Evel Knievel
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  Ideal Toys
"Next year the Ideal Toy Company is going to make a lot of Evel Knievel toys. ... One toy I'd like them to make is my own idea; I think it's the most super toy in the world. You wind it up, it goes like a little bugger, goes across the floor, grabs this little Barbie doll, throws her on the floor, gives her a little lovin', jumps back on the motorcycle and goes whizzing out the door screaming, 'G.I. Joe is a faggot!' " -- Evel Knievel

Ask anyone who grew up in the United States during the 1970ís and they will tell you that Evel Knievel was the true superhero of the era. It seemed like there was no stunt that this daredevil wasnít ready to take on as he piloted an array of cycles, cars and rockets over huge piles of vehicles, the fountains at Caesarís Palace, and even the Grand Canyon itself. No matter how many bones he broke in the process, this warrior in an American Flag suit always got back on his feet to face the next stunt challenge. In the process, he inspired millions of people and became a world-famous celebrity. Boys loved him for his spectacular failures as much as his triumphs and often nodded to each other in satisfaction as they mutually fetished the rumor that Evel had, at one time or another, broken every bone in his body. Thus, it was no surprise when his exploits and his larger-than-life image inspired one of the most successful toy lines of the 1970ís.

Ideal Toys, the major manufacturer of Evel Knievel toys, got their start in the Knievel business in 1972 when they released the first Evel Knievel action figures. These six-inch figures were made of plastic except for the head, which was made of vinyl. These figures came dressed in Knievelís trademark American flag-adorned white jumpsuit and white shoes. Additional accessories included a helmet and, strangely enough, a cane.

The Evel Knievel figures were a big hit and were quickly followed by the next logical step: stunt vehicles. After all, everyone wanted to fly as high as Knievel but no one wanted the multitude of broken bones that would inevitably be involved. Thus, Idealís Evel Knievel stunt vehicles provided a perfect solution to this dilemma. This long-lived line of vehicles began with the Stunt Cycle, a working miniaturized cycle piloted by a bendable Evel Knievel figure. The cycle was powered by a hand-cranked power launcher that got its engine going and could then be launched towards any stunt-obstacle its userís fevered imagination could dream up.

The Stunt Cycle quickly became a required part of any all-American kidís toy repertoire. Its massive success inspired Ideal to create a veritable fleet of Evel Knievel vehicles. There were Super Jet and Canyon Sky Cycles that were designed for stunt use, as well as a Crash and Stunt Car that would break into pieces upon impact with an obstacle (perhaps as a warning to any impressionable youngsters actually thinking about a career as a daredevil). Other stunt cycles included the Silver High Jumper Stuntcycle and the Strato Cycle, a toy inspired by Knievelís motion picture debut, Viva Knievel. Another cool Knievel-inspired vehicle was a dragster that came complete with a working parachute to bring it to a halt. Non-stunt Knievel vehicles included the Scramble Van and the Road and Trail Adventure Set.

Ideal Toys also unveiled a series of playsets to provide unique backdrops for the antics of the Evel Knievel stunt vehicles. There was the Stunt Stadium, which included a ramp and cheering crowds painted into its bleachers, and Stunt World, which included a three-dimensional obstacle course for Knievel to ride his cycle through. One of the strangest Evel Knievel playsets was the Escape From Skull Canyon set, which included a werewolf-style monster, boulders, and skull-adorned trees as obstacles for Knievel.

In addition to the Evel Knievel stunt vehicles and playsets, Ideal also found much success with several die-cast Knievel vehicles, a series of miniatures, and even a board game. The tremendous success of the Knievel toys led to spin-off figures like Robbie Knievel, Teenage Daredevil (based on Knievelís real-life son) and Derry Daring, a stuntwoman companion for Knievel. This sounds like quite a lot already, but other companies produced countless other Evel Knievel toys and novelties. There were Knievel lunchboxes, bicycles, comic books, pillowcases, bedsheets, trashcans, radios and model rockets. There was even an Evel Knievel electric toothbrush that was designed to look like the famous X-2 Sky-Cycle.

Evel Knievel toys continued to be popular throughout the 1970ís. Although they were discontinued after that time, these toys occupied a special place in the hearts of toy fanatics and continue to be highly sought-after collectibles today. In fact, loose Knievel dolls and accessories can take in as much as $50 on the collectorís markets, and boxed versions can go as high as $100. Several of the classic stunt-toys were also reissued by Playing Mantis Toys in 1998 and found much favor with nostalgic Knievel fans. The continued popularity of these toys shows that Evel Knievel and the toys he inspired are phenomena with true staying power.

Release History

  • 1972 - Evel Knievel Figures
  • 1973 - Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle
  • 1974 - Evel Knievel Dragster
  • 1974 - Evel Knievel Stunt Stadium
  • 1975 - Evel Knievel Chopper
  • 1975 - Evel Knievel Road and Trail Adventure Set
  • 1976 - Evel Knievel Stunt World
  • 1977 - Evel Knievel Strato Cycle
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Copyright ©2004 William Thompson.