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Spanky Spangler: American Stuntman

Spanky Spangler
Spanky Spangler

I first saw Spanky Spangler botch a stunt at a monster truck rally in the Tacoma Dome when I was in middle school. 

He was scheduled to jump a custom Honda Odyssey dune buggy off a giant motorcycle ramp into a pile of cardboard boxes. After several practice runs he hit the ramp balls to the wall bringing the entire dome to a hushed silence. 

Man and buggy soared magnificently through the high-octane exhaust clouds of the Tacoma Dome’s atmosphere with the bug-like wail of the buggy’s motorcycle engine screaming like a crazed wasp. 

He completely overshot the boxes and began downshifting desperately as the cart passed its pinnacle and descended into a nose-dive, still a good forty feet above the concrete. The awed silence of the crowd changed to a hushed gasp as they realized doom was fast approaching and there was nothing they could do but watch as Spangle dropped from the heavens.

Budweiser sat dormant in thousands of mouths too tense to swallow. 

Spangler’s car fell with the angle of a Hail Mary pass; there was no chance his tires would be able to absorb the impact, it was going to be the nose of the buggy that met the concrete with Spangler’s legs tucked inside it’s tube frame. 

Crunch. It made a noise like a steel garbage can crumpling upon impact, bending the frame of the car into a “V” before it summersaulted onto the roll cage and slid into the opposing wall. 

The announcer began to babble over the stadium speakers as Spangler’s pit crew rushed out past the massive unaltered pile of boxes to the wreckage just beyond it. Spangler dropped from his harness into his crew’s arms and they pulled him out. 

“Look’s like he’s alright folks!” The announcer beckoned, “Let’s hear it for Spanky Spangler!” 

The crowd swallowed and erupted into cheers of support. Spangler waved to them as his crew carried him out of the arena with his arms slung over their shoulders. It was obvious his legs or ankles were either broken or messed up to the point that he couldn’t walk on them, but the audience was satisfied knowing there would be no downer before the freestyle monster truck event that night. 

That was the first time I saw Spangler botch a stunt and take it like a pro. The second was on Fox’s “Daredevils Live” special, (Not sure about the name, but it sounds right doesn’t it?) Spangler came equipped with a souped-up Monte Carlo intending to launch it off a “Corkscrew,” or a curved length of tubing atop a ramp that would send the car spinning through the air like a shot duck when he ran over it at high speed. The landing was planned to take place safely on a pile of junker cars. Having seen the dune buggy routine years earlier I was skeptical. 

This time the blunder was not Spangler’s fault. After close to an hour of build-up by Fox complete with plenty of commercial breaks, Spangler charged the corkscrew in his stunt car. Only, just before he reached the ramp his steering column locked out on him sending the jump-rod under the wrong side of his car. 

It launched him hard right into a beautifully disastrous corkscrew high above the parking lot instead of the intended landing pad of cars. Just as the mistake become apparent mid-air, the car turned level upside down and dropped like a rock to the unforgiving concrete directly on its roof. 

Once again Spangler’s crew was at his side nearly before the car came to a stop and he emerged from the wreckage uninjured so far as the Fox cameras could portray him to be. He looked like he needed a beer or twelve but was able to relay to a reporter what went wrong with the car and thank his sponsors before being led towards his trailer. 

I found out later that Spangler’s forte is actually jumping from buildings, cranes, and hot air balloons onto stunt bags. He does however claim to hold the world record distance jump in an automobile at 328 feet (100 meters), and to have been the youngest ever Green Beret in United States military history before getting into the stunt business. 

His other claims to fame include jumping a rocket-powered truck over a portion of the Rio Grande River, and being the greatest stuntman in the world. 

Personally, the two times I’ve seen Spangler do his thing were uncomfortably entertaining. With a beard and a beer belly, he looks like a guy more likely to be watching a stunt on television than performing one himself. Yet, apparently he pulls them off more often than my own experiences would have you believe. 

Feel free to check out a good cross section of his more successful stunts at As always, don’t try them at home, even if you appear to be more capable than Spanky.

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