This was a huge “hold my beer” moment…
Everyone has that buddy who’s a great guy but he’s not the sharpest stick in the bundle. He comes up with crazy ideas like jumping from the roof into the pool or shoving a bunch of M80s into your dad’s tailpipe. When you were kids it was all fun and games, but as you matured and he didn’t you started wondering what the hell was wrong with him. We don’t have answer to that question, but we do have the ultimate example of an adult doing something so completely stupid it all fell apart gloriously.
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Back in 1976, Ken “The Mad Canadian” Carter had a dream to jump a car the distance of one mile across the St. Lawrence River, something called The Super Jump. The stunt would start in Canada and if successful end in the United States. For perspective, that’s the same distance Evel Knievel was trying for when he jumped the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho and failed. We think he was also inspired by Wile E. Coyote.
Funny enough, Knievel was using a custom-built rocket-powered motorcycle called the “Skycycle” in his attempt to jump Snake River Canyon. Perhaps that’s where Carter or one of his associates got the idea of using a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental, although we’re not sure why that specific model was selected. Perhaps they thought something like a Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang was too small and lightweight to successfully go the distance.
The project had a lot of hurdles to clear before the jump could be attempted. Five acres of land was cleared, a 1,400-ft. takeoff road was paved, and an 85-foot-high launch ramp was constructed as part of the process. The team also did plenty of work on the Lincoln Continental, giving it a unique fiberglass body with small wings as well as a rocket engine fueled by pressurized hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen. What could possibly go wrong?
“We can do anything that we want to do, and I mean that, if you work at it hard enough,” declared Carter in one interview. Today, that quote might sound like something from Michael Scott or Ricky Bobby, but in 1976 Carter convinced investors to put down the considerable sum of over $1,000,000 to make the stunt happen. It had also been in the planning phase for 4 years.
Thanks to a combination of inclement weather, mechanical problems, and financial difficulties meant the jump attempt was scratched three times. Carter’s investors no longer felt confident in him, so they went behind his back and hired American driver Kenny Powers.
Powers was an experienced stuntman but had never driven a jet-powered car before, something you think would be critical for attempting something Evel Knievel couldn’t pull off. The guys with the money didn’t think it’d be a problem for reasons nobody seems to know about these days.
As you probably already deduced, the jump was an utter failure. Thanks to uneven grading on the takeoff road, the Lincoln Continental was jostled hard, resulting in portions of the body cracking before it ever went airborne, causing the car to come apart like a pinata at a birthday party. That also triggered the parachutes to deploy prematurely, guaranteeing the flight was over. With the car getting flogged by the poor road, Powers couldn’t keep the pedal to the metal, so the Lincoln only reached 180 mph at the end of the ramp instead of 270 mph, meaning it lacked necessary velocity. As a result, the car only went 506 feet, well short of the mile distance to the U.S. shoreline. It plunged into the cold waters of the St. Lawrence River and crews had to pull Powers out, who had broken 8 vertebrae, 3 ribs, and his wrist.
Carter never got to try the jump himself. There’s no indication he tried to, maybe because he saw what happened to Powers.