candle power.

Cars beware, this mechanical dinosaur is no Barney.

This heavy metal monster is Transzilla, a transforming, car-crushing, molten-mouth robot. It's one of the featured attractions, along with the oversized monster trucks, of the Augusta Motorsports Super Clash at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center tonight and Saturday.

The fire-breathing, 8-ton behemoth is hungry.

"He's got a big appetite," said Bret Hart, promoter of the event.

Apparently, Augusta-area audiences have an appetite for smash-'em-up motorsports. Last year, the Motorsports Super Clash drew 10,861 people for two performances, ranking it near the top of 1997's most heavily attended events at the civic center, according to Leisure Management International, which runs the arena and adjacent Bell Auditorium.

According to its creator, Rev Prochnow, Transzilla is a 40-foot-long machine that cost $140,000. Mr. Prochnow is a former driver who now serves as master of ceremonies for the events.

Like Transzilla, the sport of monster-truck racing has evolved. Monster trucks began as halftime entertainment at truck pulls and mud bogs. Instead of racing over cars, the high-rise trucks would climb on top of them and simply park.

But now the monster trucks are the main event.

This year's show features monster trucks with names like Wildfire, Nitemare, War Wagon, Phantom Crusher and Bear Foot.

Bear Foot, a three-time monster truck world champion, is a 10,000-pound, 10-foot-tall, Magnum-powered Dodge Ram pickup sitting atop 5 1/2 -foot-tall tires.

The trucks are basically modified funny cars with larger wheels and truck-style bodies and weigh between 8,000 and 16,000 pounds.

Shows consist of a field of four or more trucks that can reach speeds up to 70 mph as they race over a mountain of cars on the civic center floor, which is covered with a dirt track.

The competition begins with a show of strength. Each vehicle will take freestyle laps around an arena littered with cars. Drivers use the junk cars as a launching pad to see who can jump into the air the highest.

They used to keep a points system similar to NASCAR's, but that got too involved and tended to bore audiences so it was scrapped, Mr. Hart said.

"It wasn't exciting anymore," he said. "(Now) it's all about getting air."

The huge tires -- 4 feet wide and 600 pounds before crews trim them down -- are about the only thing that hasn't changed since monster trucks hit the scene in the late 1970s, Mr. Hart said.

The Motorsports Clash also features the Quad Showdown -- four-wheelers -- pitting Team Georgia against Team Jersey.

And this morning at 11, local radio and TV contest winners and personalities will gather in the civic center parking lot to test their ability in the monster trucks.

Monster trucks on display

What:

The Augusta Motorsports Super Clash

When:

8 tonight and Saturday night

Where:

Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 601 Seventh St.

How much:

$15 adults, $7.50 children 12 and younger

Phone:

828-7700