Remembering the Magic: Tomorrowland Speedway

by Jonathan Heigl, contributing writer
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This month's article is on the Tomorrowland Speedway. Let's take a joy ride through the attraction's history at Walt Disney World. Sit back and enjoy the trip as we remember the magic of the Tomorrowland Speedway!

Grand Prix Raceway (October 1, 1971 – September 26, 1996)

Grand Prix Raceway was one of the original attractions to open with Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. It was themed to look like an international car race, not just a futuristic interstate highway like Autopia at Disneyland. Multiple lanes (with engine guides) were side by side, making it seem as if the riders were racing each other. The attraction featured Mark VII vehicles, which had a 9-horsepower gasoline engines that could reach 7.5 miles per hour and seat two riders.

Goodyear had sponsored the PeopleMover in Disneyland, and had been asked to sponsor the attraction in Walt Disney World as well. Although Goodyear was interested, since the Walt Disney World version would not open until 1975 and would not use rubber tires, Goodyear determined that sponsoring the PeopleMover would not be a good fit. The Grand Prix Raceway, however, was a perfect showcase for Goodyear tires, so it became the sponsor for the attraction.

In 1973, the track was slightly expanded.

The roadway was shortened in 1987 (to 4/10 of a mile) in order to make room for Mickey’s Birthdayland (later named Mickey’s Starland, Mickey’s ToonTown Fair, and now, Storybook Circus), which opened a year later.

Tomorrowland Speedway (September 27, 1996 – December 18, 1999)

Tomorrowland started undergoing an enormous makeover in 1994. During this time, the Grand Prix Raceway received some minor changes, such as a changing of the theming and overlays to match that of the New Tomorrowland. Other than the theming, there were no track or vehicle changes for the raceway.

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway (December 19, 1999 – 2008)

In 1999, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would sponsor the attraction and change the theme of the track. Added were the Yard of Bricks, the Scoring Pylon, Gasoline Alley, and the wheel and wing logo. There were no other changes to the track or vehicles.

Tomorrowland Speedway (2008–Present)

Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped its sponsorship of the attraction in 2008. Shortly thereafter, the word “Indy” was removed from the name, renaming the attraction back to Tomorrowland Speedway.

Only the Scoring Pylon remains today. The original design of the vehicles (minus the spoiler) are still used, although with a new paint job or two. The track is 2,260 feet long. There are about 140 cars in the fleet, but not all are used at the same time.

Jonathan's verdict – revert, update, leave alone, or re-imagine?

For my verdict on the Tomorrowland Speedway, I would have to say update it.

Surprisingly, I think this is a great attraction for all ages. The little ones can enjoy pretending to be an adult and drive a car, while the adults can have fun playing the game of not touching the engine guide for the entire length of track, which can be trickier than it sounds.

Due to what I believe the spirit of Tomorrowland is, I would update this attraction to be a bit more futuristic. First, I would redo the theme of the track and get new cars. Instead of gasoline-powered cars, maybe a solar or electric car would be more futuristic. The track could be themed to have different environments, like a desert area, forest area, and so on. This ride could even be re-imagined to be a track on Mars, where the vehicles are changed to look like the Mars rovers. As long as there is a facelift to the theme and the vehicles to be a bit more futuristic (heck, I’d take modern), then it would at least fit the theme and spirit of the land more. What do you think?

Thanks for reading! We have just a few more attractions to go before finishing off Tomorrowland.

Comments

  1. By Buckimion

    I wish I had a nickle for every rumor I heard that it would be re-themed to Cars...

  2. By jg32268

    I totally agree that the cars need to be updated to be more environmentally friendly. Too many times I had to hold my breath while walking by the attraction so as to NOT inhale the exhaust fumes. It's the 21st century and they're still using gas power engines in Tomorrowland. Solar power or electric cars are needed. If they want to make the cars futuristic, make the cars look like the Jetson cars with clear domes on the top and opening on both sides, otherwise the hot sun would turn the riders into baked potatoes. I also like the theme ideas which this attraction needs.

  3. By danyoung

    Thanks for the look back. I was intrigued by your use of the term "engine guides". While I've heard them called guides before, I've never heard the term engine guides. Did this come from somewhere? Thanks.

  4. By jheigl

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Thanks for the look back. I was intrigued by your use of the term "engine guides". While I've heard them called guides before, I've never heard the term engine guides. Did this come from somewhere? Thanks.

    This term is just what my brain put together -- a while back (years ago) I was reading about the attraction somewhere and I remembered ready about the guides, but I also THINK I remember reading that the guides were attached up to the engine or something like that, so I've just always thought of them as engine guides...just one of those things that come together in your mind when you try to picture something and it has just always stuck with me! Perhaps not the best choice of words, because the more I think of it, I doubt the guides are attached to the engine, although possible.

  5. By nickjandrews

    Well I remember that when I was in the College Program in 92, they told us the plan was to drive all of the cars around back and down into the utilidors in case of hurricane threat, along with hoisting the top off of the castle with a crane. But that has to my knowledge never actually occurred. I had a girlfriend that worked that attraction and she hated always smelling like gas or exhaust fumes, having to shower after every shift! But since she was a redhead, I never complained...

    The most recent change, which is horrible, is a ridiculously-strong spring on the gas pedal, making it impossible for even an adult to keep the gas pressed down continuously. There is no way for a child to depress the pedal at all, at least in the car I was in on the last trip a few months back.

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