Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel death-defying motorcycle jumps were all the rage from the 1960s to the 1980s. He was a star among stars in the rarefied air of arena stuntmen.
Fast forward until now and you'll find that Cooper Tire, which has maintained a plant in Texarkana for decades, has found a way to help preserve a little bit of that cultural history.
Louis "Rocket" Re, with the assistance of Cooper Tire, through its subsidiary, Avon Tyres, the original maker of the tires on the famous 1968-spec "American Eagle" Laverda, is restoring the famed motorcycle.
Knievel took this legendary motorcycle through many feats of skill. He died in 2007 at age 69.
Re, a friend of Knievel and stuntman himself, tracked down the Laverda and asked the current owner if he could restore the bike. At this point, Cooper Tire became involved.
"Louis Re contacted Avon (Tyre) earlier this year asking of we could authenticate the original tires fitted to the bike, which Avon's motorcycle department confirmed," said Megan James, Cooper Tire spokesman. Avon then supplied a new set of Avons.
"We kept in touch with him throughout the restoration process," she said.
The motorcycle was originally equipped with a set of Avon Safety Mileage MK II tires, and was outfitted in the restoration with the modern version of the same.
"We are pleased to be involved in a restoration project that involves such an iconic motorcycle," said Dominic Clifford, global manager of Avon Motorcycle. ""The Avon Safety Mileage MK II utilized in the restoration offers a period-look block pattern with a new compound design and the latest construction methods for exceptional grip, handling and stability."
Re said this was his first experience with this tire and he liked the vintage design.
"The like turned to love when I rode the bike with the new tires," he said. "I had great cornering traction and high-speed stability, and confidence equals a fun, safe day of riding."
During his career, Knievel attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps, the majority of which were completed successfully. The motorcycle was unveiled Nov. 6 at the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka, Kansas. It will be on display for two years.
Avon Tyre has been in the motorcycle business since the 1910s. Cooper Tire expanded its operations into Europe and purchased Avon Tyres Limited, based in Melksham, England, in 1997.