When the legendary daredevil Evel Knievel attempted to jump the fountains in front of Las Vegas Cesars Palace in 1967, it did not end well. After his motorcycle slowed just before take-off, Knievel landed on a safety ramp that lay on top of a van near the end of the jump.
Hit tumbled over his handle bars, cracking his skull, pelvis, hips and ribs in the process. Legend has it that he was in a coma for a month after the crash, but legends aren't always true.
What's indisputable is that the crash made Knievel more famous than landing the jump ever would have. ABC picked up the footage and it helped launch a career that would turn Knievel into the first superstar stunt man, and also a millionaire.
Knievel never tried to jump the fountains again, but on Sunday night, Travis Pastrana will. The longtime motorcycle racer and daredevil in his own right will attempt to jump the fountains as a part of a History Channel special called Evel Live.
Pastrana will attempt to re-create, with slightly upgraded degrees of difficulty, two other famous Knievel feats for the special.
First, he'll try to break Knievel's record, set at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1973, of jumping 50 crushed cars. Pastrana's going for 52.
Then he'll try to best Knievel's 1975 feat of jumping 14 Greyhound busses, but jumping 16.
Making everything a bit more difficult will be Pastrana's choice of motorcycle. Rather than riding the state-of-the-art, super-light bikes he's used to, Pastrana has opted to make the jumps on an Indian Scout FTR750, a badass modern bike with many similarities to those that Knievel rode.
To call the bike heavy is an understatement. "I got on the Indian [Scout] and it was like, 'Holy cow, it's like jumping a tank.' Now I understand why Evel crashed so much," Pastrana said.
The tribute to Knievel goes beyond the stunt themselves. Pastrana has also gone to great lengths to dress like the late daredevil. "Even down as far as the boots," he said. "I went to a tailor, and they're probably the most expensive shoes I have. They're made for going out, not for jumping."
Evel Live starts Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.