The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee invites visitors to celebrate the spirit of freedom, adventure and rebellion. The exhibit "True Evel: The Amazing Story of Evel Knievel" opens this weekend and runs until Sept. 6.
"From biplane walkers to the thick-headed stuntmen of the TV show 'Jackass,' the daredevils of history have traded great risk and the likelihood of significant injury for attention, fame and fortune," museum publicist Erin Nevicosi said.
In the 1970s, motorcycle daredevil Knieval "inspired people young and old around the world. This summer, we're honoring (him) through an exclusive, first-of-its-kind temporary exhibition and it's the largest the museum has ever presented."
The exhibit shares the story of Knievel, who died three years ago, through artifacts drawn from the Harley-Davidson Archives and the Knievel Family Collection.
I'm told visitors will see Knievel's signature leather costumes, his cane, personal photos and letters, an X-ray of his broken pelvis (crushed during a stunt), collectors' toys and memorabilia, and even his famous "half-motorcycle and half-rocket." He used his "Skycycle" in his attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon.
Setting numerous death-defying records over his career, Knievel's bike of choice was the Harley-Davidson XR-750 and he was sponsored by the Motor Co. through most of the 1970s. From Knievel's early start in Butte, Mont. to his transformation into a larger-than-life showman, this 10,000-square-foot exhibit gives insight into the seemingly fearless performer. He died at 69 on Nov. 30, 2007.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Knievel's famous Wembley Stadium jump in London May 26, 1975. During this pivotal stunt, Knievel crash-landed after a 13-bus jump and broke his back. He announced to the 90,000 fans present that he would never jump again. But he did.
The museum also will host "Untold Stories: An Evening with Kelly Knievel" on July 17. Kelly, Evel's oldest son, will tell stories about life with his dad and share rare family photos. Tickets are available on the museum's Web site.
The museum opened in 2008 and houses more than 450 vehicles and thousands of artifacts. Other treasures on display include the mysterious Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle in existence, and paperwork proving that Elvis Presley purchased a Harley-Davidson bike days before he became famous thanks to his "Heartbreak Hotel" single. The permanent display "Custom Culture" shows how Harley-Davidson motorcycles have impacted pop culture and fueled the rebel-biker image in Hollywood.
The Harley-Davidson Museum is located at 400 West Canal Street and is open year-round. It is headed by Bill Davidson, great-grandson of the co-founder of the company. Tickets are $10 to $16. For more information, call (877) 436-8738 or visit h-dmuseum.com.