$1,000,000! Evel Knievel X-2 SkyCycle Artifact

A show of hands for those of you who have $1,000,000 to spend? That many? Nice! This is the oddest vehicle-related item that I’ve run across in my tenure at Barn Finds. Up for auction is an artifact from Evel Knievel’s ill-fated “jump” over Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho back on September 8, 1974. Do any of you remember that? I sure do. Here is a YouTube video of the event for those of you who have never seen it. We all know who Evel Knievel is, don’t we? I hope so. He was famous/infamous for jumping motorcycles over things, lots of things. And, for breaking bones, lots of bones. This artifact is on eBay with a Buy It Now price of a cool $1,000,000. Of course, for those of you who don’t quite have an exact $1,000,000 to spend, you can make an offer..

Robert Craig Knievel had a fascinating life filled with adventure. He quit high school and got a job at a copper mine, but he was fired for doing a wheelie with an earth-mover and crashing it into Butte, Montana’s main power line, cutting the power for the entire city for several hours. With no job, he started to get into trouble, or, even more trouble than before. Knievel was jailed in 1956 for racing around on, and eventually crashing, his motorcycle; go figure. In the cell next to him was a gentleman named William Knofel, known as “Awful Knofel” for his misdeeds around the area. Knievel started using the first name “Evel” after that: Evel Knievel – purposely misspelled because he didn’t want to be known as evil.

This could turn into a 1,200-page book on the unbelievable life and adventures of Evel Knievel, but what we really want to know is what the heck is that bent chunk of metal? When he was preparing for the Snake River Canyon jump, which would actually be more like a missile launch from one side to the other, he didn’t use a motorcycle as he had done for years in his many amazing jumps, this time he used the X-2 SkyCycle. No really! It was a steam-powered rocket, and the twisted piece of metal in the above photo is what actually caused the jump to fail. Yes, that’s what’s for sale here, the mangled drogue chute retention cover that deployed right after takeoff.

The chute retention cover is autographed by Scott Truax, the son of the designer of the rocket, retired US Navy engineer Robert Truax. That chunk of metal is actually known as the mechanical parachute retention cover, and tests showed that they didn’t take into account the amount of base drag and it deployed too soon, causing the rocket to catch the wind and go back towards the launch pad, crashing on the bank of the canyon, mere feet from the river. If it would have fallen into the river Knievel would have drowned because he was strapped in. Not a good situation. He actually made it across the canyon, but when the chute deployed too soon it caught the wind and it carried him all the way back over to where he started.

There it is, $1,000,000 worth of twisted metal. During the mass of confusion after the rocket crashed down in the canyon, spectators, who had paid $25 to watch it from a fenced-in area, rushed the chain link fence, toppling it over, and rushed to try to help Evel out of his predicament. But, the story goes that one person noticed where the drogue chute hatch cover had landed and went to retrieve it instead. Can you do that?! Come on!.. Ok, back to the story. Decades later, the son of the designer of the rocket confirmed that this is the actual chute hatch cover that malfunctioned and caused the jump to fail.

As if you needed any more information before sending $1,000,000 via PayPal to the seller, this is a “Certificate of Authenticity” from the rocket designer’s son confirming that this is in fact the drogue chute hatch cover and it was what caused the jump to fail. The jump, which was rivaled only by President Ford pardoning former President Nixon in news coverage, was seen by presumably millions of people on a pay-per-view deal through a boxing promoter and was shown in movie theaters. Talk about creative marketing! So, there you go. I would think that John Parham from the National Motorcycle Museum (a must see!) in Anamosa, Iowa would want this in his collection of Evel Knievel items, or a similar museum. I know that none of you are going to buy this, I think? But, it seemed like a heck of a story, and come on, who doesn’t love Evel Knievel!

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Meh. Always thought he had a death wish and wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. How ironic he dies of “old age”. Go figure.

    • Robert White

      Howard, God had other plans for Knieval. Google Knieval at the Crystal Cathedral for his last sermon publically in life.

