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When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to be was EVEL KNIEVEL!
Today, I’d like to tell you about a real-life superhero who performed superhuman feats in the 70’s. Today it’s almost unimaginable that many people don’t even know who he was! But back when I was a kid, EVEL KNIEVEL was everywhere!
He was a motorcycle daredevil who performed such amazing stunts as jumping over the fountains at Cesars Palace in Vegas, jumping a gajillion school busses and things along those lines.
And as spectacular as those stunts were, even more spectacular were his crashes! This guy broke almost every bone in his body and not only lived to tell about it but kept coming back for more with bigger and more amazing stunts. Most notoriously shooting himself in a rocket over a canyon, which by the way failed miserably, he crashed down into the canyon and miraculously survived! Go figure.
If you’ve read this far, you must be asking yourself what all this has to do with what we talk about here at the Dandy Fun House which is amusements, toys, games and frivolities? I’m glad you asked!
You see, in addition to being a guy apparently bent on killing himself for the amusement of others, he also marketed and merchandised himself like a madman! In the 70’s Evel Knievel toys were everywhere! Kids played with Knievel cars that would fly apart when you crashed them. Rockets you could pretend to crash into canyons. Bicycles we would all hurt ourselves on jumping over homemade ramps on concrete driveways. Action figures, camper vans and most everything else you could think of.
When I say this guy was everywhere… I mean he was EVERYWHERE!
But the Evel Knievel toy that started it all was the stunt cycle! Now this wasn’t just some little toy motorcycle you pushed around on the floor with your hand while making motor sounds. Ohhh No! This ting, you put the action figure on top of the bike, then put the whole thing into this contraption called an Energizer which you cranked a big gear wheel by hand as fast as you could and when you stopped cranking, the bike with Evel on top would take off like a bat out of Hades to terrorize your dog, your sister, jump ramps, do flips. I mean this thing was cool and every kid had to have one!
That was every kid but me… You see, my Mom was very protective of me and was real worried that if I got this toy, it would inspire me to want to ride motorcycles and … go figure, she actually wanted me to live long enough to give her grandchildren. So instead, I got the Evel Knievel CRASH CAR which you’re supposed to intentionally crash into walls and other toy vehicles so you can watch it fly apart and kill Evel Knievel inside of it. Well apparently her strategy may have had some merit because to this day I do not ride motorcycles but I DO drive about 50 thousand miles per year doing all the silly antics that I do and she does indeed have grandchildren! Well played Mom. Well played.
So… what happened to all those kids who had all those toys? I’m glad you asked that! There are many groups on the internet of old, fat bald guys like me who spend their time collecting and showing off their Evel Knievel toy collections to the world! I’m not sure who actually needs 25 different variants of a toy motorcycle or an Evel Knievel toothbrush still in its original packaging, but those guys are out there in force barely pulling their reissued Evel Knievel hoodies over their belly bulges and setting the interwebs on fire!
ENTER THE BEAUTY OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM! Seeing this passion in the marketplace for all things Evel Knievel amongst the midlife crisis set is a company that goes by the name of California Creations https://www.evelknieveltoys.com who has acquired the permissions and licensing to lovingly manufacture a re-issue of the infamous Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle and I’ve got one, brand new in the box RIGHT. HERE. IN. MY HANDS! And what makes this even sweeter?? Ohhh you’re gonna love this! This was given to me as a Christmas gift by none other than my own sweet Mother! I guess now that she has grandchildren I’ve served my purpose and can go ahead and get inspired to ride motorcycles! I’m on to you Mom!
And with that, what do say we head over to the kitchen table, do a proper unboxing and THEN we’ll take it outside and you can all get a good laugh out of a guy in Man-O-Pause reliving childhood in his driveway! Ready? Let’s go crack this clam shell open!
Right off the bat, in the image on the box I can tell that Evel’s head looks very small in the helmet. Well talk more about that later but as I peruse the box I can’t help but notice all the great retro-artwork and graphics. In addition to the adornment, the outside of the box also includes a list of contents, the instructions, and various stunts you can perform.
Inside of the box, the first thing I notice is the energizer which is used to spin up the gears of the motorcyle via a crank handle and build it’s internal inertia. The energizer comes in two parts which need to be snapped together. Mine was a bit challenging, but with a little friendly-but-careful persuasion I got the two halves to snap together properly. While it worked as it should, I have to disclose that the plastic felt very light and cheapy but it did look just like the original.
Continuing on, the only thing remaining in the main box was a smaller white box which contained everything else. On top was the man himself, Evel Knievel in all his 7″ tall, bendable and poseable glory! I must say, they did a really good job in making him look like the real Evel! Right down to the sideburns. I was impressed! Neat little white jumpsuit with white stars over red and blue striping. The only complaint I could state about the action figure itself is that mine had a very loose and wobbly head. It didn’t really bother me during this unboxing, but it would prove to be troublesome later in my tests and trials. But that’s another topic which we’ll address in our next installment which will be the full review including tests and trials.
Moving right along we get to unwrap the helmet next. With more stars and bars from front to back, it seemed well-made and very pliable with a good amount of flexibility which is a good thing since it’s certain to receive more than a few knocks. I had heard chatter on the internet that this helmet unfortunately fits very loose and flies off constantly and I can tell you after fitting this on Evel’s head that this is true. It’s very loose and slides on and off the head like nothing at all. If you want it to fit, you’ll need to fit some foam inside the helmet and adhere into place which is exactly what I did with just a few strips of lightweight foam and some black fabric-based gaffers tape, I was in business and had the helmet fitting like a charm.
