Forty-five years ago this Saturday, the Racer roller coaster opened at Kings Island.
The Racer — really it’s twin racers — has been the focal point of the Coney Mall sector of Kings Island since its debut, and with good reason. More than 103 million guests have taken a ride on the Racer since it opened April 29, 1972 — the most in park history. Its record year was 1976, when a park record 3,681,338 rides were given.
In addition to being considered an important part of the roller coaster renaissance of the 1970’s, the Racer was the site of several world-record riding attempts and is notable for its appearance in the “Cincinnati Kids” episode of The Brady Bunch, filmed at the park in 1973. On May 28, 1982, one side of the Racer became the world’s first full-length, backwards traveling roller coaster (both sides now face forward).
Kings Island officials coaxed designer John Allen out of semi-retirement for the task of designing and building the Racer. He started to design the ride’s blueprints in 1969. Actual construction began in September, 1970. The first trial run came in September, 1971. It worked perfectly the first time as Allen predicted it would.
The Racer was the first roller coaster built structurally on the ground with prefabricated sections lifted into position and bolted. It was one of the largest roller coasters ever built at the time, and the largest that Allen had built. He considered the Racer to be the finest roller coaster he ever built.
There’s more than 600,000 board feet of lumber in the ride. Nobody knows how many nails. The construction crew started with 6,000 tons of nails which lasted only 60 days.
In addition to the Racer, the Eiffel Tower, Woodstock Express roller coaster and Kings Island and Miami Valley Railroad also turn 45 on Saturday.