My cousins were the cool kids. It was the seventies. They had skateboards and Raleigh Choppers. They had leather sofas and crazy paving and their dad drove a Jensen Interceptor.
But it wasn’t these totems of seventies aspiration that made me want to be like them. It was their Evel Knievel toys. They had the whole set – the standard hand-wound launcher with which they would fire the Evel up makeshift ramps in the cul de sac – through to the dragster and the insane rocket bike thing in which the real life dipsomaniac stunt rider would attempt to cross the Grand Canyon.
I remember the heartbreak when my cousin’s dad took him to Wembley to see the man perform. There was no ticket for me.
From the perspective of the post ironic 21st century, Knievel looks like a weirdo. He gathered the dreams of a legion of teenage kids and traded and sold them back and forth in plastic leather and rhinestone.
And he probably created more petrolheads than the bones he broke by a factor of ten.
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