Evel Knievel

Evel Knievel's motorcycle from Viva Knievel

Harley-Davidson XLCH Custom Sportster

This motorcycle was custom built by stuntman Bud Ekins for Warner Brothers studio. It was used in the 1977 film Viva Knievel. It features a custom fiberglass fairing with wings, a rocket shaped exhaust, and an upright tail fin. The bike was so distinctive it was made into a toy by IDEAL Toy Company.

Evel Knievel was born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Montana on October 17, 1938.  After crashing his motorcycle during a police chase, he was put in jail and charged with reckless driving.  While in jail, he heard another inmate called Awful Knofel. He liked the rhyming name, so came up with Evel to rhyme with Knievel, making sure not to use the correct spelling of evil.

Knievel began his daredevil career performing wheelies and going through walls of fire. His first public jump was at the National Date Festival in Indio, California in 1966.  In 1973, he successfully jumped over 50 stacked cars at the Los Angeles Colosseum. He performed jumps that led to world records, including one in 1975 when he jumped 14 greyhound buses at Kings Island Amusement Park in Ohio.  His attempts to negotiate permission to jump the Grand Canyon were not successful. Knievel did, however, attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon in a specially built rocket powered “Skycycle,” which unfortunately crashed at the bottom of the canyon.

Knievel became a folk hero, performing death-defying feats and living to tell about it. He crashed several times and broke 35 bones during the course of his career.