I found out today and was saddened to hear that motorcycle stunt legend Evel Knievel had died at the end of November this year. He took the world by storm with his crazy stunts like jumping across Snake River Canyon or multiple double decker buses during the 1970’s, making his last jump in March 1981. Today it is rare to see anybody attempt such crazy feats, and mores the pity.
Anyway, hearing the news of his death reminded me of the Evel Knievel Stunt Bike which was still popular into the 1980’s. This was a plastic motorcycle that came with an Evel Knievel doll to ride upon it, dressed like the man himself in the white Elvis style jump suit with the star-spangled blue V mark on the front. Of course, having only two wheels, a motorcycle wasn’t the best vehicle to be turned into a toy, as it wouldn’t be able to stand up on it’s own like a car, unless it had stabilisers or something on the back.
Stabilisers aren’t exactly a good fit for a stunt bike, so the manufacturers came up with the idea of powering it somehow. Battery power wasn’t a great solution as when the bike inevitably fell over the wheels would still keep going, wasting the battery whilst the child ran to retrieve their toy. Instead they came up with the idea of a rather cunning friction drive system. The bike was slotted into a special ramped device with a handle on the side. Turning the handle got a series of gears within the bike turning faster and faster, and when enough power was built up the motorcycle could then be launched out at great speed towards a ramp or some other kind of obstacle.
Of course having the motorcycle jump and land successfully was completely out of your control once it had left the winding device, and more often than not the bike would land awkwardly and send the doll flying. This was fine though, as it recreated one of Knievel’s less than perfect jumps all the better, and whilst we cheered when a successful jump was made, somehow it was more enjoyable to see the bike bounce and skid across the floor instead.
The Evel Knievel Stunt Bike has been relaunced recently, although with the great man’s death happening so recently it appears very difficult to get hold of one now, but Firebox are always a good bet as they allow you to preorder.