      Bob

      • Woodie Man

        god had other plans for the Crystal Cathedral too. Evel was a bad boy. In every way.

  2. Straightalkin

    It’s not actually for sale for $1million! If you read the full ebay ad, it states it will be sold to the highest bidder at an auction at a later date to be determined. The ebay ad is only being used to generate publicity!

  3. Kevin

    Did he make mistakes and do some stupid stuff? Hell yes! But that just made him more interesting. 100% American Bad Ass. Inspired an entire generation of kids to go big!

  4. Robert White

    The guy in the sunglasses with the blue shirt, and bell bottom blue jeans that stands closest to us in the top photograph is none other than Don ‘the Snake’ Prudhomme. And I know this because I recognize him from the SANAIR Summer NHRA Grandnationals where I witnessed Shirley Muldowney smoke BIG Daddy & the Snake to take the win. That summer Muldowney was not unlike the Holy Ghost on the quarter mile at SANAIR IMHO. When I saw her take the win I knew there was only one sport left in the world for me to watch. Previous to that day I rather liked NHL Hockey. After that day I never bothered with hockey ever again. Top Fuel is where its at IMHO.

    Bob

    • JP

      Where is SANAIR IMHO??

      • Robert White

        SANAIR is in Quebec Montreal region. And IMHO is ‘in my humble opinion’.

        P.S. SANAIR has the best looking chicks of any tracks in the entire world.

        Bob

      • Doug Towsley

        Bob-White, As far as the Girls at SANAIR its possible, Never been there. But Laguna Seca and Sears point are no slouches. Heck even PIR in Portland Oregon when the Indy cars/CART come to town and some of the Trophy wives show up.
        Here is the Norton display where some ladies stopped by, (No, they were not paid for this) But in a mechandising lark, they had come out with a ton of Tshirts, hats, jackets etc and the vendor suggested ladies Thongs underwear. (Plaid with the Norton logo) Turns out it was a roaring success. They sold out the ladies Thongs in a few hours the first day.
        Read into what you will the big smiles these ladies have.

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Thanks for the pic Doug, I am Snortin! Take Care. Trifecta.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Robert, I agree, Top Fuel rules, however, research shows, that’s not Don Prudhomme shaking hands, that’s X1 builder Doug Malewicki at the cycles unveiling May 6, 1972. The guy on the left is Robert Truax, steam engine builder, and on right with sunglasses is Facundo Campoy, one of Truax’s partners.

      • Robert White

        Gentleman’s bet that it is indeed Prudhomme, Howard. I know Prudhomme from watching him, and his crew, in the pits @ SANAIR.
        I guarantee you that we are looking at a picture of Prudhomme & Knieval shaking hands.

      • Howard A Member

        I got that from this website. It seems to verify it is Doug Malewicki. Same pic, no? http://www.canosoarus.com/10X1Skycycle/Skycycle03.htm

      • Howard A Member

        This is a picture of Don Prudhomme at the 1972 AHRA Nationals.
        http://www.tradingcarddb.com/Images/Cards/Racing/74679/74679-5481575Fr.jpg

      • Robert White

        Okay, you must be right given the photo wording at the bottom of the photo. Heck, I could swear that that guy is Prudhomme. And the Prudhomme picture is was too old to be an accurate depiction for the era that Knievel jumped the SRC, but I’ll take your research to be accurate now, sorry bout that, Howard, my mistake.

        Mea Culpa.

        Bob

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Bob, it’s not who this Doug Malewicki was, never heard of him, but Don Prudhomme was my hero in ’72 ( and I guess still is) and that just didn’t look like him. I remember he had long hair. Maybe catch you at an “event”? Closest one to me is Brainerd.( Aug. 17-20) Been to Joliet many times. Awesome machines, and Don Prudhomme made it happen.

      • johnforsman

        I did have to look twice, but it doesn’t look like Dom Prudhomme to me. I knew him from growing up in Granada Hills, where we both lived.

