Monday, February 16, 2009

Ideal Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle

I thought I'd kick this big, misty-eyed "nostalgia fest" off with the greatest toy ever produced. Pound for pound, no other toy ever created can touch the sheer greatness of this toy. The degree of fun this toy generated made playing with all other toys seem about as much fun as playing with a bowl of flour.

I'm talking, of course, about the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle from Ideal Toys.



In the 1970s, Evel Knievel was a phenomenon that's difficult to describe to those that weren't "of age" in that decade. Evel was almost like a living super hero. In the eyes of a child, a man that would try to jump the Grand Canyon (it was the Snake River but we didn't know any better) in a rocket, seemed capable of ANY feat. Evel was a merchandising phenomenon, as well. There were Evel posters, t-shirts, toothbrushes, drinking straws, model kits, lunch boxes...the list goes on and on. However, to kids, it was the toys that mattered most. In 1973, the Ideal Toy company started producing the line of Evel Knievel toys that would become almost legendary in the minds of so many adults today.  For countless people, this was their version of Ralphie's "Red Ryder BB Gun" at Christmas time.  When Evel passed away near the end of 2007, it was truly the end of an era for many "kids" from the 1970s. Somewhere deep down, I don't think we thought Evel's death was even possible. He had faced death so often in the past and won every time.




Why was the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle so fantastic? Apart from the fact that it allowed you to bring a mini-Evel into your home, this toy allowed several different styles of play. This toy allowed a Mego-esque style of action figure play with a poseable figure, vehicles, and accessories. There was even a van playset available that was similar to what you would expect to find in a Big Jim or Gijoe toy line. However, the Stunt Cycle set also allowed an extremely fun "rough and tumble" style of motorized play when you mounted your Evel figure on the cycle and headed for open hallways or the outdoors looking for impossible jumps to test the King of the Stuntmen. This was a toy that kids PLAYED with. An Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle set rarely sat idle. This toy could really make you work up a sweat, as well. Revving it up as fast as you could before letting Evel fly was part of the fun. Although a durable toy, most kids played with these so hard that they eventually "ran them into the ground," often quite literally. For this reason, not many pristine examples of this toy exist today and can be quite expensive when they do show up for sale or auction. Not to mention the fact that Evel's pristine, gleaming white jumpsuit seemed to get dirty and stained almost immediately after only a few jumps.


Part of the thrill of this toy was the fact that as Evel's cycle left the launch energizer, things were completely out of your hands. You had just unleashed an excessively powerful thing of beauty and terror upon the world... and you never knew where it was going to end up or how many casualties it would inflict before eventually coming to a stop. The flywheel mechanism in the stunt cycle must have been designed by NASA scientists or something because it just flat-out HAULED without any inkling or desire to stop for quite some time after being launched. This toy seemed to do the impossible. It would, most often, fly off any jump put before it and then continue to go on and get tangled up in your sister's hair, wander into live traffic, or maim the family cat. Good times. Evel was not for the feint of heart.



The set consisted of the energizer (the base unit that wound up the cycle), a bendie-style Evel Knievel figure in a cloth outfit, and Evel's stunt cycle. Evel had a removable belt and helmet. Early issues of this set also included Evel's cane which Ideal called the "swagger stick." Each stunt cycle set also came with a set of decals to adorn the cycle and a set of instructions to help you get Evel's adventures underway. The energizer unit came in several different colors (red, blue, white, yellow, and orange) and since the toy was "blind boxed" you never knew which color you were getting until you opened the box. The painted seat on the stunt cycle also came in several colors (black, blue, and red). The exciting illustrated box artwork remained the same throughout the production run of the set. Although, the size of the box was reduced, somewhat, around 1975.

The earliest version of the stunt cycle included chrome forks, handlebars, and (short) exhaust pipes. Eventually, Ideal dropped all chrome from the cycle and produced it in all white plastic version with black extended exhaust pipes. The chrome versions of the stunt cycle are more rare and generally more desirable to collectors. Although, any version of the stunt cycle in good working condition is quite a prize.


The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle is still such a beloved toy today that two different companies since the Ideal Knievel "heyday" have released reproductions of the set, both with differing degrees of success. I hope to cover both of those sets at a later date.  I will also be covering quite a few of the other vintage Evel Knievel vehicle sets.

