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BY: Michael

Kenny Powers: Wrong Man, Right Time

The search for Kenny Powers, the man who attempted to jump the St. Lawrence Seaway in a rocket-powered Lincoln.

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Story: Richard S. Chang It was two years ago when I first saw the video of Kenny Powers attempting to jump a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental over the St. Lawrence 
River, from Morrisburg, Canada, to Ogden Island, New York, a distance of more than a mile. At first, the brief clip was a simple four-minute diversion, no 
different than the countless other diversions that occurred that day and have occurred every day since. It had all the right ingredients: Powers, a grizzled bar brawl of a stuntman with a dark mustache and gruff goatee, limited teeth, who, dressed in a slack yellow jumpsuit and cowboy hat, looked like a trailer-park 
janitor. There was the boxy Continental, also yellow and plainly unaerodynamic; the ailerons jutting from both doors seemed scaled for a smaller car. 
A ramp canted up a mound of earth. A paltry crowd had gathered to watch the stunt—supposedly the longest jump ever attempted in a car at that point, which, 
according to the video, was 1976. It’s known as the Super Jump. The actual stunt lasts 14 seconds, including the eight seconds it takes for the car to shoot down the runway and up the ramp and the six seconds it takes for it to float down to the water, its descent slowed by two parachutes, deployed early because, upon leaving the ramp, the car dissipates immediately into a spray of body 
panels, like a bird hit by buckshot. Despite the parachutes, the car falls none too gracefully into the water—barely beyond the mud banks below the ramp. The rescue workers are hardly thigh deep as they wade to the car. Powers emerges with a broken back, the narrator says over a squeaky soundtrack of circus music. His crumpled body is carried back to land and hauled away on a stretcher. “As the ambulance rushed off to the hospital, all that remained of his $1 million attempt was a yellow, rocket-powered Continental floating aimlessly on the banks of the St. Lawrence River,” says the narrator. The video ends in a P.O.V. heading up the runway onto the ramp, into the sky. Here, it ends abruptly.

And I could have easily just watched the video, e-mailed it to some friends and completely forgotten about the Super Jump and Kenny Powers were it not for a particular weakness of mine: I am innately drawn to great acts of failure. I am seduced by unfounded ambition just as Martin Scorsese is seduced by Leonardo DiCaprio. And in the range of great failures, the Super Jump was Mount St. Helens. I found myself thinking about the stunt. With not much digging around, I found out that the four-minute video didn’t tell the whole story. The Super Jump was the seven-year dream of another stuntman named Ken Carter. Nicknamed “The Mad Canadian,” Carter harbored an all-consuming ambition to be known as the world’s greatest stuntman. He worked on the Super Jump for years, and a feature-length documentary was made about his efforts, called The Devil at Your Heels. It was produced nearly 30 years ago by the National Film Board of Canada and was as good a place to start as any. But as I began to research the film and filmmakers, it felt like a cinematic cold case. According to the Internet Movie Database, its director, Robert Fortier, hadn’t made a movie in over a decade. There were five producers on the film, but only one seemed to be active. I decided to give him a call. Check out our collection of other entertaining automotive leaps.

COMMENTS
  • Drew says:
    September 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm
    Reply

    Thats a really cool story...keep on it!

  • Mr_Biggles says:
    September 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm
    Reply

    Cool...and whacky. NFB has many (all?) of their films available online. http://www.nfb.ca/film/devil_at_your_heels/

  • Chris V says:
    September 17, 2010 at 3:33 am
    Reply

    Great video, cool concept, terrible engineering.

  • BoostGear.com says:
    September 19, 2010 at 2:17 am
    Reply

    A real Kenny Powers who was into cars. Love it.