The final item in the box was the motorcyle. There are a few different styles of motorcycles available and I received a very stocky and beefy black bike that resembled more of a road hog than a performance bike built for jumps. But this thing had some good weight to it and felt quality with movable front forks. The plastic faux chrome trim felt like more of that cheapy plastic stuff, but as for the rest of the bike, it really struck me as being a quality product.
TORTURE TESTING THE TOY!
I started off inside the house, going small just to get a feel for the toy by setting up a tiny ramp made of a kitchen cutting board leaned again some soup cans. From internet forums I had heard you needed to be about 10 feet or so back from the ramp to allow the bike to get up to speed, so I set up at the end of a hallway with the ramp set to launch Evel through our kitchen and hopefully into the dining room. After several failed attempts at hitting the ramp (and terrorizing my semi-elderly dog, Emma-Lou the Dandy Dog), I finally had no choice but to move within about 5 feet of the ramp and I did eventually (and pathetically) succeed at getting the bike to mildly bloop over the ramp. This thing obviously takes some practice to get the aim right as well as the proper energizer-cranking technique.
From there, I moved things outdoors to the Dandy Driveway to practice my cranking and release before taking on THE BIG JUMP! I decided to get serious and erect a serious (as serious as I had the ability to muster) ramp from a pair of car maintenance ramps and a 4 foot wide piece of plywood I lean over my home’s crawl space entrance to keep rain from seeping in and laid a rubber mat over the top for a smooth transition from asphalt to ramp, along with increased traction on the ramp itself. I set this up at the end of my culdesac in front of my front yard’s ditch (we get some pretty heavy rain in Middle Tennessee, so almost every road has some pretty deep drainage ditches) otherwise known as the DANDY CANYON. Pretty sure you can see where this is going! I figured there was no better ultimate test than to make my grand finale nothing less than a dramatic attempt to jump the Dandy Canyon, and Evel appeared to be up to the challenge!
I set myself up about 10 feet back from the ramp, because at 4 foot wide, there was absolutely no way I could miss this thing! I revved the energizer into hypercrank and let Evel go! Evel hit the ramp at full speed, went up, over and cleared the Dandy Canyon with flying colors! But of course he crashed spectacularly and ended up need to be air-lifted to the recovery ward where he would spend the next several months sucking his pretend meals through a toy straw…
FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING
The reissue of the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle from California Creations. Overall I have to say they did a pretty good job on it despite the wobbly head which, in practice, made his head vibrate around backwards while cranking up the energizer. Also despite the ill-fitting helmet which does require a modification to get it to fit correctly. There are also some various pegs on the bike that I have not yet been able to figure out the purpose of, and asking around in various internet forums haven’t found anyone who could tell me the purpuse of them. I thought they were for somehow posing the action figure, but it would require holes in Evel’s feet which aren’t there. As of the time of my writing this, I’m still confused about this.
Anyway, both the bike and the action figure proved to be solid and nothing broke during my torture tests, so points earned there. At the time of my writing this, The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle is selling for right around $45. At this price point, while not outrageous, I do feel they should have paid a bit more attention to the smaller details of getting things to fit together properly on the action figure, namely the wobbly head and helmet. Also the energizer made from extremely lightweight plastic felt less-than solid and I was worried I was going to break it the whole time although it did hold up and performed its job just fine throughout my trials.
You may have also noticed that while I was successful at getting Evel to jump the ramp as well as make it over the Dandy Canyon, I didn’t achive anything close to what you might call “Big Air” massive hang time or anything like that. According to various enthusiasts I have followed online, these are things that are accomplished with practice, technique, proper lubrication of the axles and positioning of the ramps.
Recognizing the frenzy this product has caused amongst enthusiasts and heeding feedback from their fans, California Creations has released a supposedly sturdier-built pro version of the stunt cycle which is supposedly much more heavy duty. In the pro version, Evel is dressed in a black suit with yellow striping as a throw back to his first suit which was actually yellow with black striping. It is also about twice the price. They have addressed the helmet issue by lining the inside with fuzz. My understanding is that this helps, but does not completely solve the issue of it flying off upon impact. Watching videos of the pro version online, I personally haven’t noticed anything dramatically improved from a bystander’s point of view, but the enthusiasts say that in practice the feel, durability, accuracy and overall build quality is the difference between night and day. I would love to try out the pro version, but I think I’ve spent enough time in the world of Knievel for the time being and new adventures await!
My final rating for the re-issued Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle by California Creations with all things considered is a solid SEVEN out of TEN!
And THAT does it for this edition of the Dandy Fun House. If you enjoyed this, or even if you didn’t and just feel sorry for me, you can support future productions via the links below or just by visit the patronage page at DANDYFUNHOUSE.COM
Supporters at every level get access to exclusive bonus material and supersupporters get special prizes. And if you’re crazy enough to be a super-duper supporter it comes with a live video zoom call with yours truly.
One last tip before we go. If you buy an Evel Knievel hoodie from a dealer in Asia, their sizes run small, so order about 3 or 4 sizes larger than you normally would. I ordered 2 sizes larger and this thing is still tight. Alright everyone, I’m outta here! Be sure to every day in every way keep everything FUN AND DANDY!
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Supporters gain access to exclusive bonus material!
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** SUPER-DUPER SUPPORTERS ** get all of the above as well as personal Zoom video call with Neil Dandy!
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