How to – My latest project…backyard Monster Jam

Recently, I regaled you all with the awesomeness that is radio controlled monster trucks.  At the end of that, I left you with a cliffhanger of my latest project – building an undeniably kick ass (and maybe even portable) r/c monster truck course!  Today, I will share with you my thought processes, failures, and ultimate success!

First up – my presumed failure.  (I haven’t had a chance to test it yet, hence the “presumed” part…but it isn’t looking pretty!)  My initial thought was that a 2 liter pop bottle would be a great size to create an obstacle for a 1/10 scale monster truck.  My idea was to cut the bottle in half, fix it to a board, spray paint it to make it look a little more natural and realistic, then go nuts.  And what would be better than two obstacles?  More than two obstacles!  I used two 2 liter bottles and two 20 oz bottles (creating 8 pieces total), thinking that I could create a nice little course out of that.  I can tell you now, that it didn’t turn out as I had visualized.  In my mind’s eye, I saw my truck bounding over half spherical shaped bumps and jumps.  Unfortunately, the bottles didn’t fasten to the board like I was hoping, and were all misshapen by the time my drill came to rest.  At this point, another realization had sunk in…there’s virtually no way the bottles are going to last and hold up to the beating of multiple passes by a monster truck at full speed.  Even if it is a miniature monster truck, full speed is still somewhere close to 30 miles per hour!

Attempt #1 - fail!

Next was a homemade ramp.  With supplies I had lying around my garage, my plan was to cut a spare board about two-thirds of the length ( in order to provide two different angles in which to jump), attach them by a hinge to make it collapsible/portable, then add that to my obstacle course.  As of yet I haven’t cut the board, so I can’t accurately report on how well my idea is thought out, but in theory it sounds like a pretty solid idea, doesn’t it?

Additionally, while on my search for everyday materials to turn into obstacles, I stumbled across some heavy-duty L-shaped cardboard reinforcements that were laying in the bottom of an empty box.  What happens when you flip an L so both ends are touching the ground?  It turns into an upside down V, like this ^…like a little speed bump/ramp!  I decided to fix 3 of them together to make an even bigger jump, and just had to figure out the best way to do that.  Super glue was the first thing that came to mind, but the points of contact where the glue would go did not offer much surface area to really set in and take hold.  Naturally, my next thought was duct tape.  I grabbed a roll of camo duct tape (you know, so it would look better and not quite like I was just laying pieces of trash around my backyard), but then my wife suggested using an alternate color – like the bright yellow that is used to color obstacles in a real Monster Jam arena…brilliant!

These have since been completely covered in yellow duct tape to give a more authentic Monster Jam obstacle appearance

Following the realization of my first attempt’s immediate demise upon use, I started grinding my brain for more plausible ideas for attempt #2.  My first idea was getting a handful of those little rubber domed, wall-mounted door stops, and placing them on the board to use as “whoops,” or little bumps in the terrain.  I also decided to get a couple pre-made mini ramps just to make sure I had some real obstacles in case my homemade contraptions didn’t turn out.  I still plan on adding my homemade ramp and cardboard speed bumps to the mix as well, seeing as how they seem to be pretty sturdy for their intended purpose.

I ended up with ten of the domed door stops, and my first conundrum came from deciding where/how to divide them up.  My initial thought was to stick six of them on one end of a board, four on the other end (so it wasn’t symmetrical and predictable), then place the store-bought ramps in the middle.  Once I had a potential layout, it didn’t take long to see a massive brain fart of epic proportions…with bumps on both sides of the ramps, you could never get a clean, fast approach.  Immediately, I moved all of the domes to one end and fixed them in an alternating pattern.  Then I finished this section of my obstacle course by applying decals to the mini-ramps to display brand loyalty and to give appearance of sponsorships.  You need realism even on a scale level, people!

Store bought obstacles

So there you have it.  There are a few ideas of how to make a portable, inexpensive obstacle course that you can pick up and store away when not in use.  That helps keep your yard looking clean, and prevents you from having to rent heavy machinery to till up dirt, and form permanent terrain in order to do a little backyard bashing (and keeps your yard in one piece for the majority of the time when the track wouldn’t be in use).  It also affords you the ability to move pieces around and change the layout of the track as you see fit.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious racing to do!  (Check back soon for updates from the track!)

Thank you, that is all.


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