  • Anonymous says:
    September 24, 2010 at 10:45 pm
    Reply

    Kenny Powers died in 2009. http://www.tptrash.com/regal/viewtopic.php?p=72982&sid=8181544cde4292a2c9099f58fe9e23fe

  • Andrew Whitton says:
    November 14, 2010 at 12:53 am
    Reply

    I tried for years to contact Kenny Powers, and called different race tracks in the south. I came close but never did have a chance to talk to him. I did however talk in length to Jim Deist (parachute safety) and he said the whole thing was a "scary sitiuation". I have a bunch of Ken Carter collectables and like the author says many cold leads.

    • Antony says:
      September 28, 2011 at 2:16 am
      Reply

      Hi Andrew, I'm doing some research about Ken Carter and would love to know what kind of collectibles you have? If you happen upon this, please contact me! Bookerthe4th@gmail.com

    • Spencer (butch Carter )Racine says:
      October 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm
      Reply

      My nickname is Butch and I am the brother of Ken Carter. I'll talk to ya. 514-895-7045

    • Kim says:
      June 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm
      Reply

      I happened upon your comment today and read that u had been trying to reach Kenny Powers. Well he passed away in 09. But if u r still interested in talking with someone that knew him personally I can do that for u. I was married to his nephew and that is all he spoke of was his uncle Kenny and all the stunts he did. He even helped him on some of them. He came to visit us numerous times and was quite a character for sure. If interested email me. Kim

      • dave says:
        September 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm
        Reply

        Hello, im interested in knowing more about Kenny Powers but have found little to no info on him online. How did he pass? What stories do you recall of him? Thanks for letting me know your story and connection with him. History is a beautiful thing.

    • Kim says:
      June 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm
      Reply

      my email addy is txrose8464@yahoo.com

  • mike peters says:
    November 15, 2010 at 8:23 am
    Reply

    The car should have been tested in a wind tunnel. Iwas in the Air force, and setting "trim" on an airplane is very precise. There's all kinds of aerodynamic things that can go wrong, even the rotating engine and wheels can cause gyroscopic inertial effects (that's why motorcycles stay upright, because of the spinning wheels). We spend years designing and testing new jet planes, and even then lots of things go wrong before the bugs are worked out. The car seemed to "pitch up" as it left the ramp due to the force of air beneath the undercarriage. It was not designed to fly, you'd need computerized, movable wind vanes or fins to stabilize it during flight, like they have on the B-2 bomber. Just make a simple paper airplane and try to throw it straight--you'd have to bend the paper here and there through trial and error to set it's trim before it flies straight and level. Yeah, we need flying cars.

  • Johnson says:
    December 2, 2010 at 11:34 am
    Reply

    ha! thats my hometown!

  • The Real Kenny Powers | 94.3 KILO says:
    July 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm
    Reply

    [...] How Kenny ended up on the ramp is cooler than the video. It’s a 3 minute read that I linked for you here. [...]

  • ben says:
    January 16, 2012 at 7:21 am
    Reply

    i have the video "the devil at your heels". it was shown on australian abc television back in about 91. they also released the video for purchase which i bought. it was actually shown on a comedy programme late at night. the guys hosting the show were looking for really bad movies and documentaries for a laugh . this was so funny they bought the rights so they could show it. you could see that the makers of the movie were taking the piss out of him even asking him at one stage "ken do you think your sane". the way he always talked about himself in the second third and fourth persons. every time some one tries to use an "idiom" to make an impressive point always get them completely wrong. i loved how slamin sammy miller was more focused on the backers money than safety. he wanted ken carter off that ramp as soon as he could he didnt seem to care if he died. ken carter loses his nerve so much that all you could hear toward the end of the film when he was training and visualising for the jump was "i'm listening for the word ABORT". the guys who were putting the car together tested the fuel tank on the car and blew the front end off. then attempting another two times to get the fuel tank to work (both times exploding) they do a runner. i love the interview for the wide world of sport when ken's talking to evel. it seems someone calling a person evel. the list goes on. there is so many golden comedy moments in this film, its too good you couldnt write this stuff. ken carter is one of my greatest heros because it shows you even a complete #$ck up can rob the rich on this hair brained scheme.

