When it comes to motorcycle stuntmen, there is none more iconic than Evel Knievel, whose stunt career included 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps. Over his career, he had over 300 death-defying stunts to his name. Unsurprisingly, his feats put him in the Motorcycle Hal of Fame in 1999.
Evel Knieval was born as Robert Craig Knieval in 1938. However, he took on the name Evel Knievel as a stage name when he began performing motorcycle stunts. This name supposedly came from a night spent in jail for reckless driving. This name suited him well, for he successfully branded himself with it.
Even though Evel Knieval first attempted to take on a regular job at a mining company, he always felt like such tasks were unimportant. Thus, by his late 20s, he dropped any pretenses and began his professional career as a daredevil stuntman. Thus, he successfully jumped 40 feet over two rattlesnakes and a mountain lion in Moses Lake, Washington as his first recorded jump in 1965.
From that moment on, Evel Knievel performed larger and more extravagant jumps. His most noteworthy jump occurred in 1968 when he jumped over the fountains in front of Las Vegas’s Ceasar’s Palace fountain. This jump was the longest of his entire career, around 141 feet long. However, like many of his prior stunts, he did not walk away unscathed from the crash at the end of the jump. Evel Knievel spent nearly a month in the hospital recovering from his broken ribs and hip. Moreover, his pelvis had been crushed by the jump.
By the 1970s, he was making multiple jumps per year across the United States and in Canada. However, none of these jumps were as death-defying as the one from 1968. Still, his active jumping career made him the most well-known stunt motorcycle driver around. Even non-biking enthusiasts knew his name.
Evel Knievel’s success and fame made him a tempting choice for a toy line, especially for Ideal Toy. This American toy company made a name for itself by creating dolls like Betsy Wetsy and Shirley Temple. However, by the 1970s, they were making splashes with their action figure toy lines like Captain Action. So, they were ready to create even more exciting action figures.
Ideal’s first Evel Knievel toys hit the market in 1972. From the beginning, they offered basic six-inch flexible action figures in the likeness of the stuntman. These action figures had cloth outfits, which could be swapped out. For instance, fans could buy an Evel Knievel in a white outfit with a star-spangled blue and red V stripe. There was also a version that wore a mostly red outfit with a blue motorcycle emblem. A third basic figure wore a light blue outfit with a patriotic 1 on the chest.
Later Evel Knievel action figures came on card backs advertised as racing sets. One of these new toys wore a mostly red outfit with a few star-spangled blue stripes. It also came with accessories like a toolbox with tools.
It quickly picked up momentum when Ideal introduced Stunt Vehicle play sets in 1973. These playsets gave fans the chance to reenact Evel Knievel’s famous stunts. The toy line naturally included a Stunt Cycle set that lets players send the stuntman on a jump off a red ramp. Otherwise, they could use the Evel Knievel Dragster in exciting high-speed play. There was also the Evel Knievel Scramble Van, which acted as a changing room and stanging ground. The van included multiple accessories, including a blue ramp.
Along with the basic action figures and play sets, Ideal offered an Evel Knievel Precision Miniatures subline. These die-cast toys offered players scaled-down, yet still exciting play. This part of the toy line featured vehicles like the motorcycle, a white race car, a sky cycle, and much more.
These were only a few examples of the Evel Knievel toy line from Ideal. Ideal continued to create these toys for five years. Before it was discontinued in 1977, they also experimented with adding new characters to the toy line. For instance, they created an action figure for Evel’s son, Robbie Knievel, who performed stunts alongside his father. To attract a female demographic, Ideal introduced another new character: Derry Daring. She had both a Trick Cycle and a Wheelie Car.
Even though Evel Knievel ended his stunt career in 1980, he remained an iconic part of American culture. Thus, reissues of the Super Stunt Cycle Set emerged around 2006. The new version of the Dare Devil Stunt Set which used the original Ideal toy molds was created by Poof Slinky. It included over 40 pieces that fans could use to relive the excitement of Knievel’s stunts.
More remakes of Ideal’s Evel Knievel toy line are currently available online from California Creations. For instance, one could find the Trailbike Edition of the Stunt Cycle Set. There is also a current black-colored Pro series and other toys listed. Like the prior remakes, they feature the Ideal Toy stamp on the toys.
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