Manufacturer: Anton Schwartzkopf
Model Type: Speedracer
Track Length: 3/4 of a mile (or approximately 3900 feet)
All Time Maximum Capacity: 1,969 an hour
Numbers of Trains: Six
Cars per Train: Three
Maximum Speed: 41 mph
Maximum Height: 56 feet
Duration: 2 mins, 30 seconds
Zambezi Zinger opened on May 26, 1973, as one of the park's original fifteen rides, and as one of its three original roller coasters. Zambezi Zinger, or Zinger as it is most commonly referred to as, was built by the engineering firm of Anton Schwartzkopf of West Germany, a leading coaster design firm at the time. Anton Schwarzkopf had been building steel portable coasters since the 1960's, typically built for the portable European Fair Circuit. One of these portable and compact coasters, a Schwartzkopf Wildcat, also opened with the park in 1973 and was known as Schussboomer. By the 1970's Schwartzkopf had diversified into the custom coaster realm, and one of his first custom coaster lines was referred to as the "Speedracer", of which the first of the four Speedracers was installed at Six Flags over Texas in 1971 and named Big Bend. Over the following five years, three more Speedracer coasters would follow, Zambezi Zinger in 1973, and the two identical Willard's Whizzer (or just Whizzer) at the Marriott Great America parks in 1976. Today, only the now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee Il. Whizzer still operates in the United States of the four.
Speedracer coasters were built just a few short years before the first looping coasters, with Magic Mountain's Revolution, also a Schwartzkopf ride, opening in 1976 as the first modern looping coaster. Instead of looping, speedracers were built for speed, and no ride on the Zinger is more remembered than its flight through the trees and its famous high-speed turn. The high-speed turn on Zinger was so popular and so well engineered that it and its speedy, high lateral g-force inducing experience found its way onto many later Schwartzkopf coasters too.
Of course, the Zinger was complete with numerous features that made its experience unforgettable. A ride began in the station which is still in the park, today serving as the entrance to Dinosaur's Alive. In 1973, the queue rails were tight and compact, and unlike coasters of today, there were no loading gates. Riders boarded one of Zingers three cars, where riders found no seatbelts or lap bars, and riders didn't sit side by side either. The Zinger cars were configured in a bobsled-style that left you sitting in the lap of the guest behind you. It made for many great memories of rides with parents, and later boyfriends and girlfriends. (Whizzer at Six Flags Great America has since installed seat belts in its cars, but still operates the same bobsled-style cars)
The next stop was the lift hill, and as many will recall Zinger's lift hill was about as different from any other coaster in Worlds of Fun history as possible. Instead of a straight incline up, Zinger was modeled after Schwartzkopf's earlier, portable, Jet Star 2 and incorporated a corkscrew, or spiral lift. The ride up the lift was quiet too, lacking the sound provided by a traditional chain lift, and anti-rollback system. Instead, Schwartzkopf incorporated an electric lift motor in each train itself and installed a power strip along the ride's spiral lift. Still just as safe, it, like its unusual lift itself, became trademarks of these early Schwartzkopf coasters, and are easily spotted by even the average onlooker.
Much of Schwartzkopf's fame, and ingeniously designed rides, including possibly Zinger, can be attributed to his famous structural engineer, Werner Stengel who began his career in roller coaster design with Schwartzkopf in 1964. Though there is almost no way to know for sure, it's possible that it was Werner Stengel who designed Zinger. Stengel's hand has certainly been shown on some of the greatest steel coasters ever designed, including many coasters by a famous Swiss firm, Bolliger & Mabillard (Batman, Raptor, even Patriot), as well as many Intamin thrill machines (Millennium Force, Superman; Ride of Steel), and its even believed several Gerstauler creations too, of which Spinning Dragons at Worlds of Fun is one of their more recent creations.
Often asked what ride is the most missed at Worlds of Fun, Zinger almost unquestionably comes up, and it's without a single question as to why. Zinger was well loved by its riders and its patrons, no trip to the park was complete without one if not several rides. Guests loved it for a multitude of reasons, it was a great ride because of seating arrangements no less to ride with a child or a significant other. It was speedy and fast, and dashed through the trees providing a thrill, but offered a ride that could be ridden over and over again without becoming dull, making it a great ride for a first ride, just as easily as a great ride to ride over and over again. It was simply... fun.
In fact, that word "fun" could be applied to almost every Schwartzkopf coaster ever built, all of his rides were similar in that they were simple, in many cases portable, but packed a big punch in a small package. Sadly, today we live in a world with very few Schwartzkopf rides. Schwartzkopf rides like many other roller coaster engineering firms of that time are being removed at a rather alarming rate not only for bigger, "better" and faster rides but also simply because of what shows up on the balance sheet. Schwartzkopf produced many great rides, but for his greatness in his rides, he lacked such greatness in financial matters. His company, Schwartzkopf Industries declared bankruptcy on a number of occasions, with the final bankruptcy leading to Schwartzkopf's retirement in 1995. Without a parent company replacement parts for his rides became "too expensive" for several parks across the country, including Worlds of Fun. However, a few parks hung onto their Schwartzkopf rides, realizing that their value to their guests was far higher than the cost of a ball bearing, or wheel would ever be. Of these, several Six Flags parks still operate Schwartzkopf coasters, including the previously mentioned Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Il. (Whizzer), but also Six Flags over Georgia (Mind Bender), Six Flag over Texas (Shock Wave) and Six Flags Magic Mountain (Revolution). Indiana Beach still operates their Jet Star 2 Tigrr' Coaster. Last but not least is Lagoon in Salt Lake City which walks away with the win operating a total of three Schwartzkopf coasters (Jet Star 2, Colossus and Puff).
But what happened to Zinger? Zinger like most everyone will tell you nowadays does still operate as Montana Rusa in Parque Nacional Del Cafe in Montenegro Columbia. But that's only half the story, the whole story of how it got there is far more interesting. The decision to remove Zinger towards the end of the 1997 season had already been made, though the park had not announced its removal, those who knew, knew to tell people who loved it to ride it. We (Jeff) was allowed to even go out and photograph it right after the season ended, just prior to its removal. The ride and trains itself were left to sit out alone in Parking Lot C for a short period before it was picked up by the ride broker it was sold to. See, Worlds of Fun didn't sell the ride to the park in Columbia, a ride broker did, in much the same way as a used car is sold. In fact, we have been told by many of the permanent park staff at the time believed Zinger would never operate again. It came as a surprise then when we were told that it was sold, to a coffee grower in Columbia for his new park, and in 2003 when we ran into a member of management at the IAAPA trade show from the park, who explained the popularity of their "new" ride, to no surprise to any of us. It's bittersweet that a ride that was never intended to operate again refused to die, and instead is living on again and still continues to operate to this day in a park in South America.
One park not knowing the value of what it had before it was gone, another park understanding its value, and giving the ride a new life.