5 Coasters That Were Before Their Time

(Source: Theme Park Review)

Have you ever ridden a coaster that felt like it was really trying to do something incredible but just slightly missed the mark, ending in an either painful or pointless (or in the worst cases BOTH) ride experience. But still you can't shake the feeling that with a little tweak here and an adjustment there this ride really could be something absolutely insane, an industry game changer that would inspire new coaster designs for years to come by taking learnings from all of the mistakes previously made by other manufacturers. Inspired by this topic on Coasterforce, I wanted to spend some time today talking about coasters that are largely either poo-pooed, called rough and painful or downright forgotten about purely for the simple fact that they were before their time and that with a few changes to their designs they have the potential to be something great!

And to be clear, these are not all coasters I think are inherently terrible - they just lacked a certain je ne sais quoi in order to be truly magnificent to realise their final form and potential greatness. Some of them are coasters that other manufacturers have gone on to master and some are coasters that I believe still have some adjustments needed to be perfected. Here we go. 

The early-to-mid 2000s were all about the launch and coaster manufacturers were battling to see who would be crown king of the full-throttle alternative to the boring lift-hill. When it opened in 2001, Hypersonic XLC at Kings Dominion was the second fastest launch coaster in the US after Superman The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain launching riders at speeds of 80mph in just 1.8s, making it the far more intense of the two coasters. Infamously the ride was plagued with issues and experienced extended periods of downtime as manufacturer S&S tinkered and tampered with their Thrust Air 2000 prototype to try and get it operating as intended. The coaster used a compressed air system to launch riders, meaning parks would be able to take advantage of smaller footprints to cater for such an intense, high-speed launch ride compared to LIM/LSM launch systems which require much longer launch platforms. Sadly, after many modifications to try and rectify the ride's issues, the coaster ceased operation at the end of the 2007 season/ 

Despite operating a successful version of the Thrust Air 2000 which opened in the same year at Fuji Q (and is still one of my favourite coaster launches I've ever experienced, RIP Dodonpa), we would not see another of these coaster types from S&S and it would in fact be Intamin who would reign supreme in the world of launch coasters. Although S&S would go on to create more successful compressed air launch coasters such as the awesome Extreme Rusher at Happy Valley Beijing, the concept of a compressed air launch system has never really taken off in the coaster world and although nothing like the chaos of Hypersonic XLC, these coasters are infamous for experiencing periods of downtime do to their launch systems. In the following years after the debut of Hypersonic XLC, Intamin would be the manufacturer to nail the 'perfect' launch coaster that used a hydraulic system to deliver gut-punching accelaration and cheek-wobbling speeds and have since become synonymous with their record-breaking launch coasters - of the top ten fastest coasters as listed by RCDB Intamin hold six spots. 

Taking their second spot on this list and another prototype to wreak havoc when it came to reliability, X2 was the world's first 4D coaster which debuted at Six Flags Magic Mountain in 2002. In fairness, the coaster was actually an Arrow Dynamics prototype (designed by RMC legend Alan Schilke!) that S&S ended up inheriting as part of the bankrupty deal taking place around the same time as the coaster opening. Anybody who has ridden X2 can attest to the pure insanity that is this coaster. Reaching speeds of almost 80mph and with drops of over 200ft, the coaster aims to provide a high-octane and relentlessly intense coaster experience. However there's a reason there's only three of these coasters in the world, the other two being Eejanaika at Fuji Q Highland and Dinoconda at China Dinosaur Park. Although thrilling, they're absolutely brutal to ride, with guests often complaining of neck pain and headaches brought on by the sheer force of the coaster. 

(Source: Coaster Studios)

This is a coaster type I don't believe we've seen the last of yet. For the most part, the 4D coasters are good - they're very fun during the parts where you're not flailing around like a ragdoll and accidentally giving yourself a black eye. Although many would argue the brutality is part of the fun, no coaster manufacturer wants to purposely design an attraction that is painful for riders to experience. With the S&S Axis prototype as well as the smaller 4D Free Spin models, it seems to me that S&S are still at that drawing board trying to finesse this innovative and thrilling coaster type until they have something that has all of the intensity and madness of X2 without the headaches and visits to First Aid. 

Although they appear to have had some success with the launched X-Car with the likes of Shock at Rainbow MagicLand and Formule X at Drievliet, it seems to be a different story for the 'vertical' version of the coaster. Opening in 2005, G-Force at Drayton Manor was a completely weird and unique coaster type, with its inverted lift-hill and cramped spaghetti bowl layout the coaster certainly added something different to the UK coaster line-up and continued Drayton Manor's trend of installing quirky takes on classic ride types in order to stand out from the crowd. But the coaster wasn't without its issues - being the first X-Car coaster it was plagued with issues and often experienced extended periods of downtime, resulting with the coaster being SBNO for the entirety of the 2019 season before being removed. The coaster was also unreasonably uncomfortable, leading many to determine it unrideable and it quickly became the butt of many 'worst coaster in the UK' type jokes. 

