50 years of coasters – 1981 to 1990

I think from looking at the ’80s the growth in coaster design was more gradual than I expected. Ideas were being refined and developed, but there’s Knott an obvious moment of xceleration when it suddenly ‘got good’, just yet. When comparing standouts to that of the previous decade, there’s still nothing exceptional that I would say holds up to the experience of what we get these days, or even a certain coaster from the 1910s, just some solid efforts and well thought out concepts that build on the recent past.
There was a changing of the guard in manufacturing. Many of the biggest names still present today started kicking around – Vekoma and Intamin were just out of the gate and we have B&M ready and fired up right by the end of the list while we simultaneously saw the loss of Schwarzkopf industries and the beginning of the end for Arrow.
Here’s another set of year by year highlights based on what I’ve actually ridden, along with a few speculations of what else would have contested for an annual coaster award, if there was such a thing back then.

1981 – Python, Efteling (Netherlands)

On paper, nothing special these days. This style of loop and corkscrew layout now exists amongst the most common inverting coasters in the world thanks to other manufacturers (particularly in China) latching on to the simplicity of the design. Python has heritage though, as an original, and the park themselves have recently acknowledged this by providing some TLC of the highest order – most of the track was outright replaced for the 2018 season in order to keep it alive for a good while longer.
Looks like I haven’t got a great personal selection here, in terms of other happenings this year across the pond, I think Intamin kicking off their wooden coaster career at Six Flags Great America and the debut of Arrow’s suspended coaster look to have been the most intriguing developments.

1982 – Looping Star, Nagashima Spa Land (Japan)

And again, I’m just rattling around more Schwarzkopf looping models, this time the most common variant of compact, often travelling design. Like a few winners that came before it, the lap bar really sets this apart in the era and taught us all that you just dont need an overbearing parent of a restraint clamping down on your shoulders to keep you in your seat for a high thrill ride and it’s a pity that lesson still hasn’t been fully taken on board to this day.
Dare I say this was a slow year? The only examples I can see could have come straight out of any of the past 5 years. The odd Arrow, Corkscrew, even the fantastic Fantastic Coaster Rowdy is looking strong in ’82.

1983 – Space Mountain, Tokyo Disneyland

This was the year that the world renowned Tokyo Disneyland opened and with it came another Space Mountain. They’re just really cool rides and I’m a sucker for good music, theming and a general ambience that should always comes with indoor coasters – it disguises and elevates what is often some pretty bog standard hardware underneath. But the layout here is surprisingly good, building a sense of speed continuously throughout and constantly leaving you guessing which way the next hairpin turn is going to throw you. These were also very technlogically advanced behind the scenes and often a bit cranky – even in recent times our train ended up taking us to the maintenance shed instead of the lift hill!
The obvious name to me for 1983 is Moonsault Scramble. One of those ridiculous builds that you can barely believe existed at all. It broke ridiculous records in height, (probably) broke people with unprecedented G-forces and it laughs in the face of the future. I don’t understand how it happened, but I sorely wish that I could have tried it. Meisho you madmen, come back to us.

1984 – Camelback Jetcoaster, Himeji Central Park (Japan)

Sticking in Japan for yet another year my personal pick is a quaint little jet coaster from Senyo Kogyo. It wouldnt be my first choice to represent the type as it’s far from the most impressive around, but I’ll take this style of ride over what has now become generic looping sit down coaster by this stage any day.
Ah yes, this year was the debut of the dreaded Boomerang of which there are now over 50 worldwide. The compact shuttle coaster, with 3 physical inversions that become an boastful (for the time) 6 with both forwards and backwards direction of travel through the layout, became a huge success. In terms of rides that would actually have been good though, Big Bad Wolf was a likely candidate as a build on the Arrow suspended concept – like many of the type it eluded me and is sadly no longer with us, though its legacy lives on through Verbolten today. King Cobra at King’s Island was the original version of my all-time favourite stand-up coaster, though I may be in the minority in loving that one.

