AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame | Where Heroes Live On
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Gary Davis


Hollywood stuntman with 280 film credits

Gary Davis is a longtime motorcycle stunt rider who did all of the stunt riding for the legendary Evel Knievel in the 1977 film "Viva Knievel!"

Davis, of Auburn, Calif., had spent more than 49 years in show business at the time of his induction, performing, coordinating and directing stunts in more than 280 films, more than 250 TV episodes and more than 190 commercials.

Some of his more notable credits include "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "The Amazing Spiderman," "Against All Odds," "Terminator 2," "Independence Day" and "Spiderman 2."

Davis’ motorcycle career began as an AMA professional in the 1969, riding alongside notables such as Kenny Roberts and Gary Scott.

"I didn't start racing young like everybody else," Davis said. "I was out there doing wheelies in the high school parking lot. When I got to college, I was still doing wheelies when someone brought up the idea of racing a bike he owned.

"A few beers later, I was convinced."

At his first event, Davis dropped the bike. But he went on to finish second in the main event.

"The next week, I won," he said.

Davis built a bike specifically for racing and went on to win the Arizona state championship the next year.

"I was still doing wheelies at halftime of these races," he said. "One time, a guy came up to me and asked me if I would like to ride like that for money. I was hesitant. But he pulled out a wad cash and said he could keep me busy every weekend. I was a starving college student, so I said, 'OK.'"

Davis said he "really loved racing," but he knew his chances of winning were not high, as he lined up against future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductees like Kenny Roberts and Gary Scott.

Davis began exhibition motorcycle jumping in 1971, setting aside his racing career.

"I didn't want to do it like everyone else," Davis said of the exhibitions. "So, I got a buddy of mine, and we jumped toward each other. And for the next two years, we were jumping two or three times a week."

In 1972, he entered the Guinness World Records for clearing 21 cars, bettering Evel Knievel’s 19-car mark.

"After a couple of years, I didn't really like the carnival atmosphere around exhibition riding," Davis said. "But I never crashed.”

In his heart, Davis was not a daredevil and did not relish chest pounding at his shows.

As his interest in exhibition jumping waned, Davis was approached by the CBS television network for a show about Evel Knievel, starring actor Sam Elliott.

"They wanted me to jump 20 cars while they blew up the ramps," he said. "So I did it. And I thought, 'This is a fun business. I think I'll stick around.'"

After more than 300 public jumps, he gave up exhibitions in 1973 and began doing stunt work.

Davis' Hollywood career was underway.

His career brought him into close association with AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen, as well as stars like Michelle Pfeiffer and Tippi Hedren.

"I used to hang out at Bud Ekins' shop," Davis said. "I got a lot of work through him. Steve McQueen used to be around there a lot, too, and we would change tires and drink Coors.

"One day I got a call from Steve. He wanted me to ride with him the next day. But I had a bike chase scene at Saddleback Park. I told him he should come and work with me instead. And he took me up on it."

Davis called another stuntman and canceled him for the day, and McQueen did the stunt.

"The day rate back then was $214," Davis said. "But I gave him an extra $300 as an adjustment for doing the stunt."

In addition to doing stunts, Davis built most of the motorcycles he used.

"For 'Sidewinder I' in 1977, they wanted a futuristic motorcycle that was supposed to revolutionize motocross," Davis said. "I built a water-cooled Maico with disk brakes. Now, almost all motocross bikes have those features."

Davis said he rarely uses his degree in electronics engineering, "but I used physics every day, setting the ramp angles and the speed and distance."

Throughout his stuntman career, Davis preferred to keep a low public profile.

"I am a movie stuntman, and I am proud of that," Davis said. "If an actor wants to say he did the stunts, he did the stunts."

Nowadays, Davis stays involved in the business, directing and coordinating stunts and advising on scripts.

"There aren't many motorcycles in the movie business, so I have done stunts in a variety of vehicles," he said. "Lot of the kids in the business now are people I helped get started."

Davis said he is particularly proud of the role he played in getting AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Debbie Evans involved in stunt riding.

"At that time, there were no stunt women with Debbie’s talent riding motorcycles," he said. "I had to wear a lot of blouses and dresses in my job. And I took a lot of heat for playing women."

In 1993, Davis got back into motorcycle racing, competing in some American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association events alongside some of the guys from his younger days.