Sunday, May 31, 2009

Almost Vintage: 2006 Poof-Slinky (Ideal) Evel Knievel Super Stunt Cycle set

The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle is one of the most famous toys from the 1970's. Ideal Toy Company began producing the stunt cycle in 1973. The toy enjoyed unheard-of popularity until 1977 when Evel settled a score in a parking lot with a baseball bat. Ideal stopped producing Evel Knievel toys once Knievel's reputation was sullied by the incident.

Ideal sold millions of the stunt cycle sets and went on to produce other sets that included cars, other cycles, and even Knievel's famous canyon-jumping Sky Cycle (all to be featured in later posts). You can view my thoughts on the original Stunt Cycle set HERE.

Evel Knievel toys are many people's most remembered toys from the 1970s and most everyone that was a kid in that era had at least one Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Because of this amazing toy's popularity and sentimental value, two separate companies have reproduced this set more recently. The first Stunt Cycle replica set was issued by Playing Mantis in 1998. It didn't use the original molds for the toy but did a great job of replicating the play experience and fun of the original. I'll cover the Playing Mantis reissue in a later post, as well.

In 2006, Ideal Toys (then recently acquired by Poof-Slinky...makers of the Slinky) began producing replicas of the original Stunt Cycle set using the original molds that were used to produce the toys in the 70s. This 2006 reissue is the subject of this post. Although different in color, the 2006 stunt cycle (at least on the outside) is a bang-on reproduction of the original. It even sports a 1972 copyright date (although it was released in 1973, I believe) on the side of the cycle. Because of this, it's important to be careful when looking for Stunt Cycles on Ebay because sellers (unknowingly...or at times, knowingly) have tried to sell the re-issue as an original. Some unwitting buyers have even payed a premium thinking the cycle they were buying was a pristine original.







I'm going to go over each of the components of the set and talk about the differences and similarities to the original 1973 toy.

CYCLE: The major difference, cosmetically, between the re-issue and the original is that the replica has been covered in a chrome paint application. The chrome makes for a striking cycle but does make it look somewhat different from the original which had a white plastic body with chrome or black tailpipes (and chrome handlebars and forks on early issues). It's easy to tell the difference if you know what to look for. It should also be noted that a front fender has also been added to the re-issue stunt cycle that was not present on the original.

The replica also includes pre-applied decals for some of the graphical accents on the cycle. The 1973 original included a sheet of small stickers to be applied to the cycle by the owner.

Mechanically, the replica reproduces most of the fun of the original. However, it does make a much louder noise when being "revved" on the energizer than the original. Although the sound is similar, it is much, much LOUDER. The replica cycle doesn't run as long as the original, either. The original's fly-wheel mechanism ran like "butter" and would seem to defy physics, at times, and continue to spin for ages. Part of this difference may be due to the replica's internal gears being made of plastic versus the metal gears of the original. The plastic gears tend to make the reissue not quite as durable as the original, as well. (Edit: It has been brought to my attention that the original cycle used plastic gears, as well.  It sounds like the way the gears are installed may be making the difference...thanks, 7-inch DD)  The replica runs for a decent amount of time and certainly runs long enough after release to make some spectacular jumps and tricks. I should also mention that it's almost a hit-or-miss ordeal with the replica cycle. I had one that ran poorly until I really revved it hard and "broke it in" somehow. Another one, just ran poorly and continued to do so. Some work great right out of the box. So, just be aware that your "mileage may vary" when dealing with this re-issue of the Stunt Cycle.



2006 replica (left) and 1973 original (right)


2006 replica figure (left) and 1973 original (right)

FIGURE: The replica Evel Knievel figure is a very close twin to the original. Without seeing them side-by-side it can be difficult to tell them apart. The primary difference is in the application of the stars and stripes on Evel's jumpsuit. The replica uses silk-screening for the "V" with stars graphic. The original used an applique method with a stitched-on "V" with stars. Everything else is a close match. The belt is almost identical between the two. The helmet is also very close. Although, the replica is a much softer, squishier plastic than the original. They both use the same bendy-type body with hard plastic hands and feet.