  5. Coventrycat

    Evel is cool, but not a million dollars cool.

  6. jwinters

    so a baseball card collection, old bicycles, now this? come on BARN FINDS we are getting off topic.

    • Jesse Staff

      Whoever said a barn find had to have four wheels? We have featured odd things like this from the very beginning – airplanes, kitchen cabinets, a truck that looks like a cow… It’s always a nice change of pace and most people seem to enjoy it.

      • Mike H. Mike H

        Damn straight!

  7. Alan

    For just the cover? Forget about it.

  8. James

    I don’t think that the entire rocket cycle would fetch a million much less one chute cover. Can’t blame the guy for trying though. lol

  9. Art Fink

    It seems the cost of Evel Knieval memorabilia is “skyrocketing”…………OOOOOO!!!!

    • Mike H. Mike H

      I see what you did there. . .

  10. grant

    Really? A million dollars for a piece of the rocket? Maybe for the rocket itself. And autographed by the designers son, who had no hand in its creation? Talk about trying to create value. May as well have had Evel’s wife’s hairdresser’s daughter’s best friend sign it. Who cares? This is a curiosity piece for sure, but if the seller thinks he can get a million dollars for it he needs to go to rehab.

    • glen

      I agree with you, but IF he does get some ridiculous number, how crazy is he then? Asking isn’t crazy, paying that much is.

      • grant

        Touche

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      The EBay ad is just a piece of advertising for the upcoming real auction.

      I’m surprised more people haven’t figured that out.

  11. geomechs geomechs Member

    I’ll always remember that reporter that kept trying to get in Knievel’s face and Knievel finally took a bat and attacked him. I saw the late night interview where Knievel said: “God created man, and Winchester and basball bats made ’em all equal.”

    Can’t say that I’d be interested in just the cover. Now, IF I had $1M that I didn’t know what to do with and the entire bike came up for sale at that price…. Naw, I’d go out and buy some more collector cars and enjoy….

  12. Van

    I always thought it was crazy, he’s in a rocket that couldn’t clear a few hundred feet. Maybe the rockets designer belongs in North Korea.

  13. erikj

    Barnfinds is not getting off-track in my mind with this post. I think its interesting to see a little bit of something like a feature like this. To me its still related to most of our interests . GOOD JOB GUYS!! Just my thoughts.

  14. Nova Scotian

    This whole debacle reminds me of when Fonzie tried to jump his motorcycle for distance and wiped out. I think the Fonze writers took some marketing class from the Evel himself on that episode. Lol

  15. Tricky Rick

    I recently read an article where the son of the Sky Cycle builder used the original plans to build another one with a few changes, which was successfully jumped across a canyon of the same size and dimensions as the Snake River jump spot.

  16. Alan

    It’s true for craps sake, we like hot wheels and gas stations

  17. John B

    I swear that man holding the microphone in one of the pictures is ABC’s Jules Bergman. Am I right? He was in on all the space flight projects.

    • Don Parker

      John, my thought as well.

  18. Steve Maxwell

    At the time I was 10 years old and remember the event being huge. ABC advertised it for weeks, and I couldn’t wait. I watched it with my dad. I remember everyone wanting Evel to suceeed. Everyone was so disappointed when the shoot opened early but everyone was so happy Evel made it out alive and waving from the rocket.

