More Evel

“Knievel was a living wind-up toy. And it appeared, that, like the toys, he couldn’t be killed. He could be broken, but you wind him up and do it again in real life. I think it was that kind of spirit that captured America’s, and the world’s, interest in Evel Knievel.” said Pat Williams, sports executive.

After finishing my homeowork, I recently toured the Evel Knievel Museum here in Topeka. I went on a Saturday afternoon and it was fairly busy. It was unexpectedly great time because the staff were escorting several “eyewitness” visitors through the exhibits. These were people with Evel Knievel stories — where they’d met him, which jumps they saw, what he was like, how much of his merchandise they had as kids. (I had an Evel Knievel bicycle but not the famous wind-up toy).

The museum has motorcycles, photos, videos, rockets, jumpsuits, fur coats, cars, vans and pickup trucks. Knievel, for example, drove a red Cadillac pickup back in the ’70s. Cadillac made red pickup trucks? They did for Evel.

The centerpiece of the museum is Big Red, a 1974 Mack cabover FS 700 L Series Truck with an E6 Mack Maxidyne 300 series engine. There are two parts to the trailers it pulls. One is a luxury living area, like a typical RV or railroad coach with a bed, living room, wardrobe and office. Behind was a custom trailer to keep Knievel’s motorcycles and stunt equipment safe and secure. I share most visitors’ opinion that it’s a wonderful museum that can appeal to everyone, even if you don’t know anything about Knievel. The planning and thoughtfulness of the layout, exhibits and interpretations are clearly evident. I spent about 2 1/2 hours seeing everything in every exhibit and performing the virtual reality jump.

We have added more Evel Knievel books and movies for checkout. See my list below. The best book added recently is Evel The High-flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil and Legend by Leigh Montville.

View complete list

Matt Pettit

Matt is a Public Service Specialist for the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. His areas of responsibility include outreach library services to nursing homes, senior, retirement and congregate living centers; service to homebound library users; the Kansas Talking Books service; Book Group in a Bag program and the history and sports neighborhoods of the library’s nonfiction collection.