  • Legendary Kenny says:
    August 1, 2012 at 10:37 am
    Reply

    Anyone interested in watching the entire documentary online: google "devil at your heels" and choose the canadian filmboard site/ office national du film du Canada (ONF) or try out this link. http://www.onf.ca/film/devil_at_your_heels

  • Beverly Plumley Powers says:
    August 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm
    Reply

    I am Beverly Plumley Powers, Stuntman Kenny Powers' widow. I met Kenny in May 2004. We married on August 19, 2005. Kenny only showed me the documentary of the 1981 jump once. He rarely talked about it. He loved Ken Carter. He kept a 8 x 10 picture of him. Kenny loved the business that his mentor, Ken Carter, taught him. Every stunt he every did was important, because he loved his fans. Kenny did a stunt in Dothan, Alabama in August 2004 and in Greenville, Alabama in August 2004. He did a stunt on August 19, 2006 in Timmonsville, S.C. Kenny's last stunt was on August 26, 2006. He was 59 years old at the time. Something else people may not know about Kenny was that he was a very spiritual person. He was far from perfect. Near the end of his life, he regretted not having made Jesus Christ a priority in his life. He talked often of his childhood church, the First Baptist Church of Landrum. He also adored the minister, Preacher Farrow, who led him to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Kenny was a very unique indivual. I will love him forever. I miss him.

    • Janet Torge says:
      March 8, 2013 at 11:21 pm
      Reply

      Beverly, I am doing research for a film on Ken Carter and stuntmen. I live in Montreal and would like to speak with you. Would you be so kind to email me so we can exchange number and speak. I hope you get this email... I found no other way to connect with you. Thanks, Janet

      • Tmro says:
        May 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm
        Reply

        Janet, I too am working on a film about Ken Carter, and would love to talk to you. I am in New York City. Contact me if you want to chat. I think we can help one another. Tom

  • Beverly Plumley Powers says:
    August 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm
    Reply

    This is Beverly Powers again. When Kenny and I first met, the first thing he told me about himself was that he a U.S. Navy Veteran. He was as proud if not prouder of being a veteran than being a stuntman. Kenny didn't think twice about driving through fire and flipping cars over, but he was afraid of a few things. He was extremely afraid of heights. He was afraid of the wood scorpions that are native to where we are from. He was afraid of the bears and wild cats that used to stay below our house. Believe it or not, Kenny was extremely afraid of ocean fish and he had been in the navy. He was an expert bass fisherman, but he wouldn't have anything to do with deep sea fishing. Kenny was also an excellent cook. He had an obsession about keeping porcelain clean and

  • Beverly Plumley Powers says:
    August 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm
    Reply

    I got cut off when I was writing yesterday. Kenny had an obsession of keeping refrigerators at the perfect temperature. If our refrigerator was the wrong temperture at 2 a.m., he actually woke me up. We would take the back of the refrigerator off and vaccum it. He loved Alabama and his friends there. I never knew from one minute to the next what he was going to do. Kenny loved driving cars, wrecking cars, and working on old cars. I had a nice collection of Fuller brushes,which I loved, when I first met Kenny. One by one, they became mechanicing brushes. They didn't break like cheap brushes. I'm a better person, because Kenny Powers was a part of my life.

    • Chris says:
      January 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm
      Reply

      Hello Beverly. I am sorry for your loss. I am 45 now, and while I have few memories of the events of the big jump, I have watched the video many times. I think this was an amazing time filled with courage and the willingness to take a challenge head on. I think your Husband and Ken as well as many others like him not only entertained us but brought a sense of awe and amazement, and even pride. Again I am sorry for your loss. I think your Husband probably had far more fans than he realized. I am happy to hear he enjoyed doing what he did as he got older. I was only recently aware of his passing. I am nto sure how he passed but I know he is with his friends and at peace now. He left a legacy behind that we can all embrace and enjoy.

