This month we will look back on the history of Test Track. This area started out as a completely different type of ride and has evolved to one of the must-do's at Epcot for many people. Although many people love the current version, the previous life of this area was also a popular place. Let's take a road trip back in time as we explore the history of Test Track, starting from the beginning when it was known as World of Motion.
World of Motion (October 1, 1982 – January 2, 1996)
World of Motion was an original EPCOT Center attraction, opening on the first day of operation for EPCOT Center. The ride was focused on the history of transportation and occupied a 79,400 square foot building. World of Motion was a dark Omnimover (continuously moving, similar to Spaceship Earth and Haunted Mansion) ride that lasted about 15 minutes. There was a somewhat comical tone to the ride's narration and scenes to make it appeal to a broader audience. The ride included 30 scenes and the most Audio-Animatronics—188—in all of Future World.
The ride began by guests boarding a ride vehicle that accommodated four to six. As the vehicles came into the boarding area, they started to incline and would eventually exit the building, going above the entrance, and then back into the building onto the second level. During this time, guests could hear the theme song for the ride, "It's Fun to be Free."
As the vehicles enter the show area, the tunnel gets dark and guests could see illuminating footsteps on the walls and ceiling, signifying foot power as the first means of motion. Slightly further into the scene are cavemen-like animatronic figures seen fanning and blowing on their feet, which are red, as a jocular way of showing that they were using them too much.
The next scene is the "launch of the first safe highway—water." An Egyptian boy is seen floating on a raft in a papyrus swamp with a Nile crocodile coming up to the raft. Against the dark background of the scene are projections of different types of "ancient" boats, such as canoes, Viking ships, and rafts.
In the next scene, the narrator says, "On land, animals give us our new freedom." The scene shows animatronic riders on animatronic animals such as an ox, elephants, zebras, ostrich, and camels. The scene has an African setting.
The next scene is a "revolutionary turn of events." The wheel is invented. There are animatronic figures standing in front of a sultan or authority figure of some sort twirling prototypes of different shaped wheels, such as a triangle, pentagon, and square. The authority figure is shaking his head "no" and pointing at them. Behind the scene is another figure rolling a wheel, with another sultan or king nodding his head "yes." The next room shows projections of wheels spinning over the dark walls and ceiling with screens on the wall showing an archer in a chariot pulled by a horse, a Greek chariot, and a Chinese rickshaw. There is a Roman "used chariot lot" and a woman who bought a Centaur.
The next room shows a projection of an old world map with ships blowing off the edge of the map (and falling down to the floor). Next to that is a sailor on his ship looking through a telescope, with a large, happy-looking sea serpent looking into the other end.
In the next scene, the model for the Mona Lisa is sitting impatiently in a chair while Leonardo Da Vinci is working on a flying contraption. In the next scene, there is a man in the basket of a hot air balloon with a few farm animals (chickens, goats, and pigs) who is caught in a clothesline.
The very next scene is stagecoach powered by steam on a road, but a bull has his head down in front of the car and is holding it in place, not allowing it to go forward. After, we see a donkey sitting down and being stubborn as a man is trying to pull him forward onto a paddle wheel boat as it is getting ready to pull away.
After this scene, we go to the American West, where there are settlers with wagons. These covered wagons have arrows sticking in them, as animated Native Americans on horses are projected onto a screen behind them shooting arrows at the wagons. In the very next scene, the narrator says, "Another kind of horse arrives—a steam-powered iron horse, bringing fast, dependable, safe travel to the new frontier." This is in reference to a steam-powered train, which is stopped on the tracks by bandits. The conductor is outside of the train with his arms in the air as he is being held up by one of the bandits. Some other bandits have held up another train operator on that train and are making him lower a safe and are trying to shoot the lock off.
