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.

403 Responses to “Zipper”

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    John - June 16th, 2020 at 4:33 am

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    Emily - July 5th, 2020 at 4:54 pm

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    Finn - October 9th, 2020 at 3:11 am

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