The Art of Grave Digger

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The Art of Grave Digger

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All Monster Jam® trucks have their own unique character. Perhaps it’s a stylized fiberglass body that gets your attention. Maybe it’s the splashes of color that draw your eye. Maybe you just like the name.

Grave Digger® meets all of the above and more. It has the additional distinction of being hand-painted.

The Monster Jam trucks seen by millions around the world are rolling works of art. For most of the truck’s 35 years of existence, the job of painting them has been handled by one man. Jim McShea of New Jersey has been trusted with the task for a long time.

“I had a shop in New Jersey and was doing some work for Mike Wales, who was involved with the Liquidator truck. One day, he asked me if I had ever thought about painting Monster Trucks and I said, ‘I’m in’.”

Contacts were made and McShea headed to the Grave Digger shop in North Carolina. His first truck job was the WCW Nitro Van and then he was asked to consider putting his touches on Grave Digger.

At first, it took 40 hours of work to do one Grave Digger body. “Now, I have the job down to the low 30s in hours because it is repetitious and I can estimate the time based on the progress.”

The bodies have become sectioned, divided into the doors, roof, sides, hood and cowl. The body is constructed and fitment is checked before McShea goes to work, giving him a complete canvas.

The work requires a steady hand and attention to detail. “Having the skills to do it all with airbrushing and striping has served me well,” he said. “I’m old school. A lot of my business is hot rods, some commercial lettering, but the hot rod crowd demands just the right look, just like Grave Digger.”

McShea takes great pride in his work. “I get really serious about it,” he adds. “I want it to shine so that the guys doing the clear work have it easy.”

Because of the nature of the competition, having spare body parts is necessary and McShea paints them, too.

He attends a few Monster Jams and Monster Jam World Finals® when his time away from the shop allows. People love to talk about his work.

“I want the truck to be art,” he said. “I’m happy doing this job. You have to live your life doing what you want. I love my job. I’m going to do this until they won’t let me do it anymore.”