By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Megasaurus isn’t a picky eater. But the fire-breathing, car-eating robot dinosaur does have a preference.
“His favorite flavor is a good old lightweight mid-size American car, preferably one with four doors,” said Alan Tura, who invented Megasaurus and also helps operate it. “It has more calories.”
Megasaurus will be back at Covelli Centre this weekend when the Toughest Monster Trucks tour returns for two shows.
Tura, a 2015 inductee in the International Monster Truck Hall of Fame and a Southington resident, will drive Megasaurus both nights.
The show pits about a half-dozen monster truck drivers against each other in course runs and also freestyling. A judge scores each performance, and the champion will be crowned at the end of the season in May.
The judge is typically an industry insider who can spot a good jump or wheelie when he sees it. In the past, Tura has served in that capacity.
In his current role, he provides some extra entertainment for the high-octane crowd. He and another driver will maneuver Megasaurus out into the dirt, where the tank-tracked beast will pick up a car and tear it to shreds with its mechanical mandibles.
So, why does Mega like to munch on mid-size sedans? “He can bite it in different places,” said Tura. “He can eat all four doors, and then the roof. ... the objective is, after removing as many large parts as we can, to neatly bite the center out and then leave it in three large pieces on the ground.”
The cars are obtained mainly from salvage yards.
Preparing the arena for a monster truck show also means loading in plenty of dirt, a portion of which is plowed into jump hills.
The dirt that is being spread on the Covelli Centre floor will get double duty. That’s because it will be left in place for the following weekend’s Professional Bull Riders shows.
In Youngstown, ordering in trucks full of dirt is not as tall of an order as it is in, say, New York. “We did a show at Madison Square Garden [in New York] years ago, and they probably paid good money to have all that dirt trucked in,” said Tura.
The Warren native is a pioneer of the monster truck industry. He got started in the early 1980s when he built his first truck, Goliath. Tura toured the country as a monster truck driver from 1983 to 2005.
These days, he’ll do maybe a dozen shows as the Megasaurus operator. That includes driving a semi-truck with the robot dinosaur – its upper half folded down to create a manageable 30-foot long by 9-foot high shape that fits on a flat-bed trailer – to and from each show.
Tura’s other businesses keep him too busy to do any more.
He’s the owner-operator of Fear Forest, the Halloween attraction in Lordstown. He also has a booming business with the Vortex Tunnel, which he created for Fear Forest. It’s a drive-thru contraption in which a rotating cylinder surrounds the vehicle, giving the occupants the feeling that they are going to be flipped onto their side.
Tura has sold more than 1,000 vortexes – which he has manufactured at Custom Metalworks in Austintown – across the globe.
He recently returned from Dubai, where he helped assemble one for a buyer. “We also shipped one to Oman, another one to Istanbul and Malaysia and Berlin,” he said. Halloween isn’t as big in most countries as it is in the United States, but the owners find ways to use them in their entertainment plans.
Tura said he finds buyers at international industry trade shows and also from word of mouth. “After 24 years of making them, the word has spread,” he said.
IF YOU GO
What: Toughest Monster Trucks
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: $24-$28 Friday; $28-$36 Saturday
($10 for children 12 and under); ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000, and at the box office