1985 – Schweizer Bobbahn, Europa Park (Germany)

Intamin had been knocking out several bobsled coasters in the previous year, but I’ve ridden one of those and wasn’t particularly impressed with the execution. Along came Mack the following season with their own version of the design that uses a full length train and it gives a much more cohesive and well paced ride experience. The attraction went straight to their own personal showcase more commonly known as Europa Park, though we only ever got 5 more examples out of it, with the most recent in 2001.
The now unfortunately infamous Mindbender in a mall in Canada could well have put Schwarzkopf at the top for yet another entry (and with the same name no less) and the aforementioned actual installation of the Togo stand-up also opened in Canada this year, eventually moving to Italy where I caught up with it. I’m now torn on how I should count relocations because in the opposite vein there’s the hugely popular Phoenix at Knoebels which was relocated in 1985 and still reportedly performs amongst the best of the best today. I guess we’ll try and keep it simple for now.

1986 – Wild One, Six Flags America

He says, immediately breaking his own rule. I’ve got very little to offer from this year other than several Zierer Tivoli family coasters so I feel to keep this interesting we’ll have to go for Wild One which actually dates back to 1917. The ride was rebuilt at Six Flags America in ’86 and was by far my favourite coaster in the park. It does all the things a classic woodie should do just right.
Was this another genuinely run of the mill year? The list got significantly shorter again and I can’t find anything that would have helped me much here, particularly nothing the likes of which we haven’t already seen or talked about before in this series.

1987 – Lisebergbanan, Liseberg (Sweden)

I adore this ride, it plays a major role in establishing my favourite area of a park on earth – the Helix hillside. It’s hard for me to imagine one without the other, but for a whole 27 years this wonderful terrain layout stood alone, is still a fantastic experience by its own merit and easily amongst the strongest we’ve seen so far.
Elsewhere in 1987, Tokyo Disneyland got their Big Thunder Mountain, which happens to be a little tamer than I would have liked and the amazingly atmospheric Raptor Attack (or Rat Ride as it was then), which was sadly confirmed to be closed forever just recently, proved again that stock models can be something truly special if you pay particular attention to the presentation.
I think this was a pretty big year, a bit of a turning point, there’s some actual competition amongst attractions I’ve ridden and serious contemplation going on now.

1988 – Bandit, Yomiuriland (Japan)

Togo responded to this terrain coaster concept in extraordinary fashion with this monster that reportedly covers over 250ft in overall elevation from top to bottom. It only begins with the weakest of drops, in true Japanese jet coaster style, but the resulting ride is spectacular and far more intense than anything of this nature seen before.
The new Zierer-Schwarzkopf team followed up with Jetline this year – a solid ride that unfortunately couldn’t play to the same strengths as its predecessor. Aside from that, location seems to be a bit of a running theme, with the unusual layout of Ninja off the side of the Magic Mountain, the notorious Orphan Rocker barely existing and this fascinating looking Hopkins looper up in the sky. Boundaries were clearly being pushed in 1988, and with varying success.

1989 – Eurosat, Europa Park (Germany)

We’re back indoors with what on the surface appears to be a standard family sit down but ended up being a ridiculously wild ride and another personal favourite of mine. I think from what we’ve seen so far, outside of Disney at least, the use of media and music wasn’t prevalent enough in olden times and Eurosat made particular good use of it with a track that still holds fond memories for me today, even if the fundamentals of the attraction have since changed.
Vekoma made some big waves this year with Goudurix taking the world record for number of inversions and the ambitious French Revolution being squeezed into Lotte World’s wondrous indoor area ready for the park’s opening day. I think the obvious pick for most this year would be Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point, the now legendary first of the Arrow hyper coasters, of any hyper coaster as they have become known in the traditional sense (Moonsault says hi again).
Yes, I have a thing for rollercoasters. No, I still haven’t been to the rollercoaster capital of the world.

1990 – Viper, Six Flags Magic Mountain (USA)

Arrow managed to match that number of inversions the very next year, though perhaps not quite so elegantly as far as presentation is concerned. It is a marginally better ride though that contains a superior drop, is intense for the right reasons this time and has an overall nicer pace.
It generally appears to be a bit of a down year over the previous, for my tastes, a calm before the storm as it were. Woodies were having a bit of a revival thanks to the Dinn Corporation, Reverchon made their coaster debut with a custom layout way before their deep dive into spinning fairground attractions and, as importantly, the very first B&M came into being, with a stand-up no less, widely regarded as their worst type of ride. Don’t worry, they’ll find their dangling feet soon enough and from here on out I’ll actually have ten separate entries to talk about in each and every year.

That’s right, there’s another 30 list topics still to come. Isn’t that exciting.

Click here to continue the timeline.

50 years of coasters – 1971 to 1980
50 years of coasters – 1991

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