Ford Veteran Michael Vaters Builds Monster School Bus Called Higher Education
Michael Vaters is a 30-year veteran of the Monster Truck scene. His "Black Stallion" entries have been a fixture since 1984, being one of the first 12 monster trucks built to compete as the finales at tractor pull events when the genre was brand new. Vaters' driving skills evolved with the sport through the 1990's as the vehicles themselves grew in popularity and technical complexity. Today, he is considered one of the most versatile drivers in the sport. Vaters says "I have watched the sport evolve from crawling over cars to the high-impact sport it is today."
Michael Vaters still wheels the all-Ford Powered K&N Black Stallion and he is still a force to be reckoned with. The Vaters have added a new addition to the team, a Monster School Bus dubbed Higher Education. Higher Education is driven by long time crewmember and family friend Jimmy Tracey.
Vaters has always been a big fan of Ken Nelson and his drag racing, wheel stander Cool Bus. Ken and Mike have talked about the monster bus for about 5 years before the actual build began. Vaters stopped by Ken's hometown in Ashland OH to get measurements and dimensions of the Cool Bus wheel stander. Vaters picked up a styrofoam fiberglass mold of the front top of the bus where the flashing lights are. That was the launch pad for the monster bus build. Michael has been building his own molds and fiberglass body parts as well as parts for other monster truck drivers for a couple of years now. They built two fiberglass sections to make up the roof and a fiberglass front clip.
The sides of the bus are built from fiberboard donated by Capitol Building Supply in Hagerstown MD, a long time sponsor and supporter of the Black Stallion racing team. Vaters designed and engineered the new bus with very specific ideas and plans; building it stronger to withstand the abuse that a monster truck goes through. Because of this and many man-hours in the shop by the Black Stallion team it was completed in 13 days. Higher Education is built in 3/4 scale. The paint (school bus yellow) was provided by PPG and painted by the Stallion crew in house. Vaters wanted the bus to have all the details to make it look as realistic as possible. Vaters fabricated black rub rails to run down the sides and even installed flashing lights and a flip out STOP sign. "We knew Higher Education would be a popular truck but our expectations have been blown away with the response we have gotten from fans this summer," states Vaters when asked about how the kids like the bus.
Most recently, Michael Vaters Jr. stepped into his dad's drivers seat behind the wheel of the Black Stallion for his first freestyle run at an event. Michael Jr has been a professional freestyle motocross rider since age 16, performing at events all over the US and Canada. He grew up around monster trucks traveling around with his Dad since before he could walk. His upbringing in the sport and knowledge of how the trucks work showed as he ran the Black Stallion like a pro with a fast paced astounding 5 minute run hitting all the obstacles and thrilling the fans. Mike Vaters Sr. said, "It has always been a dream of mine that Mikey get behind the wheel and drive for our monster truck team. It would be great to see him continue on with the Black Stallion when I can't drive anymore. What parent wouldn't want that? But ultimately, it is his choice."