Over the course of his professional daredevil career, Evel Knievel did a lot of stunts. In all, between 1965 and 1977, the man attempted over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and one rocket flight across a canyon known as Snake River. Many of the stunts, he landed successfully. While others that he tried resulted in spectacular crashes, numerous broken bones, and were memorable for very different reasons.
"In all, between 1965 and 1977, the man attempted over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps"
Knievel was undoubtedly good at delivering a line (as these Evel Knievel quotes demonstrate) but he was also, as this following collection of his most famous stunts serves to underline, a proper all-action American who laughed in the face of danger and fear. With a can of petrol, a star-spangled motorbike, a whole heap of self-promotion and courage, 'E.K' put his name in the history books
Here, for posterity's sake, are some of his historical moments.
1) Caesar's Palace | 1967
New Year's Ever 1967. Location: Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas. In a city no stranger to the big and brash, Evel Knievel attempted to fly his motorbike over the hotel and casino's iconic fountain. The stunt did not go to plan with Knievel badly botching the landing of his 141-foot jump, and rag dolling horrifically in front of a huge crowd. He suffered multiple fractures, and a concussion.
2) Madison Square Garden | 1971
After suffering the type of crash Knievel did in Las Vegas in 1967, most people would be reluctant to ever do another motorbike stunt. But then, of course, most people aren't Evel Knievel. In 1971, at New York's Madison Square Garden, Knievel successfully landed a jump over nine cars and a van. He did it on the back of a Harley-Davidson XR-750; a bike that would become synonymous with his spectacular career.
3) Los Angeles Coliseum | 1973
Picture one smashed up car, and then go right ahead and picture another 49 smashed up cars all piled up around it. If your maths is halfway decent, you should now be picturing a grand total of 50 smashed up cars. 50. The big 5-0. In 1973, in front of a crowd of 35,000 people, Knievel jumped over half a century of smashed up cars and set a record that would stand for 35 years.
4) Snake River Canyon | 1974
Initially, Knievel had planned to jump his motorcycle over the Grand Canyon. But due to an inability to get airspace permission from the government, he was forced to look for a new location; eventually settling on Idaho's famous Snake River Canyon.
Ditching his motorbike for a steam-powered rocket, dubbed the Skycycle X-2, Knievel attempted to fire himself across the 1600ft-wide gap. It did not go well. Following a successful launch, his emergency parachute then deployed far too early and he spiralled anticlimactically onto the canyon floor below.
5) Wembley Stadium | 1975
After his failed attempt to cross Snake River Canyon a year earlier, in 1975 Evel Knievel took himself to London's Wembley Stadium to see if he could successfully jump his motorbike over a line of 13 single-decker buses. He almost made it as well before falling just short and crashing off the final bus.
An estimated crowd of 80,000 people had gathered to see the spectacle and were there when Knievel, battered and bruised from his experience, stood in front of the microphone afterwards and said "You are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump because I will never, ever, ever jump again."
6) Kings Island | 1975
Despite telling the watching world at Wembley Stadium that he would "never, ever, ever jump again", in October 1975 Knievel was up to his old tricks again; jumping 14 buses at Ohio's Kings Island amusement park. Unlike at Wembley however, he landed this particular bus-jumping stunt. The televised event picked up huge ratings and proved that Knievel still knew how to work a crowd and capture their imagination with daring feats.
Did Evel Knievel Jump Over Animals?
Yes, Evel Knievel really did jump over live animals. In 1965, he jumped his motorbike over two mountain lions and some rattlesnakes. Keeping up with the dangerous snakes theme, in 1972 Knievel jumped his motorbike over 100 rattlesnakes and two vans in Plymouth, California.
One of the final chapters in Knievel's career occurred in 1977 in Chicago, Illinois, and involved a stunt that required 13 sharks. However, an unfortunate crash in practice left him with a fractured collarbone, a fractured right arm, and some heavy bruising. As a result, the stunt did not go ahead as scheduled.