(Source: CoasterForce)

I'll never discredit a coaster manufacturer for being innovative and trying something new and the X-Car certainly did that. Since 2005 we've seen the type come on leaps and bounds, particularly with the launched model as well as exploring some extended layouts and different elements including the world's first non-inverting loop. Only eight of this coaster type were built and only one of the vertical variety remains operational at Dream City in Iraq. As much as I'd love to see the X-Car developed further, one does have to wonder what the point of an X-Car coaster is? The inverted lift hill was certainly an interesting element but arguably an uncomfortable one and given the popularity of the Maurer Sohne SkyLoop coasters and even the Premier Rides Sky Rocket coasters the sensation of vertically tipping back on yourself isn't as unique as it once was. I'd love to see a manufacturer finesse a coaster like G-Force into something comfortable yet still forceful but honestly I don't see much of a reason for doing so nowadays. 

Before Taron stole every European enthusiast's heart and Taiga put Finland back on the map, there was iSpeed. Although not the first Intamin Blitz coaster, iSpeed was the first of its type in Europe to really look to put that iconic Intamin launch coaster to the test to see what it could really do. Opening in 2009, two years after Maverick made waves across the pond at Cedar Point, iSpeed at Mirabilandia in Italy combined the iconic launch-plus-top hat of mid-2000s Intamin with a high-speed, snappy layout including fast-paced transitions and inversions. Yet somehow this European iteration of what had been a smash-hit overseas at America's Roller Coast didn't make half-as much of an impact. Despite not being a terrible coaster by any stretch, because iSpeed combined the classic Intamin launch elements with a longer layout, the impact of the launch and tophat was long forgetten by the time riders rolled into the break run as opposed to ended the ride with adrenaline coursing through our veins. While the launch + top hat worked splendidly with a hydraulic launch, the LSM iteration felt a little lacklustre. Essentially it's a bit of a Frankenstein of a coaster that does a lot of things well as opposed to doing one or two things excellently. 

(Source: Coaster Studios)

Fast-forward to modern day and Intamin have really nailed the Blitz coaster concept. We now get these huge yet compact layouts that provide plenty of snappy transitions, near miss elements and obscene airtime moments as we've seen with Taron, Taiga and Steel Dolphin. Looking forward it seems Intamin are giving the top hat another go in their Blitz layout designs as with the currently under construction Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, although it's shaped slightly differently to what we're used to -presumable to cater for the speedier/snappier nature of the modern Blitz coaster. Intamin Blitz coasters are some of my favourite in the world and I adore launch coasters and intense ejector airtime generally, so I'll be very intrigued to see how Pantheon rides - could be a contender for new favourite coaster!

Cheating slightly with this one and going for a type as opposed to a specific coaster, but hopefully it'll make sense once I've elaborated a little. Manufactured by Zamperla, the first Volare coaster opened at Elitch Gardens in 2002, incidentally the same year the first B&M flying coaster Air opened at Alton Towers. The late 90s/early 00s were booming in terms of flying coaster development with the humble Zamperla Volare design offering a more compact and lower cost version of the gimmick which allowed smaller parks with lower budgets to cash in on the craze too. Despite their horrific reputation, Zamperla have eight of these hideous things operating globally with another currently under construction in Malaysia. Although interesting and innovative, the Volare is chaotic to ride and often leaves riders feeling rattles and bruised - fun for all the wrong reasons one might say. 

(Source: CoasterForce)

It's interesting to me that flying coasters in general haven't really gotten to an outstanding point design-wise twenty-odd years later. The Vekoma offering are all but gone and the last B&M iteration opened four years ago at Universal Studios Japan with an intense, custom layout that is still criticised by enthusiasts for being too intense. Personally I don't think manufacturers who make giant coasters like B&M can truly perfect the flying coaster - it's never going to be a comfortable position to ride in and adding dollops of force on top of that is just headache inducing. Enter Vekoma. You may be aware that for what feels like the past century, Vekoma have been developing the mysterious F.L.Y. coaster for Phantasialand's new land Rookburgh. Not only have Vekoma developed a seating position that swivels sideways onto the track allowing for a more dignified entrance, the coaster will also be launched! Given the leaps and bounds Vekoma have come on in recent years with their impeccable new wave designs, F.L.Y. may very well see the flying coaster design finally perfected after over two decades of attempts. 

Hindsight is a funny thing and it's always interesting to look back and see how far we've come in terms of coaster design, what trends came and went and which went on to inspire some of the world's best thrill rides. I wonder which coasters debuting now will lead to our favourites in the future and which will end up just being a phase. 


What coaster do you think was before its time? Are there any coaster types out there currently you think we'll see develop and flourish into something awesome in the future? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,


  1. I feel almost Mauer Sohne coasters were built before they were supposed too. Outside of the Spinning Coasters, I find many of them (G-Force, X Coaster, Rip Ride Rockit) to have terrible transitions and horrible trains.

  2. The old Vekoma Flying Dutchmans have an oft-overlooked feature; originally the trains were supposed to be loaded AND exit the station upright, and when mating with the lift hill's chain - which happened to be at the exact same angle as the seats in their upright loading position - the seats would start ascending the lift without any tilting felt by the riders. But it never worked and parks simply had the trains assume the position in the station, which at least looked cool.