Whizzer (roller coaster)

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The Whizzer as it appeared in 2005, showing its unique lift hill.
Previously known as Willard's Whizzer
Six Flags Great America
Park section Hometown Square
Coordinates 42°22′06″N 87°56′08″W / 42.368199°N 87.935659°W / 42.368199; -87.935659Coordinates: 42°22′06″N 87°56′08″W / 42.368199°N 87.935659°W / 42.368199; -87.935659
Status Operating
Opening date 1976 (1976)
California's Great America
Coordinates 37°23′46″N 121°58′29″W / 37.396057°N 121.974689°W / 37.396057; -121.974689
Status Removed
Opening date 1976 (1976)
Closing date 1988 (1988)
Replaced by Gold Striker
General statistics
Type Steel
Manufacturer Anton Schwarzkopf
Designer Werner Stengel
Model Speed Racer / Extended Jumbo Jet
Track layout Terrain
Lift/launch system Trains are powered by a hotrail
Height 70 ft (21 m)
Drop 64 ft (20 m)
Length 3,100 ft (940 m)
Speed 42 mph (68 km/h)
Inversions 0
Duration 2:00
Max vertical angle 35°
Capacity 810 riders per hour
G-force 3.0
Height restriction 36 in (91 cm)
Trains 3 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 1 across in 6 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Flash Pass Available
Whizzer at RCDB
Pictures of Whizzer at RCDB

Whizzer is an Anton Schwarzkopf Speedracer roller coaster located at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. It was one of two identical roller coasters built for the Marriott Corporation for each of their “Great America” parks at their debut in 1976, with an identical version of the Whizzer at California's Great America. Marriott continued to operate both parks until selling them in 1984. Manufactured by Anton Schwarzkopf of Germany, the two rides were the last “Speedracer” models ever built. The California Whizzer was dismantled in 1988 while the Illinois Whizzer remains in operation, as one of only two Speedracers still in existence worldwide (the other operating as Broca (formerly known as Zambezi Zinger) at Parque Nacional Del Café in Montenegro, Colombia).


From the start, both Whizzers suffered from problems with the braking system that would sometimes allow the trains to collide in the station. Unfortunately, no immediate solution was put forth to remedy this problem. In one four-year period, from 1976 to 1979, there were at least 11 recorded instances of station collisions on the California's Great America version, resulting in an unknown number of injuries. There were also two station collisions on the Six Flags Great America ride - both of which occurred less than a month apart in 1976. A total of 31 riders were injured in the Gurnee collisions. Then on March 29, 1980, a 13-year-old boy was killed and eight others injured when two trains collided at the station on the Santa Clara Whizzer.[1][2] Following the accident, both rides underwent several changes. Seatbelts were added, the braking system was modified and the number of trains that could be run at once was reduced from five to three. Willard’s name was also dropped, leaving the ride’s name as simply "Whizzer." Marriott never reported the potential safety hazard to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which led to a 1981 civil penalty amounting to $70,000.[3]

Gurnee Whizzer[edit]

Six Flags Great America's Whizzer celebrated 40 years on May 29, 2016. It continues to thrill riders of all ages, and Park President Hank Salemi has assured guests and coaster enthusiasts alike that the ride will continue to thrill guests at the park for years to come. However, that hasn’t always been the case. In August 2002, fueled by increasing maintenance costs, it was made public that the Whizzer would be removed to make way for a new attraction to open in 2003. The park wanted to give guests the opportunity to ride one of its more popular and nostalgic attractions one last time.[4] Then, the park abruptly reversed their decision to remove the Whizzer and closed Shockwave, a large, seven-inversion steel roller coaster, instead. The park cited overwhelming public outcry as reason for the last-minute change. Superman: Ultimate Flight opened in 2003 on the plot of land formerly occupied by Shockwave.

Santa Clara Whizzer[edit]

After Marriott sold California's Great America to the city of Santa Clara under management of the Kings Entertainment Company, the Whizzer continued to operate until it was subsequently demolished in 1988. A few cement footers still remain, outlining the spot where the ill-fated Whizzer once stood.[5]


The Whizzer has been recognized as an ACE Coaster Landmark and received a plaque on August 10, 2012.[6]

Golden Ticket Awards: Top steel Roller Coasters
Year 2008 2009 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Ranking 45[7] 47[8] 40[9] 44[10] 46[11] 45[12] 46[13] 50[14]


  1. ^ Kaplan, Tracy (June 13, 2015). "Previous accidents at Great America". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  2. ^ Commission Files Complaints Following Fatal Accidents On Amusement Park Rides
  3. ^ Commission Announces Settlement Of Civil Penalty Action Involving Amusement Rides
  4. ^ CoasterGallery.com - Six Flags Great America
  5. ^ GREATAMERICAparks.com - Information
  6. ^ http://www.aceonline.org/CoasterAwards/details.aspx?id=83
  7. ^ "Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 12 (6.2): 36&ndash, 37. September 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  8. ^ "Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 13 (6.2): 32&ndash, 33. September 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  9. ^ "2013 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 17 (6.2): 34&ndash, 35. September 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  10. ^ "2014 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 18 (6.2): 46&ndash, 47. September 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  11. ^ "2015 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 19 (6.2): 49&ndash, 50. September 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  12. ^ "2016 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 20 (6.2): 50. September 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  13. ^ "2017 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 21 (6.2): 46. September 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  14. ^ "2018 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 22 (6.2): 45. September 2018. Retrieved September 8, 2013.

External links[edit]