Thursday, July 14, 2016
Today, Ken Martinez mixes things up a little bit! Here's Ken:
Schwarzkopf's Speed Racers
For today's post I'm featuring a specific kind of coaster that appeared in four different theme parks in the United States during the 1970's. Only four of these were built and only two are left standing and operating, one in its original location in the United States and the other in the country of Columbia.
Anton Schwarzkopf, one of the pioneers in modern coaster developments, had designed what was to become known as the Speed Racer roller coaster. All of these coasters utilized an electrical spiral lift with vehicles that contain electric motors in them to assist the trains in climbing up the spiral to the top and releasing them through the circuit. In addition the curves were severely banked at the bottom of the ills. The Speedracer has its origins in the earlier portable coasters like the Jet Star and Jumbo Jet coasters. Pictured here is the Jumbo Jet coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
The first of these custom built custom known as the "Big Bend" opened in Six Flags Over Texas in 1971. It was unique in that it featured two spiral lifts of 81 feet and 57 in height.
Here on the Texas coaster you can see the lap style seating with three seating areas per vehicle. I've seen photos of Big Bend with moth two-car trains and three-car trains in operation. The coaster thrilled park visitors for nine seasons before closing in 1979.
Zambezi Zinger in the Africa section of Worlds of Fun in Kansas City opened in 1973. It had a four train operation with three cars per train for a total of 18 riders per train. It thrilled riders at Worlds of Fun for nearly a quarter century. After closing in 1997 it was moved and rebuilt at Parque Nacional Del Café in Columbia in 1999.
When the Marriott Corporation decided it wanted to build theme parks it opened two in the same year coinciding with the bicentennial in 1976. Both theme parks were nearly identical with the same theme areas and attractions. Here's an image of the spiral lift on what is supposed to be "Willard's Whizzer" in Santa Clara. It closed in 1988. This along with its sister coaster in Illinois had a three-train operation with four cars per train. Apparently they used the same photos for both parks.
Here's a supposed image of "Willard's Whizzer" in Gurnee, Illinois. Can you tell the difference between the California and Illinois coasters? Of course not. It's the same photo. When Marriott first opened their theme parks they used the same pictures for both parks and even later published them as interchangeable between both park's publications even when the parks grew differently. There was a campaign to save the speed racer coaster when it was going to be torn down for a more modern mega-coaster. The campaign worked as the "Whizzer" as it's now known was saved and is the only one standing and operating in its original location.
One of the things you might've noticed is that the track style for the Speed Racer is the same as found on the looping roller coasters like the Revolution at Magic Mountain. That is because they were designed by the same company. I hope you enjoyed this bit of coaster history.
Information Source material:
Roller Coaster Database: http://rcdb.com/
Thank you Ken! I know very little about the companies that design so many of our famous roller coasters, so this was an interesting lesson in the Schwarkopf Speeders.