Reptoid stands in its “Reptoid Salutes” body.

Reptoid stands in its “Reptoid Salutes” body.

Photo provided by Chris Ustick

Gratiot cruise party bringing out monster truck

By: Dean Vaglia | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published July 27, 2022

 Reptoid, pictured in its green body, crushes a car at a prior KBW Gratiot Cruise Party.

Reptoid, pictured in its green body, crushes a car at a prior KBW Gratiot Cruise Party.

Photo provided by Chris Ustick

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — As summer comes to the metro Detroit area, the familiar sight of custom and classic cars cruising along thoroughfares returns from Woodward to Van Dyke avenues and everywhere in between.

One such street drivers frequently cruise along is Gratiot, and one group of partiers for Clinton Township’s Aug. 7 Gratiot cruise is set to have a monstrous guest — Reptoid.

“It’s an original Monster Jam monster truck,” said Chris Ustick, one of the key people behind Clinton Township-based Kreative Bodywerks Hot Rods shop and promoter of the shop’s party. “A lot of the kids love it.”

Originally driven by Jim Jacks from the 1990s until the mid-2010s, Reptoid was notable for its reptile-like body on top of a modified Chevrolet frame.

“I get a lot of questions asked (about what it is),” Mark Pedersen, the owner and a driver of Reptoid since 2014, said. “‘Is it a dinosaur? Is it a lizard? Is it a snake? What is it?’ The beautiful thing about it and the way I always viewed it is that it’s whatever you want it to be. You let your imagination run with whatever you choose to run with, and you can put your own ideas and thoughts on what it looks like and what it could be.”

While no longer competing in the Monster Jam tour, Pedersen and Reptoid are still active in the monster truck scene and frequently take part in events across the county.

“We run for multiple different smaller companies — promoters, as we call them,” Pedersen said. “Whenever they have dates available and I’m available to do them, that’s how we do it.”

Reptoid is a repeat attendee at KBW’s party and has even taken a spin down the avenue.

“I’ve had it only one other time,” Ustick said. “That year we fired it up, we drove it on Gratiot. I drove over a car … and when it was on the car, it broke the glass, so due to liability, I had to caution it off. A lot of the younger kids were bummed that they couldn’t take a picture underneath it or sit in the wheel, so I promised a lot of kids this year that I would actually have it so they could walk up to it.”

Ustick was interested in doing a veteran’s donation for the party this year, so Reptoid will be showing up in a special “Reptoid Salutes” body featuring an American flag design and a 9/11 memorial on the back.

“We’ve only had (the “salutes” body) on one time, so we wanted to have it on display for all the veterans and people to see,” Ustick said. “It kinda means a lot to everybody so we wanted to bring that out, we wanted people to get pictures with it.”

Going into its sixth year, the KBW Gratiot Cruise Party will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Bravado Event Venue. The shop hosts the parties as a way to support the local community while also allowing people to cruise.

“I try to make it fun where everybody can pull out, cruise and be able to come back knowing that their parking spot is still there; we actually put a cone in their spot,” Ustick said. “We try to make it easy because the biggest thing we’ve learned from everybody is that they want to cruise their cars and enjoy it. … But at the same time, bring money to Clinton Township. Go into the restaurants (to) get food or go stop somewhere at another party or spend money at the Gratiot Pub. We try to bring people to the area to cruise and have a good time.”