ENERGIZER (winding base): Using the original molds (including a 1973 copyright on the bottom of the unit), the replica energizer is an almost exact copy of the original. The original energizer was produced in a variety of colors including red. The replica was only produced in red... which looks nice and is probably the best choice of color. The replica also sports several Evel Knievel stickers on the unit. The original 1973 set did not include stickers or graphics of any kind for the energizer. Since the replica energizer uses the original molds, vintage Evel Knievel toys can be revved on the replica and vice versa.

BOX: The box for the replica set makes no attempt to reproduce the original toy's box. The replica's box features "updated" graphics and a cellophane window to show off the toy. The original was "blind boxed" (no windows to show the toy) like many toys of the 70s and featured some nice illustration work to show what the toy looked like. Part of me wishes that Poof-Slinky had released a more authentic version of this set using the vintage art and blind box. However, I do realize that they were most likely hoping to sell this set to kids, as well, and not necessarily always to middle-age nostalgic guys hoping to recapture a small part of their childhood.

The 2006 Poof-Slinky Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle set is a good reproduction and a fun toy. It's also a great way to reminisce and get your Evel Knievel jumping fix without spending hundreds on an original stunt cycle set that you probably would be hesitant to play with, anyway. This set, to my knowledge, is no longer being produced... although it can still be had affordably online and on auction sites like Ebay (the re-issue is starting to become more scarce, as well, but is still affordable).

13 comments:

  1. I bought my kids a reissued stunt cycle but I am pretty sure it was earlier than 2006.

    I am thinking it was in the 90's. I think it was in a closer to original style box too.

    I think I still have the box so I will look and see when it was produced and send you a picture.

    Do you know anything about the version I am talking about?

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  2. I think you are thinking of the Playing Mantis set from 1998. Great set. It came in a blue, windowless box and was about $15.00 (great deal even then!). Evel came in a white, blue, or red jumpsuit...and you didn't know which color you had until you opened the box. His helmet was blue and there were stickers to put all over the cycle and base.

    Is that the one?

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  3. Wow are you a Savant for toys? Please use your powers for good.

    That sounds like it. We got the white suit and I played with it as much as my kids did.

    It didn't seem to be as well built or as durable as the one we had in the 70's. Must have been the plastic gears you mention.

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  4. Savant? Nah. Just an ordinary citizen doing his best to live in Evel Knievel's world.

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  5. You mention the "Bat" incident and I would like to comment about that.

    When the bat story reached Indiana teens it went like this.

    "Evel was so concerned about safety that he got in an argument with a biker about wearing a helmet.
    The man kept insisting that he didn't need a helmet to be safe.
    So Evel laid him out with a bat and said "Imagine if that were the road at 60 mph!" and walked off."

    That is what I believed until I saw a Discovery Channel special on Evel and I learned it was about a book written about Evel that sent Evel after the guy with a bat.

    Did you ever hear the rumor that I had heard?

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  6. Heh. No, I've never heard that.

    I just remember driving with my Dad one day and him saying, "Evel Knievel beat up someone with a baseball bat. We're not buying anymore Evel Knievel toys."

    I was disappointed but didn't hear exactly what happened until I saw an Evel documentary (Last of the Gladiators) about 10 years ago.

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  7. the gears are plastic in all the vintage and reproductions. The lack of performance in the reproductions is due to improper balancing of the gyro weight and the gears being installed so that they wobble. When you really wind them up hard they can tend to straighten out the gears a bit however running them hard and fast like that will melt the steel axle through the plastic axle holder.....junk. But don't dispair. I provide a service that will install the 1970's gyro assembly into the new bikes and you are jumping like a pro again.

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  8. Great blog. Brings back some fun memories. So, how would you compare the Poof Slinky and Playing Mantis offerings head to head?

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  9. Amazing... The figure itself is almost identical.. a little differences separate the two but any body could be fooled

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  10. doe they still sell them in 2010

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  11. are they in toy stores now.
    what stores would have them. Walmart?

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  12. Sorry... they stopped selling these about 3 or 4 years ago. To be honest, I've never seen one in a brick and mortar store (vs. online sellers). Your best bet is ebay or online stores with left over stock like this one...

    http://www.fantasytoyland.com/evknstse.html

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  13. I have one of the original stunt cycles from the early 70's that runs great but one of the handlebars/grips snapped off. Can these be taken apart and repaired or swap out parts from other bikes?

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