Motorcycles

Evel exhibition: A look back at a daredevil ahead of his time

One of the series of Harley-Davidson jump bikes Knievel used over the years (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
One of the series of Harley-Davidson jump bikes Knievel used over the years (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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Evel Knievel – the King of Stuntman (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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Evel Knievel – the King of Stuntman (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
The collection includes helmets, leathers and jump motorcycles (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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The collection includes helmets, leathers and jump motorcycles (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
Often compared to P.T. Barnum, the legendary showman, Evel Knievel knew how to dress the part (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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Often compared to P.T. Barnum, the legendary showman, Evel Knievel knew how to dress the part (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
X2 Skycycle on display at Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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X2 Skycycle on display at Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
While best known for his use of Harley Davidsons, Evel Knievel also rode marques such as this Italian Laverda, and British Triumphs and Nortons (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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While best known for his use of Harley Davidsons, Evel Knievel also rode marques such as this Italian Laverda, and British Triumphs and Nortons (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
Knievel's Harley-Davidson XR-750 (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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Knievel's Harley-Davidson XR-750 (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
Knievel's American Eagle Laverda SF (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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Knievel's American Eagle Laverda SF (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
Every dot on the skeleton represent a broken bone (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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Every dot on the skeleton represent a broken bone (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
"Color Me Lucky" Harley-Davidson (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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"Color Me Lucky" Harley-Davidson (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
One of the series of Harley-Davidson jump bikes Knievel used over the years (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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One of the series of Harley-Davidson jump bikes Knievel used over the years (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
The Viva Knieval Helmet (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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The Viva Knieval Helmet (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
The famous Snake River Canyon X-2 Skycycle (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
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The famous Snake River Canyon X-2 Skycycle (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)

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)
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.

The famous Snake River Canyon X-2 Skycycle (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
The famous Snake River Canyon X-2 Skycycle (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)

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.

3 comments
Kevin Ritchey
They don't exhibit the outfits where he crashed and burned. Or the bikes either.
Marilyn
On the contrary! The motorcycles in the exhibit are Evel's own bikes that he jumped and crashed. The leathers are sets he wore, when jumping and otherwise. Many sets of Evel's leathers went in the trash heap after being too badly shredded for repair or further use. We wish we had them!
big name
It it a great exhibit! One thing that is inaccurate is the SkyCycle... It isn't the real SkyCycle but a really good replica. The real one isn't on display right now.
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