The Coaster Wars have been a large presence in the coaster industry for years. Coaster companies have continued to build taller and faster rides, from Arrow Dynamics to Intamin... even Togo had gotten in on the action. So how did this mess of records holders begin?
Cedar Point had Arrow Dynamics design Magnum XL-200, the first coaster in history to break the 200 ft height barrier. And to make certain it was broken, Cedar Point asked Arrow to make it 205 feet tall as opposed to just 200. It was designed by Ron Toomer, and ran the 5,100 foot course in speeds of over 70 mph. The world was in awe... that is, until taller, faster coasters arose. The next record breaker that followed was another Arrow Dynamics creation, Steel Phantom at Kennywood. It reached speeds of up to 80 mph thanks to a 228 foot drop into a ravine. It even had inversions... a vertical loop, a boomerang and a corkscrew that swooped over the brake run. The coaster held the record for fastest speed for 5 years after it's opening in 1991. The coaster wars were really starting to pick up steam.
Arrow continued onward with two more 200 foot coasters; Pepsi Max Big One opened in May of 1994 at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the UK. It had a height of 213 feet (advertised as 235 feet as the height above sea level) and went around 75 mph throughout its 5,500 foot course. The other coaster, Desperado at Buffalo Bill's Resort & Casino, also opened in May 1994. It had a drop of 225 feet into a tunnel, which set its speed at 80 mph as it sped through 5,840 feet of yellow track. However, these proved to be Arrow's final say on the matter, as they constructed no more coasters that beat these heights and speeds. However, Togo, a well known ride manufacturer in Japan, unveiled a monster in 1996. Fujiyama at Fuji-Q Highland (near Mt. Fuji, of course) not only took the height record with its 260 foot lift hill, but also stole the speed record with a speed of 81 mph. It would hold the height record for 4 years, but would only hold the speed record for 6 months before Intamin constructed Tower of Terror at Dream World in Australia, and Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain, who both tied each other with a top speed of 100 mph. (In terms of complete circuits, however, the speed record would still be held for 4 years as well)
The height record, however, was a completely different story. Intamin returned at the dawn of the millennium to create none other than Millennium Force at Cedar Point. The world's first giga coaster topped out at 310 feet and sped through 6,700 ft of blue track at 93 mph. And despite only holding the height and speed records for 3 months, it was still ground-breaking in the coaster industry for its introduction of a new classification of coaster height. The coaster that stole MF's fame, however, was located in Japan just as Fujiyama was. It was Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagishima Spa Land, constructed just in time for Asia's Year of the Dragon. Morgan created this tower of steel with Steve Okamoto, and gave it a height of 318 feet, a length of 8,133 feet (another record) and a speed of 95 mph. The Coaster Wars were starting to get into full swing.
The speed record was broken with Dodonpa at Fuji-Q Highland, with 107 mph a year later. But it was several years until Intamin returned with another ground-breaking coaster... and where else to construct it than the same park that received the previous one. Cedar Point acquired another record breaker, Top Thrill Dragster, in 2003. This "stratacoaster" pretty much destroyed both records with its height of 420 feet and speed of 120 mph. Naturally it was easily seen from anywhere in the park. It held those records for 2 years, until Intamin constructed a similar coaster, Kingda Ka, at Six Flags Great Adventure. The second stratacoaster, it topped out at 456 feet and launched at 128 mph... it even featured a large hill as part of its break run. The coaster wars were still pushing along... or so everyone thought. Kingda Ka continues to hold those records to this day...
The Coaster Wars began to slow down after Kingda Ka, and with good reason. How far can coaster companies really push the limits before they end up nearly killing people with whiplash speeds? In terms of safety and maintenance, as well as other factors, the Coaster Wars seem to have run out of steam. There's really nothing else that can be done with heights and speeds... but coaster companies can be clever, and for all we know they could have a 500 ft coaster up their sleeves. However, one thing remains certain... the Coaster Wars will be remembered as something that greatly influenced the coaster industry, but they will never be as truly intense as they once were.