Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Grand Prix Raceway, Magic Kingdom

Here are two more nice photos from The Magic Kingdom, taken during the Thanksgiving holiday break in 1971!

"Mr. X" was quite taken with the Florida version of the Autopia, aka the "Grand Prix Raceway", and it is easy to see why. This first photo shows a portion of the wide open spaces available in Orlando, with the sporty little race cars winding their way along 4 lanes through a green countryside.

To be honest it looks a little flat when compared to the criss-crossing tracks of Disneyland's Tomorrowland, where the Autopia shared space with the Monorail, Peoplemover, and (to a lesser degree) the Motor Boats and Submarines. That's the perfect example of the Imagineers turning the dearth of Anaheim real estate into an asset. But... come on, the Grand Prix Raceway is still pretty awesome. Check out the flame job on that red number in the lower right corner!

This is the only photo from the entire lot that really shows a long line... hundreds of folks are queueing up. There are plenty of extra vehicles sitting in the area closest to us, I wonder why they weren't being put into action on this busy day?


TokyoMagic! said...

Those are some pretty large gopher holes in the foreground of that first photo. I've never gone on the Grand Prix Raceway during my visits to WDW, but I know the vehicles in Tokyo Disneyland's version brake automatically if you get too close to the car in front of you. Does anyone know if WDW's cars do the same?

Nanook said...


It looks as though we can see what may very well be construction trailers still lumbering about. And that long line of guests all queued-up 'thinking' they're about to put the "pedal to the metal", have instead gotten mixed up in the line where free Crock-Pots are being handed out to the first 500 guests. Hey - 1971 was a great year for stuff-!

And come to think of it - in all of my visits to WDW, I've never ridden on the GPR either. Oh well.

Thanks, Major.


The Grand Prix Raceway featured a grandstand for guests to watch the "races" in the early years the cars were released in packs and raced with each other. Speakers placed strategically around the racetrack featured recording and SFX of real "contemporary" formula race cars making it FEEL and sound like those Disney cars were going WAY faster than they really were.

Those construction trailers were gonna remain busy as TOMORROWLAND was far from complete. The WEDWAY would start construction soon as well as the Star Jets platform.....1972 was suppose to see the opening of the Tomorowland Station of the Walt Disney World Railroad (designed but never built) to prepare for Space Mountain and the rest of Tomorrowland's completion in 1975.

Nancy said...

Love the second view, showing the pretty much nonexistent Tomorrowland. Just grass and trees. The building behind the Grand Prix grandstand is a fave of mine. Too bad we cant see the dome that is has more to the right. And there is one spire of the Tomorrowland entrance seen over there, too. *Sigh*. I so love this place.

Thanks for the sunshine this morning, Major! :D

K. Martinez said...

Both of these are nice views of the Grand Prix Raceway. The curve in the first image has been shortened quite a few times through the years to accommodate the Mickey Mouse themed area and whatever its name was through the years when it existed and now with the Storybook Circus area. The Grand Prix Raceway is really no match for Disneyland's Autopia when it comes to interesting scenery and track layout. I've ridden both. Still I appreciate that they did something different here. That's what kept the two castle parks interesting and unique IMO.

Thanks for more WDW 1970's goodness, Major. It was a very special place and time for me.

Patrick Devlin said...

Nice shots, Major. Thanks as always.

Good info there, MIKE. Releasing the cars in groups makes much more sense in terms of "show" and story than just having a drive around the track. It certainly looks like a pack in the first shot is racing away. I wonder if they still hold to this practice or if the need for capacity has bumped show quality from its place.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I’d never heard about the Tokyo Disneyland automatic braking system. If it really exists, I wonder if it was implemented more to prevent injury to the vehicles, or to the drivers??

Nanook, I would happily take a free crock pot! Not that I’d want to carry it around for the rest of the day. Strange that both you and TokyoMagic! have never taken a ride on the Grand Prix Raceway.

Mike Cozart, I have two more GPR photos, now I want to check to see if the grandstand is visible in either of those. Who would want to sit there and watch the slow cars “race”?! Are there any drawings of the proposed Tomorrowland Station that was never built? One more thing to search for online!

Nancy, one of the things I really like about these photos is the sense that this park had just been carved out of those Florida forests, without the many other hotels and resorts that have popped up over the decades.

K. Martinez, it seems so weird to me that one of Walt’s goals for a “second Disneyland” is to have enough space for all of his dreams. And yet, the Magic Kingdom has many examples of attractions that are shoehorned into a small area for various reasons. Like their version of “Pirates”… in theory you’d think that they would have as much real estate as they needed to make their version even grander. And yet, it’s smaller than the Disneyland version. It bugs me that they have to chop away at the Florida Autopia in order to add stuff to other lands.

Patrick Devlin, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen photos of the load area for the Grand Prix Raceway that included things like starter lights - the kind you would see at a drag race - and lots of checkered flags. I might even have slides of those. Which definitely supports the idea that this attraction was more race-oriented than the Anaheim version.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I think the grandstand that Mike is referring to can be seen in your photo. It is just to the left of that elevated glassed-in booth in the queue building. Tokyo has a similar grandstand area. And the automatic braking system does exist at Tokyo DL. I have been on the that version. I think the reason that I have never been on the ones at WDW is that I am only ever in that park for one day per Orlando visit, and there are always other things that take priority over that attraction. Plus, there is no mystery about them. You can see what they do, where they go, and that they aren't too terribly different than the version at Disneyland. For that same reason, I have never been on WDW's Carousel, Dumbo Flying Elephants, Mad Tea Party, or Astro Orbitor. The reason that I have been on the Grand Prix at Tokyo DL is that I always go to that park more than once per Tokyo trip, so there is more time to squeeze everything in.

Dean Finder said...

No automatic braking on WDW's Grand Prix Raceway. Everybody collides with the car in front of them as they approach the unload area.
Also, no mass starts any more. The race themeing comes and goes as sponsors change.
I'd really like to see it take a more Tomorrowland theme with a Tesla sponsorship and electric vehicles, or a Tron theme.

In the first picture, you can see the spur monorail beam that takes the monorails north along the east side of the MK from the main loop to the "roundhouse." In the second picture, the grassy hill will become Space Mountain in a few years.

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

Thanks for that info. The "glassed-in booth" was (is-?) actually the sponsor's booth - much as with the attractions at EPCOT. Unfortunately, I have no excuses as to why in all of my copious visits to WDW I've never ridden on the GPR other than there always seemed be other things to do. Not the best philosophy for someone who is supposed to be "into" the Disney parks.

Scott Lane said...

The glassed-in booth might have been the sponsor's booth but it was always wide open when I rode the GPR in the 70's.

Major: Yes they had starter lights but I don't remember any group starts as if you were in a race. Not saying it didn't happen, just not when I was there.

I remember that empty Tomorrowland. Such a disappointment to little 9 and 10 year old me who, thanks to the Wonderful World of Disney (and the wonderful world of Disney View Master slides) had been hoping for Peoplemovers and Carousels of Progress.