Back Lot Stunt Coaster
Specific Type: Steel, LIM-launched, family, twister
Don't make it first, make it an even bigger success. That could be the motto of Paramount's Kings Dominion, a theme park with a knack for basing their rides on other parks' successes since opening in 1975. Aside from four prototype launched coasters over the years - King Kobra, Flight of Fear, Volcano: the Blast Coaster, and HyperSonic XLC: Xtreme Launch Coaster - the Doswell, Virginia theme park has had a trend going since the beginning of both reintroducing and improving upon the rides that other parks unveil a season or two prior, especially those of sister park Paramount's Kings Island. That inaugural season, the entire park was based on Kings Island, including the Rebel Yell, a slightly larger and altered version of Kings Island's 1972 Racer.
That was followed by Grizzly in 1983, adapted from the defunct Ohio Coney Island's Wildcat; and Shockwave in 1986, based off of Kings Island's original stand-up coaster King Cobra. In 1991, it was Anaconda, inspired by Kings Island's 1987 Vortex, and 1994 saw Hurler tweaking the layout of Kentucky's Thunder Run. Drop Zone Stunt Tower in 2003 used the latest freefall tower design to take
riders higher than all four other Paramount Parks' similar rides, and 2005's Tomb Raider: Firefall replaced the darkness and colored lights of Kings Island's Tomb Raider: the Ride with genuine pyrotechnics and the latest Top Spin model to provide an outdoor show for spectators.
Now comes Italian Job Turbo Coaster, 2006's Kings Dominion adaption of the rides that screamed through Paramount Canada's Wonderland in Ontario and Kings Island for the first time in May 2005 to bring a 2003 big screen hit to the coaster tracks. It may not be as fast, large, or innovative as the park's four previous launched coasters with its family coaster statistics, but it brings a quick-paced, movie-based chase to Virginia as the theme park's whopping fourth launched coaster, and with not one, not two, but three launch sections of its own, Italian Job will also bring the park's coaster launch count up to seven. Never has any other theme park done away with the traditional lift hill the same way that this park has. And launches could be the only fitting form of propulsion for a coaster themed around a movie's chase scene, providing speeds of up to forty miles per hour that are heightened as construction barriers, road signs, and police cars fly past while the coaster lurches through its own miniature city.
Italian Job is being constructed on land originally covered by water when Kings Dominion first opened, but later occupied by 1985'sDiamond Falls splashdown ride and a section of the 1992 water park including four speed slides and a kiddie play section. WhenDiamond Falls was removed at the end of the 2002 season due to high maintenance, the opportunity came for a
future expansion. When the slides left during the 2004 season, and the kiddie area the year after, it was apparent that something was up and on the way for 2006. That something was already up in Kings Mills, Ohio; and Vaughan, Ontario where thrill seekers of all ages received the new coaster duo well, making it a concrete ride in the Paramount chain's future. And not just concrete, but 1,960 feet of steel designed by Premier Rides of Maryland, the company behind the coaster that kicked off Kings Dominion's launched coaster craze ten years before the debut of Italian Job Turbo Coaster.
In 2006, guests entering Kings Dominion may want to head back to Italian Job first thing in the morning to try and get a jump on the crowds. Turning left at the Eiffel Tower and heading to the eastern side of the park into the Congo section, they find the entrance toItalian Job. "A Los Angeles street chase in the middle of the Congo?" visitors may be asking themselves as they pass the African theming en route to the movie set awaiting them. The scenery transforms from tribal Congo ornamentation to an urban cityscape as the ride's entrance becomes visible just beside the coaster's grand finale of a trip through an Italian Job billboard and under the exit bridge. After making their way through the switchbacks of the queue line, park visitors become motorists as they board a waiting trio of three-fourth-scale BMW MINI Cooper S convertible cars and fasten their seatbelts - or rather, lap bars - and prepare to put the pedal to the metal.
The all-clear signal is given, and then the train of blue, red, and white cars takes off straight ahead from the station. The flat, black track speeds past under the wheels as linear induction motors accelerate riders to forty miles an hour straight into the structure of an incomplete parking garage presumably under construction. The MINI Coopers bank heavily to the right and begin a spiraling upward trip through three levels of the parking garage. Racing around the bottom level of the parking garage, the track gradually rises and tightens the radius of the curve as it helices up to twenty-five feet for the second level and then finally to the top level at just over forty-five feet. Riders can peek over the top of the parking garage walls and see Anaconda and the water park off to the side as the triple-helix wraps up after some 850 degrees. Once the banking ends, stunt drivers head straight for a diagonal, thirty-one-foot drop back to ground level.
At the bottom of the drop, fugitive riders find a parked row of police cars waiting to put the joyride to an end, but the MINI Cooper convoy meanders to the left, right, and left to dodge the cars in a fast-paced trick track. Then, riders head up through a maneuver no normal MINI Cooper could ever dream of performing: a fan curve banking at some eighty-eight degrees as it curves to the left in a turnaround and then dives down a gravel bank into a deep ravine. Road signs fly past on the right as the track pulls up into the third climb, then a sign suddenly passes by directly over passengers' heads. At the top of the hill, the track curves slightly to the right and downwards, navigating its way under more signage. The track banks to the left to avoid another sign, only to send passengers down a tunneled flight of stairs leading to the subway. At the bottom of the stairs, the track pulls out and ascends through an L-curve to the left and into the brakes.
Riders prepare to exit at the unloading station, but then, they realize that this ride is far from over. A helicopter rises up and then gunfire erupts. And, of course, there just had to be tanks of explosives surrounding the track. The convoy takes off quickly underneath a raging inferno and into a smoke-filled tunnel leading to the unknown. In pitch black conditions, riders find themselves blindly hurling through a sewer tunnel and plunging through the darkness. Another surprise drop, and then it's around a left-hand turnaround and slowing down as the track rises. Then, with one final burst of speed, the track emerges from the darkness, smashing through the middle of the billboard, and then dives into an aqueduct, under the ride's exit path. Trim brakes slow the train as it completes a small hop and then heads up into a final banked, left-hand U-turn. Finally, the MINI Coopers slow to a stop in the last brake run and move back into the station after two minutes on the run.
In 2006, the park changed ownership as purchased the entire chain of Paramount theme parks. Paramount retained the rights to any names associated with the company's productions and so many rides where stripped of their former names. The Italian Job Stunt Track was one such ride and now thrills riders under the name of Back Lot Stunt Coaster. As well as the re-name, all official MINI Cooper branding was removed resulting in comparatively bland looking ride vehicles. Still, this coaster can thrill and continues to test park patrons to see if they have what it takes to make it in the movies as a stunt driver.
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