We’ve recently covered the subject of their world renowned spinning coasters, but there’s one more significant type of coaster attraction from German manufacturer Maurer Rides that’s worth a spotlight (in some ways at least, bit of a mixed bag as you’ll soon see). Sadly they don’t seem to be pushing the X-Car as a product these days, though the builds of the past are still featured on the company website they aren’t marketing it alongside recent other, more questionable ideas.
The Maurer X-Car can broadly be split into two categories:
1) The Sky Loop – a widely cloned thrill coaster with a purely two dimensional design and a tiny footprint.
10 Sky Loops were built in as many years, beginning back in 2004, with half of all these being sold to China. A certain Chinese manufacturer decided to take matters into their own hands towards the end of this run and have built another 9 of their own version since (it’s awful, in case you were wondering), just as orders coincidentally appear to have dried up for the Germans.
2) The rest – a handful of far more interesting designs that use the same rolling stock alongside other innovations, to a greater or lesser effect.
8 of ‘The rest’ hit the market across a similar time frame since 2005, although only 5 of these are truly their own unique design. As a sampling exercise I’m now short of just one of those five by being silly and never having visited ‘theme park capital of the world’ Florida. There hasn’t been an attempt by anyone else to replicate one of these more complicated efforts, that we know of, though the interest from the market seems to have faded all the same.
Which is a shame and, while it might take us some time to actually see it, let’s look at why.
We begin with the first of ‘The rest’ and a design described as the Vertical. I’m not exactly sure why, the only vertical aspect being the beyond-vertical lift hill which is, in a word, unpleasant. The adverse effects of being slowly dragged upside down in excruciating anticipation of what’s to come never really get the chance to fade throughout the rest of the layout. There’s some clunky airtime and a couple of quick inversions in there, but you can quite easily miss all that whilst the blood is returning to the rest of your body. Sadly(?) G Force is no longer in operation, though fear not, there’s still one available to try in Iraq.
Sky Loop time. I hope you like the unusual look of these things because there’s many more to come. I’ve decided to separate them all out
in the interests of padding the list due to some circumstantial factors that do in fact distinguish the experiences for me somewhat beyond the general… unpleasantness. It’s that word again.
This particular one had a bit of a nasty rattle by the time we got round to riding it and simply reminded me how much I’m over them.
This one comes with the story of the most ridiculous operational procedures I’ve ever witnessed while in this fine nation (and I’ve seen far too much of their nonsense by now). I spent way too long waiting for the unaptly named Clouds of Fairyland to open, then subsequently for it to actually operate, before being forced to uncomfortably ‘hold on to the hoops’ awkwardly installed (only on this version, to my knowledge) in the headrests behind the riders. Full disclosure here.
I haven’t even said what these things do yet. Well the basic premise is a vertical lift hill (more vertical than the Vertical) that slowly leads into a beyond vertical section of track before mercifully twisting you back upright, for the briefest moments of relief, then rolling you over again and plummeting back down into the station at speed for a couple of shuttled back and forth swings in the U-shaped section of the layout.
And in case I haven’t mentioned yet, it’s an unpleasant ordeal to sit through, mainly for the prolonged length of time in which you’re held either completely on your back, or worse yet, head over heels, while it feels like your very life force is being sucked out of you. With no redeeming follow up.
So it’s one of my least favourite sensations in the whole of this game, and yet we’re still going strong. This one gets bonus points for having an extremely friendly ride host (in stark contrast to the Joyland lot) who sang to me while rounding up enough nearby
victims guests for me to actually be able to suffer this one for my art.
Sky Wheel was the first one ever built and also the first version I happened to experience. I distinctly remember dreading it due to my general fear of prolonged upside-downness, and yet coming off this one I ended up remarking that it actually wasn’t so bad. The pace at which it moved through the sequence at the top of the lift was ‘just about bearable’ and, for good measure, this is the only version of the model I’ve ridden which takes you across the top for a second lap upon catching the car again, as opposed to just gently lowering you down backwards and putting you out of your misery.
You’d think we’d be free of these by the time we hit #4 in the list, but there’s just one more to get through and it’s a special type at last. The only extended Sky Loop in the world bottoms out into some semblance of an actual layout after the usual starting sequence and, though far from ideal, this makes it all rather more interesting. Something I haven’t touched upon yet, amongst all this intense praise, is the design of the large lap bars which fold across and in from the side and can often come down a little too high for comfort on some riders, meaning that the effects of the return of the clunky airtime to the list have the potential to be delivered directly to the lungs. Marvellous.
Finally it gets exciting. There’s an actual, proper layout to be had here, following on from a punchy LSM launch out of the station (a welcome change for sure). Freischütz is an entirely different beast that’s packed full of tight inversions and intense turns that totally take your breath away for completely independent reasons to the above. It’s so efficiently spaced that the same LSM launch is also used as the brake run, allowing the train to roll gently back into the station in a far more dignified manner than anything we’ve seen so far today. After an onslaught of ‘one and dones’, I’d happily do this one all day long.
This is a fabulous little design with a similar approach. Single solitary versions (first time we’ve come across those) of the same old X-Car car are propelled along a quick launch track into a fun filled mixture of decent (not clunky) airtime and interesting inversions – exactly what you should be doing with this style of attraction. Following directly on from the misfortune of the first entry in this list, Formule X was an early glimmer of hope for a new Maurer revolution, if only things had continued in this fashion.
Maurer appear to have reached the pinnacle of the design in 2011 with this amazing coaster that stands as the centrepiece of a seemingly undervisited Italian park. Perhaps that’s a factor in why these weren’t destined to live on, there’s just not enough rave reviews about Shock out there, but here’s mine. It’s an eclectic mixture of brutal airtime, crushing positive forces and floaty upside-downness that shows off these cars and lapbars at their absolute best and it always had me skipping back round for more. This attraction is definitive proof that the world needs more of the Launched X-Car – let the Chinese manufacturers have their silly Sky Loops and focus on what matters.