  • David Rothman says:
    December 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm
    Reply

    I met Ken Carter in 1980. He commissioned me to build a working toy of his Rocket powered Firebird, a ramp with a crane and a rocket fueling station. He was to do a stunt in Tampa and reveal the toy. Mattel Toys was on hand to observe and film the toy. Ken and I were scheduled to meet with them for production so the toy would be ready, should the St. Lawrence River jump ever be accomplished. Shortly after this event he died in the crash and all dreams associated with the stunt died with Ken. It's weird to watch the video, as the first time I launched the toy car, the flight was longer but ended in the same manner. After some fine tuning the toy easily exceeded a 1/25 scale mile. I still have the car but let my kids have the ramp after Kens death. I also have film of the toy in action and some letters from Ken. Ken definitely had intentions of making the St. Lawrence River jump in 1983, right up to his death.

  • Jesse says:
    March 8, 2013 at 1:22 am
    Reply

    Hello my name is Jesse I have been a cycle jumping fan for Many years I'm thirty three going on thirty four next Thursday I'm trying to contact anyone who might have footage of Kenny carter and Kenny powers jumping cars I've only seen from the movie the short thirty minuet doc With joe reed I ha e benn some what interested in talking With anyone who knew both men and maby collect some Rare footage I take pride in my footage collection I'm from South tx please e mail me at. Rock1889@aol.com and we Can go from there thanks Jesse

  • Nicole says:
    April 17, 2013 at 1:57 am
    Reply

    I think the Burt Reynolds, Sally field movie Hooper copied the Kenny Powers jump. The end of the movie, the big finale was a scene where the car driven by Burt Reynolds, who's character was a stuntman had to drive up a ramp and jump the river and land on the other side. His character was told not to do it as it could break his back but he did it anyway and survived. Also Will Ferrell produces an hilarious t.v show called Eastbound and Down. The show is into it's third season but there are only six episodes per season. The main character is called Kenny Powers played by Danny Mcbride.

  • Beverly Powers says:
    April 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm
    Reply

    Janet Torge, I am sorry, but I haven't looked on this site in quite a while. I have started working on my Master's Degree again and am staying very busy. I did not see you email. You can contact me at bppowers@windstream.net. I will always miss Kenny. I was really blessed that he was part of my life. Everyday, I have little reminders of how he touched and impacted my life for the better.

  • Chris says:
    June 16, 2013 at 10:41 am
    Reply

    One thing I have not been able to find is information on the Lincoln Continental. Whatever happened to it? Is it still around?

  • Erik Wahl says:
    June 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    Reply

    Hello, after reading all this, it seems to fit with an elderly gent, that is a friend of mine, that he was the builder of the car with the 2 rocket engines, and he told me about the ramps unevenness and the car suspension bottoming out and make the chutes deploy early. As i understand it, the small drogue chute was to keep the car orientated a few degrees above horizontal for the flight. Also that car was greatly under speed when it left the ramp. You see him in the video...

  • Cody says:
    October 1, 2013 at 4:43 am
    Reply

    Parts of the car have been found in Morrisburg. The firebird rocket car (not seen in the movie) that Ken later perished in is supposedly located in Whitby, Ontario along with atleast one of the ramp trucks. I'm thinking the Chev from the movie. I'm looking for any stories or leads to parts kf Carter's cars, press kits, equipment he may have used and I'm also interested in speaking to Robert Fortier about the film as well, if anyone has any leads please email me at c.glive@live.com thanks.

  • kenny Pettyjohn says:
    October 23, 2013 at 11:54 pm
    Reply

    I met Kenny Powers and Ken Carter in 1984 I was probably 13 at the time every kid on the block was trying to impress him he was staying w my friends mother at the time and we seen the movie with kenny powers and ken carter. My friend Curt Olgolvie at the time was 17 we all lived in Orange Co. CA but my friend Curt got to go on tour with Kenny Powers they bought a conversion Van and they did stunts across the U.S. Kenny Powers was a good guy to us kids always pushing us to jump higher on our dirt bikes. Curtis could out jump us all and he got the chance of a life time

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