From Wartime to Showtime: The History of Lifted Trucks

July 8th, 2022 by

A large tire is shown in close up on a dirt path.

Whether you’re a truck expert or you prefer to stay lower to the ground in a comfy sedan, chances are you’ve been wandering through a parking lot looking for a spot when you’ve seen a pickup truck with a little extra height. Maybe it’s not quite classifiable as a monster truck, but it sure is pretty close. Some of you may see a lifted truck like this and immediately seek lifted trucks for sale near you, and some of you may wonder why anyone would want such a monstrosity. But, believe it or not, the origins of lifted trucks lie not in their stylistic value but in their functional value. While lifted trucks may be less commonly seen than traditional pickup trucks, they are by no means a new invention. So, let’s take a deep dive into the history of lifted trucks and see how they’ve served drivers in the past and in the present.

When Nature Calls

So, what is the big benefit of a lifted truck? Well, think about what is gained by the extra height: ground clearance. The addition of a lift kit makes it much easier for these trucks to clear difficult obstacles, making them finely-tuned off-roading vehicles. But what could have necessitated such a finely-tuned off-roading vehicle? Why did somebody even think to make a lifted truck in the first place?

Well, think about a significant event that took place in the 20th century and brought about a great deal of non-traditional vehicle use. You guessed it, World War II. The Second World War kickstarted the production of all kinds of vehicle innovations as the dynamic terrains demanded trucks that were highly athletic, maneuverable, and durable. We all know that Jeep developed itself into the off-roading brand that it is today by being one of the leading producers of wartime vehicles. But that’s beside the point––we’re here to talk about lifted trucks.

During wartime, a big concern was not just the transportation of soldiers but the transportation of supplies. Now, when it comes to transporting supplies, it’s not seating space that you’re worried about, of course, but rather cargo space, which is where pickup trucks come into play. A traditional full-size pickup truck is fine when you’re transporting cargo down a suburban street, but when you’re out in the trenches, you’re in for a rough ride if your truck isn’t properly equipped. So, increase the ground clearance and tire size, and suddenly you’re looking at a whole new vehicle, except it’s the same vehicle!

That is one of the big benefits of lifted trucks: you maintain the same vehicle, but the architecture is modified to perform as needed. A lifted truck allows you to maintain the cab, the engine, and the brand which you prefer, but the increased suspension and wheel girth takes your preferences and elevates them.

But, of course, as we all know with great gratitude, World War II did not last forever. After the war ended, we now had the lifted truck. And although the circumstances of its origin had ended, give some truck lovers a truck, and fun things are bound to happen, so the lifted truck’s career was far from over.

The underside of a lifted truck is shown.

Monster Mash

Lifted trucks had certainly proven themselves to be highly-capable vehicles during wartime. Now that the war had ended, why not have some fun with them? Of course, you’d want something a little more fun-looking than a military vehicle if you’re going to push your lifted truck to its limits, so it seemed that the lifted truck was in for a bit of a makeover.

Some attribute the first official “monster truck” to Bob Chandler, who took his four-wheel drive Ford F-250 (already a heavy-duty truck), applied the lifted truck techniques learned during wartime, and threw some massive tires on there. Chandler affectionately named this new and improved truck “Bigfoot,” and the truck certainly lived up to its name. Bigfoot went to the very first large-scale monster truck show in history, which occurred in 1982 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, with a crowd of 70,000 people. The word was already out about what lifted trucks could do; you don’t have 70,000 people show up to an event unless there’s something special occurring. Something special did occur that night, as Bigfoot destroyed two smaller cars at this very first show.

It is amazing how much monster trucks have changed the automotive culture, transitioning a wartime vehicle into a form of entertainment. The dawn of monster trucks has led to vehicle capabilities that may not be possible if there wasn’t a sport dedicated to pushing a vehicle to its limits; pushing a vehicle shows you just how far––and how much farther––it can go. Additionally, monster trucking has taken what was once a bland military vehicle and turned it into a line of trucks notorious for bright color schemes, creative design art, and vehicles with high levels of personality. But, with the fame and notoriety that monster trucks have achieved, it is interesting to ponder the usefulness of lifted trucks in the modern world.

Lifted Trucks Today

As we can see from their history, lifted trucks are known for their performance in extraordinary circumstances. Whether it’s something as tragic as a world war or something as fun as a sold-out stadium show, these trucks stand out to us when we see them because of their association with extraordinary circumstances. But, having proved themselves highly capable both during wartime and in competition, these trucks are surely some of the most useful vehicles on the market; and they don’t need to be fighting or destroying cars in order to perform at their highest!

While we may not see all that many lifted trucks on the highway, these trucks are perfect for farmers, foresters, and anybody looking for an off-roading adventure far from civilization. As fun as monster truck shows may be, these shows limit these trucks to a contained space. If you really want to see the true capability of a lifted truck, take it to the worksite or on the trail. With space to roam free, a lifted truck will be able to take full advantage of its increased suspension and wheel height. The benefits for you are easier work and more fun! Even a traditional heavy-duty truck doesn’t have the advantage of a lifted truck, and you’ll feel the difference instantly. It’s hard not to with how big of a step it is just to get into the driver’s seat!

A monster truck is shown in close up after searching 'lifted trucks for sale.'

Evolution of a Monster

With all the years of history and practice behind them, a lifted truck will have you working and playing at a heightened level, and you might just see why 70,000 people would gather in a stadium to watch drivers have fun with these big trucks. It is interesting to track the development and innovation of vehicles, especially trucks, because it gives us a glimpse into how people adapt to the circumstances at hand. What was once a response to a wartime problem has now become a significant piece of entertainment and culture. So, whether you’re a military historian, a monster truck buff, or you’re just looking to elevate your trucking experience, there is a lot to unpack with the lifted truck.