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New Old tech – Hot air and heroes | COLUMNS | GASSIT GARAGE

While Guy Martin is in Bonneville stealing the world record-setting headlines with his high-tech carbon-fibre turbo-charged streamliner, a fellow by the name of Eddie Braun is getting his low-tech steam-powered Evel Knievel on – and hoping for a particular world record of his own.

This page is normally reserved for revolutionary technology carving out new ground in motorcycle circles, but the idea of a bloke going around in circles and carving the very same hole in the ground Evel Knievel did when his Skycycle X-2 fell out of the sky in 1974, piqued our interest so much, we had to run with it.

Get this: 42 years after Evel Knievel failed spectacularly at his attempt to clear Snake River Canyon in a primitive steam-powered rocket, Eddie Braun is going to attempt to clear Snake River Canyon in an exact replica of Evel’s Skycycle X-2.

And not only will he try attempt the jump in a vessel adopting the same design, powered by the same 10,000 horsepower rocket, Eddie Braun has even hired the son of Evel’s now-late rocket builder to build the steam-powered contraption he needs to launch over the same 1600m chasm. What could possibly go wrong?

It gets better

Okay, so not only does Eddie think <i>Evel Spirit<i> is a fitting moniker for his Skycycle, he really is using the same technology the failed attempt employed, right down to one vital and deliriously low-tech item: the top of a dog food can. The rocket’s pretty simple. There’s a big tank of water which gets heated and turned into pressurised steam which, when released, produces 6000 pounds of thrust and 10,000 horsepower. It’ll launch to an altitude of 915 metres at a speed of 644km/h and, just before Eddie blacks out, he’ll pull the parachute and land safely on the other side of the canyon. And the part keeping the steam and the pressure at bay until the time of the history-making launch will be the lid of a dog food can.

But why?!

On 17 September 2016, 42 years and nine days after the world’s most famous stuntman almost lost his life in front of a then-unprecedented television audience, Eddie Braun will replicate the jump. It came about when Eddie and Scott Truax, the son of Evel’s rocket builder Robert Truax, got to talking. Scott believes that by using his father’s original blueprints, he can prove his father would have succeeded in launching Knievel across the canyon if the 1974 machine’s parachute didn’t open prematurely. As a result, the only thing different to Evel’s machine aside from the paint scheme and a few added supports here and there, is the parachute deployment system.


With a signed TV deal in his hand, Eddie Braun poured his life savings into the building of the Evel Spirit. However, the TV station has since done a backflip on the deal and scurried off in another direction, leaving Braun battling to, er, get the project off the ground. So he’s done what any one with any other crazy idea has done in the past couple of years and launched a kickstarter campaign in a bid to keep Evel Spirit aloft. Five bucks will get you a streaming link so you can watch the attempt live on your smartphone, while a $2k pledge will allow you to be on the ground at the launch site and even take home a piece of the rocket when it’s over. He needs $150,000 to launch and so far he’s only raised a bit over $40,000.

by Kellie Buckley