Remembering the Magic: Tomorrowland Speedwayby Jonathan Heigl, contributing writer
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.