The next scene is "the peaceful countryside." This shows a man standing on top of a wooden fence with his penny-farthing (old-fashioned bicycle with a huge front wheel and small rear wheel) against it and a dog at the back. The man is kicking his foot, as if to hold off and scare away the dog. Another man is in a mud pit with pigs after crashing his bicycle, and a woman looks down at him. On the back wall is a large screen with animated projections of all different types of bicycles and unicycles. Next to the screen is a man on a unicycle, as well as a woman standing next to her bike, and a man blowing up a bike tire.
In the next scene, we get into the times of the "horseless carriage." The first scene is a mechanic in a garage working on a very old-looking early-model automobile. Another man is lowering the canopy on his automobile. Another screen shows black-and-white films of automobiles driving on streets. As we get more into the scene, we experience the "world's first traffic jam" where a horse-drawn cart carrying chickens has crashed. This caused a traffic jam with a red automobile, an ice truck, and a double-decker bus. People in the automobiles are yelling, chickens are clucking, and a man—with produce on his head and chickens behind him—pops his head out of a manhole.
The next scene is about the Sunday drive. People are seen having a picnic in the country. The screen behind them shows animated biplanes and joyriders in cars. A police officer on a motorcycle is seen hiding behind the billboard. A little further in, \we see a family who drove out to an airshow. There's another screen with animated projections, but the screen is black with white airplanes projected onto it. There's a pilot and a lady standing outside of his biplane. Passing through the end of the scene is a "freeway" of sorts. There are a few cars from different eras. One says "Just Married." Behind these cars are projections of footage from their era.
As we enter the final scene, we enter a speed tunnel, or time warp. This is a full wraparound projection of various fast-moving scenes to make us feel as if we are speeding through, with wind blowing in our faces. Some of the different scenes shown include country roads (like we are speeding down it), speeding through a swamp while on an airboat, and going down the track on a bobsled. After this is a room with futuristic lighted roads and highways. Some of the roads are going high in the air around tall skyscrapers. We start descending back down to the exit of the pavilion. As we approach the unloading area, we see ourselves in a futuristic car in a reflection (similar to the hitchhikers effect in Haunted Mansion).
At the exit was General Motors' TransCenter, where cars were on display. In the TransCenter, there were:
- The Aerotest
- The Bird and the Robot – a vaudeville-style show
- Water Engine Theater – an animated film on the different types of engines
- Dreamers Workshop – futuristic vehicles and concept vehicles
- Concept 2000 – about the concepts of the interiors of the future
- Concept to Reality – current model showroom
- GM Information Center – where a live person answered questions
World of Motion closed on January 2, 1996, to make way for a special new project that would add some much needed thrill to Epcot. The interior of the pavilion was gutted and rebuilt, with much of the exterior of the pavilion remaining, with some work done to allow for the new ride experience.
Test Track presented by GM (March 17, 1999 – April 15, 2012)
Test Track was scheduled to open in May 1997, but numerous problems slowed the opening down. The reimagined pavilion opened in dress rehearsal form (soft opened) on December, 19, 1998, opening officially on March 17, 1999. This newly reimagined pavilion was sponsored by General Motors. The ride reached a top speed of 65 miles per hour and lasted about 4 minutes.
The premise of Test Track was something completely different from World of Motion. Rather than being about the history of transportation, Test Track was an "auto proving grounds." This was a high-speed, high-thrill ride, which was needed in Epcot at the time.
The queue wound through the front of the pavilion, with various crash test dummies, impact tests, and other mechanical tests being simulated throughout the queue. As the riders reached the front of the queue, they were lined up in front of one of three rooms, where they would watch a brief pre-show video that set the story for the ride. After the pre-show, they would exit the room and go through another short queue, eventually boarding the cars. Each ride vehicle had two rows, each of which would fit three riders. The cars were "slot cars"—there was a slot cut into the middle of the track with the cars being connected into that slot so they could not leave the track. All throughout the ride, you could see barriers, cones, and other things typical of road construction or test facilities.
The ride began by pulling the riders on a slightly inclined left turn to the seat belt-checking station. Once seatbelts were verified as secured, the cars would take off to start their test run.
