(Photos by Joe Grippo) – When Joe Grippo told us that he was going to the Mack Historical Museum in Pennsylvania we were jealous. After all, so much trucking goodness packed into one location and lots of history to boot? What’s cooler than that? THIS is cooler than that.
Inside the museum is the restored 1974 Mack FS786LST known as “Big Red” that used to haul Evel Knievel and his act around the country. The truck is a wild one off piece that Mack built specially for Knievel during the height of his worldwide popularity and the spectacle of seeing this truck drive down the road had to have been something that drove people wild. Massive, gaudy, loud, and proud the truck is just as Evel Knievel was in life. If you can believe it, the monster rig racked up less than 100,000 original miles on it before disappearing into the vapors presumably never to be seen again.
All that changed in the 2011 timeframe when Rob Mariani who hosted the show American Trucker worked the phones and whatever leads he could find to actually locate Big Red sitting in a lot down in Clearwater, Florida. The truck was utterly and completely hashed. Unless you knew Big Red to start with there’s no way anyone would have been able to point this thing out of a lineup as having been owned by Knievel and been s famous as it once was. Yes, it was an odd looking truck but it was rotted, mangled, and otherwise eaten up by mother nature. There were some fits and starts to the restoration effort but now rig is being toured around the country with its current home being the Mack Historical Museum in Pennsylvania.
The 1974 Mack FS786LST is strange for a couple of obvious reasons. The first is the 295-inch wheelbase of the tractor which is such because of a massive box that was installed to serve as Knievel’s “dressing room”. He did install his leathers in there but what else happened inside the confines of the truck? We’re guessing some of the best and worst things even your (yes you!) depraved brain can conjure up.
There were a multitude of engine and transmission options available but being that this was about the highest profile truck in the world in 1974 we’re going to guess that Mack put their big Maxidyne engine in it and backed it with their own transmission. Then again the twin air inlets mean it could be a Detroit Diesel or some other variant. Suffice it to say it was likely packing the most power they could jam under that cab. It is virtually impossible to get the mechanical specs on the thing at least that we have found so far.
One thing that we thought was really interesting and cool was the amount of Knievel stuff that is inside the dressing room. From his crystal tipped hollow cane that he filled with Wild Turkey to all of the Wild Turkey bottles in the bar and all of the furniture, etc. Obviously some it is recreated but they really went all out on the truck and apparently it was done at a cost of over $300,000 to put it to the state that it is in today.
Lastly and most awesome is the driver’s area interior. It had to have been all sorts of hot and sticky in the summer time but just wow. All the red, white, and blue in that thing is amazing. It it beyond wild that the cab actually served as someone’s office!
Thanks to Joe Grippo for taking the time to hit the museum (we’ll show you more of it tomorrow) and digging into Evel Knievel’s 1974 Mack FS786LST. Wow!