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Watch Evel Knievel jump a pyramid of more than 50 cars at the Coliseum 44 years ago

Evel Knievel
Evel Knievel leaps the smashed bodies of more than 50 cars, set 18 abreast, on his motorcycle in a stunt at the Coliseum on Feb. 18, 1973.
(Wally Fong / Associated Press)

Evel Knievel pulled off a lot of crazy stunts during his lifetime — so many in fact, that some fans actually were disappointed when he and his motorcycle easily jumped over a pyramid of more than 50 cars on the Coliseum floor 44 years ago.

“If he had failed, I guess we would have gotten our money’s worth,” a spectator told Times staff writer Jeff Prugh at the event on Feb. 18, 1973.

According to Prugh’s article, a crowd of  23,736 people each paid $8 a ticket ($4 for kids) to watch a demolition derby and a couple of other stunts — but mainly to witness the famous daredevil in action.

Here’s how Prugh described the jump in The Times:

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“Knievel’s flight cleared 18 car widths -- a total of 51 assorted crushed jalopies stacked in twos and threes, side by side. Also, a wooden ‘safety ramp’ was laid atop the last 7 cars before the touchdown ramp, in case Knievel were to fall short.

“He didn’t. At 5:07 p.m., he landed at the very end of the safety ramp -- right over the last deck of cars -- sped up another ramp and out the Coliseum peristyle, a parachute billowing from behind his Harley-Davidson cycle.

“The crowd exploded into cheers. Kids and parents -- who had to wait more than an hour for the jump after the Destruction Derby had finished -- poured onto the field. And Evel roared back into the stadium and onto a platform. …

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“In a moment, Knievel addressed the crowd, his voice rising strongly like a Shakespearean actor. ‘Did they come to see me die?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘No, I don’t think they did. As I came down that ramp, I could feel everybody’s good wishes and prayers. I don’t think anybody in L.A. wants to see me get killed.’”

 

Evel Knievel easily defied death in front of a crowd of 23,736 at the Coliseum on Feb. 18, 1973.
Evel Knievel easily defied death in front of a crowd of 23,736 at the Coliseum on Feb. 18, 1973.
(Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times)

charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii


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