The Superloops premiered in the early 1970s, manufactured by Larson International who at this time had only produced tractors and other agricultural machinery from their establishment in 1965. Superloops was invented by Walter House (also Gravitron) and his prototype unit travelled North America with Century 21 Shows for many years before being sold to an Australian showmen.
The loop’s 20 person train shuttles back and forth around the inside of the loop, attached to an inertia ring - a circular 360° conveyor-belt locked into a track. This inertia ring is powered by the friction of hydraulic motors in the ride’s base, providing it with both clockwise and counter-clockwise movements at the discretion of the ride operator who sits in a steel frame immediately beside the track.
The Superloops is truly unique in its design, with no other ride coming close to its easily recognisable 23-metre (55 ft) steel ring construction. Perhaps the most intriguing element of this ride is the ingenious fold-up design that is not only capable of fitting onto a single trailer, but also self-assembling; via 2 large hydraulic rams at the loop’s base, each third of the loop folds out while the upper portions, in turn, hinge upward eventually connecting at the top-centre. (the fastening of the top of the ring is a very precarious process, as viewed below) Support cables are then anchored into place for lateral support to the free-standing steel ring. The ride can be set up with only two men in as little as 2-3 hours.
With great draw card value and dominant circular construction it easily catches attention of passers-by while also polluting the midway with its distinct loud clattering as the train rockets around the inside of the loop; further adding to its unique appeal.
Larson has gone on to produce 2 generations of House’s original Superloops design:
The Ring of Fire premiered in the late 1980s sporting computer programmed turbo lights around the ring, which now illuminated 360° under the base, with a re-designed inertia-ring to minimise noise and maintenance.
In 1998 Fireball premiered with a modernised train (over-the-shoulder restraints) and roofless passenger train.
To date there have been approximately 100 Superloop-type units constructed worldwide, a number in Europe manufactured by Vekoma and at least 1 unit manufactured in Australia by CAMAC both under license from Larson.
In recent times the Superloops and its later generations have become less common with the abundance of higher-capacity double vehicle Kamikazes which have proven easier to assemble and maintain also with single trailer portability and perhaps a more modern appeal to today’s generation of carnival goers. Nevertheless, the sight and sound of a 55 foot Superloops / Ring of Fire / Fireball on the horizon of any carnival is something that will always hold an excitement of its own.