  19. Michael F Antaki

    American Pickers.. BARN FINDS Style.
    You go Barn Finds

  20. Doug Towsley

    I think its an interesting post and kind of cool, Of course it is just totally crazy to think anyone would pay that, but it kinda fits the whole legacy of Evel Kneivel. I read some books about him and the stories are pretty entertaining. What a hustler.
    I know a local guy who used to own a tavern in Portland. “Good Time Charlie” He had some old photos of Kneivel and part of the reason I read the books on him was to try and verify the story Charlie told me. It was all crazy enough to be true and I believe it but cannot conclusively prove it.
    So the story was he grew up in Montana and at one point sold insurance. At one point Kneivel started working there and being who he was, wanted to be at the top in no time flat. Somebody in charge told him that if he sold a Million in insurance in a year he could be one of the top executives. Nobody at that point had ever done it. Nobody believed it was possible. Kneivel went out and did it. Total hustler and as they say “By hook & by Crook”. Of course the promise was total BS because nobody thought it possible, Kneivel got mad and quit. Charlie had some materials that sorta established the basis of this, and it seems to fit with other details. Id love to confirm it. Good Time Charlie was a character in his own right. He was going blind when I knew him and wanted one last glorious ride and planned to ride his Triumph to Sturgis. He got out of town late and was making good time on Interstate 84 heading east. Because of his fading eyesight he drafted 18 wheelers. He got pulled over in Eastern Oregon by the police. They found his .44 handgun and Charlie was riding with Charlie Jrs license as his was long ago suspended for health reasons and many traffic infractions. Being in poor health the Jail kicked him out quickly before he incurred expenses. He never made it to Sturgis. Died about 1-2 years later.

    • Mike H. Mike H

      Doug, you should check out the movie “Being Evel” that came out in 2015 (the movie was actually made by Johnny Knoxville of “Jackass” fame). They interviewed everyone close to him including pretty much the whole fam-damily and in the biography they speak about his time selling insurance. The story as you relay it is very close to verbatim from the film.

      I like documentary films generally, and “Being Evel” was a particularly good one. They make NO attempts to sugar-coat the truth about the guy; he was quite a huckster and a huge self-promoter, and not really a particularly nice guy. The movie gives you the chance to form your own opinions about the guy, good or bad.

      You might want to check it out. I think it’s still available on Hulu, which is where I saw it.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4076756/

      • Doug Towsley

        Thanks Mike H!!!! So we will look for that, We cut the cord with cable TV and have an Amazon Prime Firestick and we have Hulu. That would be awesome to be able to download it or watch it. Didnt know about the movie. Thumbs up for being helpful and know I got a warm fuzzy knowing I can finally verify that story. I know a lot of similar crazy stories but I always like to sort the facts from Fiction. Some of the other material I learned about Evel was pretty bad stuff, ( he WAS a bit Evil) But I gotta respect his sheer audacity and in a way, a Motivational speaker kind of guy that never let adversity stop him.
        So, here in Oregon I Have mentioned him before. Cliff “The Sandy bandit” Mahjor. He was a SPECIAL Character in his own right and I collect uncle Cliffy stories and some of them are true! Cliff taught Evel some of his tricks (Verified) including how to do the wall of fire. Cliff was in LA and shared a house with Bud Ekins and his wife (Cliff said they couldnt cook so he did all the meals-Unverified) Bud Ekins ran a well known Triumph dealership and was close friends with Steve McQueen. Cliff moved up to Portland Oregon and opened his own Triumph Dealership. He once told the CEO of Triumph Edward Turner who was famous as a tempermental tyrant that “You guys at Triumph dont know S**t!, If you just ran things like Suzuki all us dealers would die fat dumb and happy!” Everyone assumed He would lose his dealership over it but he didnt (Verified) But before opening his dealership Cliff travelled the US and the world performing stunts.
        Cliff was WAY ahead of Evel Kneivel. Some say Evel was a cheap imitation. Cliff performed with the Joey Chitwood stunts and thrills show and was known as the wheelie King. I have pictures of Cliff riding a Matchless Compy model around and you can see the front fork caps for the wheel are loose. He said,, “I dont NEED the front wheel”
        For more on Cliff see this short blurb: https://pwheelie.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-sandy-bandit-clif-majhors.html

      • Doug Towsley

        Wrong pix, sorry,, Heres another. (I have enough for a book)

  21. TBAU Member

    ” I don’t ask for your respect, I demand it.”

  22. Smittydog

    BARN FINDS = Now just another greedy website.

    • Jesse Staff

      How does featuring this make us greedy?

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