The first test was the accelerated hill climb, where cars was sent up a steep hill while gaining speed. Upon reaching the top, the cars would make a quick right and then would be sent down the hill for the rough road test. During this test, the suspension was tested on all different types of roads, including Belgian block and German block.
The next test was the brake test. Here, the car showed you the effects of braking. The car would speed up very quickly, and then slam on it to show the difference between braking with and without an anti-locking braking system. Next, the cars went into the Environmental Chambers, where they were tested against the harshest of environmental factors:
- The Heat Chamber – a bunch of heat lamps would light up and project heat onto the car. It was clearly felt by the riders.
- The Cold Chamber – the car was subject to the cold environment and the "vents" had visible air blowing out (like you would see if you breathed outside in a cold climate).
- The Corrosion Chamber – robotic arms would spray "corrosive liquid" onto the cars and the mist could be felt by the riders.
The next test was Ride and Handling. This test was themed to be like a highway where the car would go on a slight incline throughout the test, rounding curves and increasing speed throughout. Near the end of this test, a large semi truck would come out from a dark room towards the riders as a scare effect.
After this was the Barrier Test. In this area, there was a TV screen that briefly showed the riders "what to expect" with this test; accelerating and crashing into a wall. However, as the car sped up and towards the wall, at the last second, the wall would open, sending the riders down a steep down grade and onto the speedway.The speedway raced riders, increasing speed as it went, down a straight track followed by a right bank, then followed by a long left bank, and out onto another short straight track where it would pick up the speed until it reached 65 miles per hour and then maintain that speed through a wide left bank where the car almost goes completely on it's side. Near the very end of the bank the car would slow down into a straight track and then slowly down another slope which was the Thermal Imaging test where it would show thermal images of the riders. The car would slowly make another left turn, then a slight right back into the unload station.
After riders exited the unload area, they would go down a few stairs where they could see their photos on the screen. Past that area was the former TransCenter, which was used more as a showroom for current model cars, a couple concept cars, and a gift shop.
After more than 10 years, GM decided that it wanted to bring the ride into the future and end its sponsorship as the whole brand. Instead, Chevrolet (a brand under GM) was to be the sponsor, and the pavilion would be updated to bring it into the future and promote the Chevrolet brand. The pavilion closed on April 15, 2012, to undergo an eight-month refurbishment.
Test Track presented by Chevrolet [also known as Test Track 2.0] (December 6, 2012 – Present)
Let me start off this section by saying I do not want to go into too much detail, as the ride is still fairly new, and I do not want to spoil it for others who have not yet ridden the updated ride.
Test Track had a grand re-opening on December 6, 2012. Now, it has an updated design for the logo, new colors, a completely new interactive queue, a new interior look and an interactive ride element where riders can build their own virtual test cars before experiencing the ride. Riders are given a card, similar to a hotel keycard, that they would use to store their created ride vehicle and then scan that card as they were about to enter their ride vehicle. Throughout the ride, each rider's cars are given ratings on each of the tests the ride vehicle goes through. So as to not spoil the ride, I will not go into any more detail.
My verdict – revert, update, leave alone, or re-imagine?
My verdict on this attraction, to me, is very simple. While I like the idea of having a high thrill ride in Epcot, and while I truly did enjoy both versions of Test Track, I would prefer a revert to World of Motion. To me, World of Motion embodies what Walt Disney World, and Epcot, are all about. Something the entire family can experience together, have fun on, and even laugh a few times at the jokes or funny lines by the narrator, all while providing educational value. Don't get me wrong, I am not outraged that it was closed and re-imagined as a thrill ride. World of Motion was getting dated and was getting to be in rough shape; it was having a hard time operating fully all the time without breaking down. In fact, the ceremonial last ride broke down and GM executives had to exit the ride vehicles and walk through the rest of the ride to the exit.
What are your thoughts on the re-imagined Test Track? Or what is your verdict? Discuss in the comments! Thanks for reading!