Alicia Knievel Vincent, daughter of famed stuntman Eve Knievel, reminisced Friday about her father’s search for a museum to house relics from his years jumping motorcycles.
The stuntman considered Nevada, Montana and Florida, she told a crowd at the dedication of the new Evel Knievel Museum, but a site wasn’t picked before he died in 2007. A massive collection of her father’s gear, bikes and other memorabilia now has permanent home at Topeka’s Historic Harley-Davidson dealership, 2047 S.W. Topeka Blvd. The museum was formally dedicated Friday.
“He would be so proud of this,” she said.
The museum was borne out of a partnership between Historic Harley-Davidson and collector Lathan McKay, who gathered a large collection of Knievel-related artifacts, including letters from fans. The project took nearly four years to finalize, owner Mike Patterson said.
“When we first started we thought this would be really great for our dealership to have some cool displays,” he said. “As it started progressing, we realized it was beyond us, and it was more about our community, our city and our state. Our goal was to have something our community could be proud of and show off.”
The museum boasts two levels of displays of Knievel’s motorcycles and equipment, a “Virtual Reality 4-D Jump Experience,” which enables visitors to sit on a motorcycle and experience a motorcycle jump made in downtown Topeka in the direction of the Kansas Statehouse. A “Pan Your Jump” challenge allows amateur stuntmen to experiment with outfits, ramps, angles, distances and speed for a simulated motorcycle jump.
Also on the first floor, Knievel’s “Big Red” Mack Truck is on display, fully restored. Most of the work was done by Historic Harley Davidson staff, Patterson said.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback rode into the ceremony on his own motorcycle and told the crowd he remembered watching Knievel on TV. Later he tried to mimic the stunts on his own dirt bike, he said, but without much success.
Brownback called Knievel an “inspiration,” who encouraged people to be daring and courageous. The museum, the governor said, should be a draw to people from across the world who want to celebrate “an amazing point in time in this country’s history and an amazing man’s accomplishment.”
“You’re upping the cool factor in Topeka and Kansas,” he said.
The museum had a soft opening two weeks ago, and though it was “a secret” Patterson said a steady crowd has filed through the two floors of exhibits. Based on visitor zip codes, about 46 percent have been from out of state.
“We think that’s pretty neat,” Patterson said.