Long before the now daily bombardment of death defying stunts on YouTube there was motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. With no movie magic or modern suspension to soften his landings, he was a superhero who could actually fly, or crash, for money and fame. A comprehensive collection of Evel Knievel memorabilia traveled to the Circuit of the Americas during the MotoGP weekend, so we stopped by for a trip down memory lane.
It's fitting that the legend of the worlds most famous dare devil started with a reckless driving charge. A jailhouse nickname stuck and Evel Knievel was born. He attempted over 75 motorcycle jumps and was as famous for the ones he made as the ones he didn't, inspiring generations of men and women to make their mothers cringe. Along the way he raised the bar for what you could earn doing it as well, reportedly earning $6 million in 1974 for the Snake River Canyon Jump.
Often compared to P.T. Barnum, the legendary showman, Evel Knievel knew how to dress the part (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
Knievel still holds the Guinness World Record for broken bones (433), and it must have surprised him more than anyone after years of being told he would certainly kill himself with all the crazy things he did, to die of pulmonary disease in 2007 at age 69.
While his career was huge, Knievel only performed motorcycle stunts for 11 years. During that time his stunts were so well known that when ABC’s Wide World of Sports collated the top twenty most watched sporting moments of all time, five were of Evel, including the top spot. The ABC declined to air his Caesars Palace jump live, he arranged to have it filmed himself and after crashing spectacularly and sold the footage to Wide World of Sports for more than he had asked originally. It is to this day the most famous motorcycle crash ever filmed.
His life was well recorded but the tools of his trade all became scattered over the years until Lathan McKay, the foremost collector of Evel Knievel possessions, made it his mission to get them together for traveling exhibition.
The collection includes helmets, leathers, jump motorcycles, X-rays of Evel's many broken bones and even the famous Snake River Canyon X-2 Skycycle.