The life and achievements of Evel Knievel will be honored by a custom, "1 of 1" motorcycle commissioned by K&K Promotions, Inc., the Las Vegas-based firm that owns the Evel Knievel brand. The bike will be hand-built by Sledgehammer Bobbers, of Warren, Ohio.
Knievel, whom the New York Times called "the quintessential daredevil performer," achieved global fame with death-defying motorcycle stunts and a larger-than-life personality. He was known both for making seemingly impossible jumps and for spectacular, bone-fracturing crashes -- and then getting up and jumping even farther.
When the commemorative bike is finished it will be displayed at motorcycle shows around the country and internationally, and then sold at a major auction of Knievel memorabilia in 2015, said Kelly Knievel, president of K&K Promotions and the oldest son of the man known as "The Godfather of Extreme Sports."
Evel Knievel became a national figure when a first-ever attempted jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas went horribly wrong, slamming his body 155 feet onto the concrete pavement. Hospitalized with a fractured skull, broken pelvis, hips and ribs, he was unconscious for a month. After recovering, Knievel put on his signature red-white-and-blue leathers, got back on a motorcycle, and jumped 50 stacked cars in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
During his career Knievel made hundreds of jumps, was hospitalized more than 30 times by violent crashes, made and spent millions, and served six months in jail for attacking the author of an unflattering book with a baseball bat. He died in 2007, at 69, only days after striking a deal with Kanye West for the rap artist to use Knievel's image in a music video.
Evel's indomitable spirit and rollercoaster career resonates with the man who will build the commemorative motorcycle. David Cook founded Sledgehammer Bobbers in 2010 after his successful 25-year career as a financial advisor was derailed by the global economic recession and then by massive heart failure that required a Knievel-like 28 days in the hospital.
After recovering his health, Cook decided to return to his early passion, customizing Harley-Davidson motorcycles. With his family's encouragement, he opened Sledgehammer Bobbers. He soon began winning awards and press accolades for his innovative, original, detailed designs.
"I've been building and riding motorcycles since I was a teenager, and was always enthralled by the guts, glory and showmanship of Evel Knievel," says Cook. "Building a bike to honor his memory and accomplishments is an enormous honor for Sledgehammer Bobbers."
The commemorative Evel Knievel bike will be built around a Harley-Davidson frame and engine with matching serial numbers, says Cook. "Whoever buys this bike when it is auctioned will know that it is a special Evel Knievel Harley Davidson. Every part of it will be custom-built in collaboration with the family."
To underscore the one-of-a-kind nature of the bike, Kelly Knievel will provide some of his father's personal memorabilia, including one of Evel's rings and the head of a cane he used, that will be affixed to the commemorative motorcycle.
"This will not be a replica of Evel Knievel's bikes," says Cook. "Our goal is to create a motorcycle whose imagery represents a collage of his life, from when he was a young man in Butte, Montana, on through his amazing career, highlighted by images of his most famous jumps."
Cook says he has begun sketching designs for the bike, and expects to spend about six months on the project. He anticipates working with other leading figures from the world of motorcycle craftsmanship, including Connecticut-based painter and Californian pinstriping artist Robert E. Pradke Jr., and master leather craftsman Duane Ballard. Airbrush artist and painter George Sedlak, who for many years worked closely with Knievel, will consult on the historical images to be incorporated in the project.
Every step of the motorcycle's creation will be documented on video, which will be posted on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, says Cook. "We want to create a community of fans of this bike through social media, so they can share in the passion."