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

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:

“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. …

“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.
(Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times)

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