The Zipper first made its wicked presence in Kansas in 1968 invented by Joseph Brown of Chance Mfg USA. Since this time more than 200 rides have been built - distributed all over the world, making it one of the most mass-produced modern-day rides of all time.
This ride is the standard measuring stick to which all other “scary” rides are measured - if your body can handle two and a half minutes on the Zipper you can handle any other ride on a carnival midway (with possible exception of its cousin - Turbo). The ride is lean, mean - and very rarely clean: the firmly padded, inner-carriage cushioning has its fair share of wipe-downs.
The Zipper is a great ride to watch - 19 tonnes of modestly decorated, well-welded steel. Minimal attempt has been made to modernise the ride over its 37 years of operation - the basic structural blue-prints remain the same. The Zipper isn’t out to impress its audience with any warm and fuzzy themes - just untamed, mechanical chaos in its purest form.
Zipper’s 12 passenger cages are all about practicality. Just large enough to encase two human bodies side by side - not for the weak-hearted or claustrophobic! No body-hugging safety restraints either, just a lap bar attached to the door, and some rungs to tightly hold on to (if you don’t your head will collide with the grab-bars in front of you!)
Each cage rotates freely on an off-centre axis, while the cages (connected to a cable) move around the main boom at 4 rpm. Furthermore, the whole boom rotates on its own axis at 7 rpm. This creates a completely chaotic ride pattern - flipping riders with maximum white-knuckle force. Definitely not something to take your grandma on!
The Zipper is a ride which is either loved and appreciated in all its mechanical glory - or despised as an evil machine of terror. You decide.
No carnival is complete without a Zipper - no ride even slightly resembles it; it’s truly unique and will always hold a space in any carnival of the future. While it’s not fun for the whole family, it never fails to hold appeal to a strong minority of adrenaline-junkie regular riders.
|Number of cars||12|
|Maximum number of passengers per seat||2 adults or 3 children|
|Maximum passenger weight per seat||153kg (340lbs)|
|Maximum total passenger weight||1,836kg (4,080 lbs)|
|Minimum passenger height (unaccompanied)||122cm (4 feet)|
|Recommended ride duration||2 min.|
|Maximum ride duration||2.5 min.|
|Main Boom speed||7.5 RPM|
|Cable speed||4 RPM|
|Maximum ride weight (EMPTY)||43,000 lbs (19,350kg)|
|Maximum height||56ft (16.80m)|
|Ride width||17.1 m / 57 ft|
|Ride depth||16.2 m / 54 ft|
In 1968, Joey Madriaga was fortunate to work on the 2nd Zipper ever made by Chance, belonging to West Coast Shows and offers this fascinating insight:
- 3 Zipper’s were already ordered by West Coast Shows, while the first one was 60 days from being completed
- The ride sold for a price of $32,000 in 1968. Nowadays, a new Zipper will set you back around USD$1 million.
- The original speed on the first Zipper’s boom was 11rpm. (FAST) and the cable speed 7 rpm. These speeds are just under TWICE as fast as it operates now. At this speed, the operator could make the cars spin constantly - up to 8 times between the edges of the boom.
- With operating speeds nearly double today’s, owners were paying ever-increasing insurance premiums with common cases of whiplash, back-aches and heart attack. Subsequently, Harold Chance had the speeds revised to today’s slower RPM.