There are a few things German's are famous for ... Beer, their inexplicable love for all things David Hasselhoff and of course, the making of amazing coasters and amusement park rides.
It's this last one that RD is taking a look at today and why Zee Germans have such a cult following, some would even say religious fanaticism. Enjoy!!
Opinion ... Written by RD Sussman
As many of my readers & most people on Earth know, I have a certain, well, 'fondness' for German built & designed rides. OK, more than a 'fondness' - more of an absolute devotion to them - more so than any other ride builder. The Germans get it right - first time. They make insane, intense, thirlling rides, and do so with gusto. They push the boundaries of technology, they think outside the box, and they push the envelope further along with each stride forward. German rides WORK - and work hard.
So what its it about these fine products from Deutschland that makes them better than what you have at your local park? I like to think of it this way: If your local park has a German in it, you're lucky. Two in a park? You're blessed. Three in a park? You're actually standing IN GERMANY, most likely at Hansa Park or Europa Park. A few parks in the USA have realized this - some of which have some real whoppers of attractions.
Let's take a look at a few of the major designers that have created absolute German Perfection:
Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GMBH
For the past 25 years, Gerstlauer has been creating new ideas in rides based upon their rich history and legacy as a base for pushing forward. Until the late 90s, they were primarily a shop producing ride electronics for Zierer, Schwarzkopf & other builders, but it was 1998 that brought forth their first coasters - in the form of a new-generation Wild Mouse concept called the Bobsled (or Bobs for short.) 2003 saw them re-think the idea of the compact coaster, and the Eurofighter was born.
Combining a vertical lift, beyond vertical drops & insane geometry & inversions, this concept proved to be a hit - and then led to many offshoots and custom built coasters. The ability to put $10.00 worth of thrills on $2.00 worth of land became a calling card for Gerstlauer, along with superior quality, reliability & efficiency. In 2013, they took the Eurofighter concept one step further, with the Infinity Class - and turned the world upside down again. 14 times. Smiler opened, people arrived, and the world was thrilled.
And now, Gerstlauer takes another leap forward with Karnan - a 218 foot tall monster that pushes the Infinity class to Hypercoaster levels - and beyond. With four Infinity Class coasters built to date, they have made their claim - and taken their stake - as a design house & builder NOT to be missed.
Possibly the most prolific of the German builders, Zierer's roots started out in carnival rides & small carousels, and evolved into their popular (and NUMEROUS) Tivoli coasters. Inexpensive, durable & great for small parks, Zierer's Tivoli coasters became a calling card for a good family ride. Customizable models allowed almost any length, height & speed available, and a monster capacity made them great people-eaters in parks.
Evolution of the Tivoli brought us the Force series of family coasters, which have been thrilling the masses for the past 12 years. 2006 brought their biggest step forward in the coaster market, with the addition of the ESC (Extended Seating Coaster) to the market, and introducing a whole new generation of full-sized coaster to the market. It is this technology combined with LSM power that has fired them to the forefront of family coasting with Verbolten, as well as to their next generation of rides in their Tower Coaster collection. The future is shining bright for Zierer, and with an arsenal ranging from mild to wild, they are here to stay.
By far the oldest ride builder on Earth, MACK has been in the amusement business for 230 years. With such strong roots, it is surprising that their first coaster models did not appear until 1960, with their Meteor family coaster. 1976 brought their most popular model to date, the Blauer Enzian powered coaster series to light, a model that proved a stalwart of many parks around the world. Still popular to this day, the most recent model opened up in Hong Kong at Ocean Park in 2012.
But it was the leap forward with two models that makes them stand out: 1985's Bobsled coaster, and 1996's Wild Mouse designs. The Bobsled was not a sales success - with only 10 opened over the past 30 years, but it was a show-stopper of a ride: A ride that allowed you to experience controlled bobsledding - but without the frigid temps required to do so. An excellent family coaster, these rides still stand in a handful of parks, with one at Kings Dominion operating as it has since 1988. The other big development of the era was the Wild Mouse coaster, which premiered at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 1988. These compact coasters allowed parks the flexibility of an E ticket ride, in very little space. Customizable, creative & fun, these coasters have sprung up all over the world, and continue to prove that bigger is not always better.
Their latest leap in technology launches them to the top of the list for parks wanting a quality ride: The Blue Fire series. These top-shelf coasters feature unpredictable direction changes, high-speed launches, multiple inversions, amazing layouts & very high capacity in a ride package that packs a punch. MACK isn't just building rides - they're building tomorrow's rides today.
Schwarzkopf- (You REALLY didn't think I'd leave out Schwarzkopf, did you???)
When we look at coaster technology, it all started with Anton. While Bacon, Morgan & Gurr started the tubular steel era, it was Anton who took it to the next level - and WELL beyond. It was a creative vision that gave us the roots from which every single modern coaster comes from, it was Anton's fussiness & obsessive passion for perfection that gave us modern track geometry & design.
Schwarzkopf's initial Wildcat series of coasters gave way to the JetStar series, then later the Jumbo Jet series, and onto the SpeedRacer series of coasters. It was the SpeedRacer that was taken one step further starting in 1972, into a world we could not have imagined at the time. Working with Reinhold Spieldiener, Schwarzkopf threw the world for a loop - a modern, successful loop - starting in 1976. The LoopingRacer gave birth to the HeartlineLooping/Doppellooping series, as well as the LaunchingRacer shuttle loop. Building compact rides that pleased the masses and drew crowds became a hallmark of Schwarzkopf's rides. As the Master worked through the 80s, His designs evolved, and Thriller & OlympiaLooping both made their way onto the world's fairground circuit. Constantly refining & reprofiling designs, Anton blessed us with some of the most intense, insane & thrilling coasters on Earth, ones that to this day draw crowds more than their more recent siblings. Anton's designs stand the test of time. A park with a Schwarzkopf knows they have a reliable, durable & time-tested creation which is a calling card of true German Perfection & quality, and many parks cherish their Schwarzkopf coasters as what they are: A shining diamond in a world of duplicated gems.
Even though Schwarzkopf exited the stage of the theme park world in the early 90s, MACK, Gerstlauer & Zierer have picked up where Anton left off. Gerstlauer itself can be called the Son of Anton, having taken the factory & the patents for Schwarzkopf's technology to create their own new world of amazing rides. MACK is creating insane new rides around their Blue Fire technology, as well as re-thinking the ideas behind compact coasters. Zierer is going forward with family coasters which are standing out as the future. It is this future-forward thought of design combined with German precision, efficiency & durability that makes a German coaster so much better. While other builders have created amazing rides, it is the Germans who have led the world in bringing them to the public more often than anybody else.
And thus, I say with great gusto: "JA! DEUTSCHLAND! JA!"