|Evel Knievel in action astride a Harley-Davidson XR750|
On March 25th, 1967, Evel Knievel made a jump over 15 cars as part of the pre-race show in Gardena, California. This was his first jump to be televised by Wide World of Sport. For this jump he rode a Triumph, rather than the Harley XR750 that would later become his trademark machine, and yellow and black leathers, instead of his later signature red, white, and blue racing suit, complete with cape.
In December of the same year, Evel Knievel attempted to jump the fountains in front of Caesar's Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. This jump was a catasrophic failure: the landing went bad, and Knievel wound up in the hospital with a crushed pelvis and femur, fractured hip, wrist, and ankles, and a concussion that kept him in a coma for 29 days.
The following video shows Evel Knievel in his prime, jumping 17 vans and trucks in Portland, Oregon in 1973. The jump goes off without a hitch, in spite of less than ideal conditions. The interspersed commentary by the man himself shows both his legendary showmanship, and his down to earth, unassuming nature.
Evel Knievel's later career included the famous Snake River Canyon jump (which he mentions in the commentary on the Portland jump), and finally retirement in the 1980s. He was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, and his death in 2007 was (somewhat surprisingly) not motorcycle related. His career as daredevil showman was a shining example of a death-defying piece of Americana that is fast becoming a thing of the past, thanks to our current obsession with safety, insurance, and that sort of thing. When they are all gone, our country will likely be safer without men like Evel, but will we really be better off?