In this week’s edition of Flashback Friday, we’ll talk about Magnum XL-200, the world’s first hypercoaster, and how it started a race between amusement parks to build the tallest and fastest roller coasters.

After the The Racer opened at Kings Island, roller coaster design was back in full swing. Wooden roller coasters took riders on thrilling out-and-back adventures, while steel roller coasters began to live up to their full potential as manufacturers began twisting the tubular track into shapes never seen before. The latest trend in the industry was the looping coaster, and parks competed to introduce rides with the most inversions. 1976 saw the opening of Corkscrew at Cedar Point, the first roller coaster to feature three inversions.

Image © Cedar Fair

In 1986, Dick Kinzel became president of Cedar Fair. Seeing that it had been ten years since Cedar Point had last added a new coaster, he began to look into potential candidates for the park’s next major addition. Kinzel enjoyed rides like Corkscrew, but he complained about the uncomfortable over-the-shoulder restraints necessary for looping coasters. While on a vacation to Florida in 1988, Kinzel was intrigued by a CNN news report about a new coaster called Bandit opening in Japan. Bandit was an anomaly of its age, in that it had no inversions but held to a fast-paced out-and-back layout like a wooden coaster.

Inspired by Bandit’s height and speed, Kinzel resolved to have something similar built at Cedar Point. He introduced his plan at the park’s next committee meeting and the group requested ride proposals from four manufacturers. In the end, they decided to work with Arrow Dynamics, an innovative manufacturer who had previously worked with the park to design Corkscrew, Gemini, and Iron Dragon.

Arrow’s proposal was for a coaster 187 feet tall, which would break the previous height record by 17 feet. But that wasn’t enough of an accomplishment for an amusement park like Cedar Point. One of the board members inquired how much it would cost to break 200 feet, and the price difference was low enough that the park decided to go with a taller version. The ride was given the name Magnum XL-200 to commemorate its sheer height.

From lift to brake run, Magnum was designed for thrill. The ride’s first hill towered 205 feet over Cedar Point, while its drop plummeted at a stunning 60 degrees. Rather than burning off speed with tight inversions as was common at that time, the coaster featured steep hills designed especially for airtime. Enthusiasts held their breath with excitement as the coaster slowly took form. After construction drew to a close, Dick Kinzel joined other Cedar Point officials for a ride after only one test lap. He knew that Magnum would be like nothing anyone had ever seen before.

On May 5, 1989, Magnum XL-200 premiered at Cedar Point as the world’s tallest, fastest, and steepest roller coaster. The park set an attendance record that year as hordes of thrill seekers strove to catch a ride on the world’s first hypercoaster. With the opening of Magnum came the start of a new era known as the Roller Coaster Wars, when amusement parks began vying for the biggest and fastest roller coasters. Magnum emphasized airtime over inversions and led the way for today’s best rides.


Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for next week’s post – we’ll look at the life of a wooden coaster that went too far, too fast.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The trouble with rides that claim world records is that (like an athlete), once you are displaced by someone better, you are yesterday’s news. Magnum is still a pretty good ride but You have to remember that their Mine Ride was once a “record holder” as well, and many complain about how painful both can be today. Unless something like Mantis/Rougaru, Mean Streak/MS2, or some other conversion (Iron Dragon’s VR) is done the record book hype is short lived at best.
    Disney and Universal have never fallen for this advertising ploy, and instead they create immersive experiences that can have seasonal overlays or retheming to keep a ride fresh and patrons wanting more.

    • Interesting point, Steve. I would have to agree that record-breaking hype is short-lived, but I would argue that many rides are held in high esteem by enthusiasts who enjoy the ride for itself. In the end of the day, records might draw people’s attention to a new coaster, but it’s the experience itself that keeps them coming back for more.

      For some aging rides such as the Cedar Creek Mine Ride that you mentioned, few enjoy the coasters, but it’s not due to a lack of records. It’s simply due to the fact that the ride experience is not enjoyable. “Enjoyable” is a relative term, so it’s worth mentioning that a ride that was once considered smooth and fast could lose its excitement as newer, smoother rides are added.

      Other rides, however, are still considered enjoyable even thirty years after they open. Take Magnum, for example. I myself am not a big fan of Magnum, but many enthusiasts and much of the general public see Magnum as an enjoyable ride. Even though it’s not the tallest fastest roller coaster in the world anymore, it’s still fun and it carries a legacy of being the first coaster over 200 feet.

      Back to your original point, I agree that many of today’s rides are smattered with records in an attempt to make the ride sound more exciting than it is, but a coaster that is truly enjoyable will hold its value for generations. What do you think?

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