What a great toy!! What's your favorite toy from the 70s?


22 comments:

  1. Great toy and described very well.

    Our Evel figure was headless for the majority of the time we played with it.

    I am not sure what stunt we devised that caused this injury but it must have been spectacular.

    My cousin had EVERY toy in this line including a genuine autographed picture of Evel.

    He thought he was Evel Knievel because of this connection. (Toys/Autograph)
    It was fun to dare him to do stuff and watch him crash.

    Good times.

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  2. Spectacular, indeed. How did you keep his helmet on after that? ;)

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  3. my brother has a boxed stunt cycle set as shown above, but says it has red handles. I can't find any info on the web about this. any ideas?

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  4. A friend of mine just found an Evel gyro powered stunt cycle with box and manual and is letting his kids play with it. Do you have any idea what this might be worth?

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  5. Hi, Traci... it really varies depending on the condition of the toy. If it's really a vintage 1970s Evel toy and not a replica, your friend may want to pick up a replica for his kids to play with and keep the vintage one as nice as possible. They can be a bit pricey to replace if they are complete and unbroken.

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  6. Anonymous...Late in the life of the toy, Ideal started including a set of accessories with the Stunt Cycle set that were molded in red plastic. They clipped onto various parts of the cycle. One of them clipped on the handlebars. Maybe this is what it's talking about.

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  7. 7inch said it all, best toy EVER....bar none!

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  8. I am putting one up for sale in our garage sale this weekend...how much should I ask for it?

    Gary

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  9. i used to own a stunt cycle but the man had a hood and the suit was made out of cotton and it wasnt the winter suit either ! i have looked everywhere for eveidence for this suit, but have had no luck ! any ideas anyone ?

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  10. Was anybody else like me and didn't even bother with the doll? I used to send the cycle flying without a pilot. I still remember the black burnout in the kitchen linoleum when my dad did a 'Caesars Palace Fountains' run that unfortunately made it an 'outside only' toy by my mom. Another great toy was the 'water rocket' that actually hooked straight into a garden hose instead of the weak 'hand pump' safer version that came later.

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  11. any idea how much a 1973 evel knievel stunt cycle in GREAT shape is worth??

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  12. It depends, do you still have the box. Most collectors want stunt cycle, figure in box. It can go from 175.00 and up. I wish I still had mine. I had everything of Evel Knievil's in the 70's. I am looking for reproductions of the Stunt Cycle for my son.We had the greatest toys in the 70's, and the Evel Knievil Stunt Cycle, Rocket Bike and everything was a must for us boys in the 70's. How many of you remember seeing who jump their stunt cycle the farthest with your friends?

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  13. what a style HAHAHAHA. It definitely stretches the limits with the mind when you go through very good info and make an effort to interpret it properly. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

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  14. Greatest Toy ever made bar none agree with the writer of this story..Awesome. Evel Knievel's legend will never die..

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  15. oh yes I had one so did alot of kids near me and with in a few months they where all broken lol.

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  16. I had one that the body of the bike was shaped like a coffin and. It glowed in the dark, does anyone remember or have any info on it? It was not an evel knievel but same design.

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  17. When I was a nine year old girl in '74, that's what I asked for AND GOT for Christmas. Still have it! Being a girl did limit the imagination, I suppose... no back breaking crashes or rings of fire! Lots of "Sunday Driving". It is still in good shape. No box though.

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  18. 12 years old in 73 and was heavy into Evil Kenivil. I remember there was a big van that we had -I guess it was like his bus-But it came with a little ramp you set up off the back of it.Big fun --that motorcycle was indestructable too -we lived on a lake and would launcit off the dock and then dive for it,good stuff

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  19. This was my favorite childhood toy. Like the person above, I also eschewed the doll, preferring to launch the motorcycle sans rider. I forget why, but I think it was because I had a hard time getting the doll properly seated and he'd usually go flying off before impact. God, I still remember the whirring sound of cranking that thing up. My crank was yellow. I liked to crank it up fully then hold the bike in my hand feeling the gyroscopic energy torquing and trying to turn in my hand. That thing had some power. It would burn your fingertip if you touched your finger to the spinning wheel. I remember how it would also seek out and find any possible loose string, yarn, rug tassels, and wrap it around the power wheel about a thousand times, necessitating a trip to Dad to help get it untangled.

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