By Restaging an Evel Knievel Stunt, One Man Can Redeem His Father
Evel Knievel pinned his infamous 1974 Snake River Canyon failure on an engineer named Robert Truax. Now, Truax's son is out to prove his father wasn't at fault.
For all the hero worship he inspired, his cult following and iconic status and enduring place in pop culture, Evel Knievel was an asshole. The drunk, nasty kind that beats his friends half to death with an aluminum baseball bat and kidnaps his girlfriend (twice). Equal parts showman and swindler, the bravado that made him a daredevil also made him a fantastic narcissist. So, after botching the much-hyped Snake River Canyon stunt in 1974, Knievel blamed someone else: The person who designed his Skycycle X-2, the rocket vessel used for the jump.
“I was so mad at that engineer,” he said. “That guy was an idiot.”
‘That guy’ was Robert Truax. An ex-Navy engineer, he was a friend of Knievil's and one of the twentieth century’s finest rocket scientists. But, since being thrown under the bus after the Snake River Canyon fiasco, Truax’s name has been associated with failure. He died in 2010. Now, his son wants to prove Knievel’s claim is B.S.
Scott Truax is 48-years old. He has spent four years and $1.5 million replicating his father’s rocket design, the Skycycle, identical in spec, to recreate the famous stunt: “The whole point,” he says, “is to prove the rocket my dad designed would have worked.”
But, of course, things aren’t that simple.
The true story behind the Snake Canyon stunt, the complexities of Knievel, and Scott Truax’s mission to vindicate his father are all captured perfectly in a piece by Shawn Vestal in this week’s New Yorker. Do yourself a favor and read it.