Metal dinosaur joins monster trucks at Covelli Centre

Mike West credited a made-for-TV movie with inspiring two of his biggest and most popular creations.

West is the founder of Wild West Entertainment in Alliance, which has been making unique vehicles to thrill crowds at car shows and monster truck events for more than 30 years.

After building things like a jet-powered four-wheeled ATV, West saw “Steel Justice,” a 1992 movie about a robot / dinosaur toy that comes to life and grows to dinosaur size. It helps a father whose child was killed avenge the boy’s death.

The Robosaurus wasn’t enough to turn “Steel Justice” into a television series, but West knew a vehicle like that could be a hit on the circuit.

“The crowds at monster truck shows are 90 percent kids,” West said. “What kid doesn’t like dinosaurs and doesn’t like Transformers? Let’s combine the two.”

It took about five years of trial and error and a pile of scrap metal to create Megasaurus and its dino sibling Transaurus. Megasaurus will be breathing fire and eating cars as one of the attractions when the Toughest Monster Truck Tour returns to the Covelli Centre for two shows Friday and Saturday.

West said he doesn’t have an engineering background, but he’s worked with enough back hoes and excavators and used that knowledge to create the hydraulics and “jaws” necessary to pick up and crush a car.

In addition to its Monster Truck appearances, Megasaurus also helped tear down a house for an episode of ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover,” and West’s creations have been seen on “Late Show with David Letterman,” “All Jacked Up” and “Country Fried Videos.”

Megasaurus is built on a tank chassis and is three-stories tall when it rises from its box-like frame. West likes to maintain the mystery surrounding the machine but said it takes two people inside to operate. He also doesn’t like to talk about what can and has gone wrong.

“I don’t want to jinx myself,” he said. “You just have to keep a real close eye on the dinosaur itself. When you have something actually ripping a car in half, it puts a lot of stress on the metal and the hydraulics.”

In addition to Megasaurus, the Covelli Centre events will feature Bigfoot 21, driven by Larry Swim; Buckshot, driven by Brandon Budd; Dirt Crew, driven by Jerry Beck; Reckless Drivin’, driven by Jeremy Hosman; Quad Chaos, driven by Aaron Cain; and Snake Bite, driven by Kris Kopperhead.

Megasaurus proved so popular that West built Transaurus to meet the demand, and he’ll be in Amarillo, Texas, this weekend with that vehicle while Megasaurus is heating up Youngstown.

Not surprisingly, the metal dinosaurs are a huge hit with the young audience members.

“It’s hilarious. We’re bringing the dinosaur out of the box right on the floor. Inside of it, there’s two engines running and it’s really loud, but you can still hear the kids roar when we blow that first shot of fire. Some take off and leave for the moms and dads until the kids realize the dinosaurs aren’t going to eat them.”