Speedway, Sr.

Opened: 1960
Closed: 2000
Track Length: ~ ¼ mile
Original Cost: $100,000

ORIGINAL CARS, 1960-1968
Manufactured By: Streifthau Manufacturing Company – Middletown, Ohio
Model: Streco Turnpike Cruiser
Cost: $1,600 each
Ride Capacity: 2 riders per car
Max Speed: 7 miles per hour
Engine: Kohler K-Series

REPLACEMENT CARS, 1969-2000
Manufactured By: Arrow Development – Mountain View, California
Model: Sports Car
Ride Capacity:  2 riders per car
Max Speed: 7.5 miles per hour
Engine: Kohler 7-horsepower, pull-start

Four years after the children’s Speedway ride opened as part of Lagoon’s Mother Gooseland, a larger version was built south of Roller Coaster that the whole family could enjoy. Many parks at the time were banking on the popularity of Disneyland’s Autopia that opened in 1955. When Lagoon announced the opening of their Speedway in 1960, the newspaper ads left no doubt they were following the trend as well.

Detail from a 1960 newspaper ad.

Just like Autopia at Disneyland, Lagoon’s Speedway started out with no center guide rail. Instead, there were bumpers along both sides of the road and cars with bumpers that wrapped all the way around the vehicle. And just like at Disneyland, the original cars wore out fairly quickly.

Local Boy Scouts drive Lagoon Speedway cars through downtown Salt Lake City in the annual Days Of ’47 Parade in 1960. Photo: Lagoon

One major difference was that Lagoon’s Speedway cars were from Streifthau – a small Ohio manufacturer. The Streco Turnpike Cruiser was their best-selling product and the owner, Edgar, and his wife, Nellie, often delivered them personally. Each car cost $1,600 – “nearly the price of a good used family car,” according to park manager Robert Freed in a 1963 interview.

The Speedway, circa 1960. Notice that the road travels under the bridge twice which was changed to just once in later years. Photo: Lagoon

After nine seasons of bumps and crashes, Lagoon replaced these cars with new models by Arrow Development (the company responsible for many of Disneyland’s early rides, including Autopia). The Arrow cars straddled a guide rail to minimize wear on the vehicles.

Barbara Allgood, general manager Ranch S. Kimball & Nancy Maxfield in 1969 when new cars from Arrow Development arrived. Photo: Deseret News

At the front of the ride was a scaled down service station. Similar to the smaller Speedway in Mother Gooseland, the station featured American Oil Company signage. The signs were changed out when the actual company’s name and logo changed.

American Oil Company logos used on signage for the Speedway service station.

The line for the ride formed along the outside of the track, north of the service station. After waiting in the queue, riders would stand on one of several large, yellow dots painted along the loading platform. As the rider or riders on the first dot got in their car, those next in line would move up to the next dot.

Drivers waiting for a Speedway car, circa 1991. Photo courtesy of Lagoon

Once they were belted in and given clearance to go ahead, riders began heading down a long stretch of track going west. Just before reaching an overpass, the road curved to the north toward the Roller Coaster. The road circled around behind the Flying Jets (or Lagoon Music Theatre, depending on the year¹) and went south toward the overpass.

Speedway cars lined up and waiting for drivers, circa 1991. Photo courtesy of Lagoon

The road made another 180-degree turn while traveling under the overpass and then traveled parallel to the parking lot and proceeded toward the Roller Coaster again. After turning back to the south, the path steadily ascended uphill and crossed the overpass as it went around a large curve.

1970 aerial image from the Utah Geological Survey.
This mid-1970s photo of the Lagoon Show Band shows a bit of the last part of the ride where it curved around the station near the Midway. Photo: Gary Thomas Ogden

From there the road went back downhill toward the east, passing a large, wooden cut-out traffic cop urging drivers to slow down. After circling around the service station, riders exited the vehicles and a ride operator moved the car forward for the next driver.

Speedway car returning to the station in 2000. Photo: J. Miskin

The cars had a single pedal accelerator and brake – just push down to accelerate and let go to stop. Some cars had the steering wheel on the left like American drivers are used to, but some had the steering wheel on the right side.

Lagoon manager Robert Freed in a Speedway car, date unknown.

The ride was originally named the Speedway or Lagoon Speedway. In 1969, a sign was placed in front of the ride calling it the “New Sportscar Speedway”. Eventually, the ride officially became known as Speedway, Sr. to distinguish between the smaller Speedway, Jr. in Mother Gooseland. During the annual Frightmares events beginning in 1995, Speedway, Sr. was converted into the Utah Troll Road and the ride operators would dress up in costumes and scare passing motorists.

Although the ride was popular, it had an unfortunate reputation for having a slow-moving line. As one guests remembers it…

“One of the reasons the ride was so slow was due to the fact that there were usually slower drivers ahead of you. This meant you had to try to wait for the car to get ahead a good distance so you could accelerate to some real speed. But this was tricky as the Speedway included monitors who would yell at you if you were holding up traffic.”

“Causing someone a case of whiplash was a reason to get you a good tongue-lashing and even kicked off the ride for the rest of the day.”

-George A.

The constant upkeep of vehicles was another drawback. Typically, oil changes for the engines used were suggested for every 25 hours of use by the manufacturer. With cars running from morning till night, that would mean oil changes about every two days in the summer. Fuel prices were climbing higher during the ride’s later years, too.

Sadly, Speedway, Sr. closed at the end of the 2000 season – the same season in which an upcharge go-kart complex named Double Thunder Raceway was built on the north end.

Remains of the overpass after visible from the parking lot after Cliffhanger was built in 2001. Photo: B. Miskin

The service station, guide rail and conrete paths were torn out and most of the cars were sold off or scrapped. Cliffhanger opened in 2001 where the eastern portion of the ride was located and two years later, The Spider opened in the western portion two years later. Even though the concrete roadway was torn out, the curving pathway that remained behind Lagoon Music Theatre was still used by company vehicles until 2018 when work began on the Biergarten.

Now, the only vestige of the ride is a hill south of The Spider which was part of the overpass. Speedway, Sr. remains one of the most fondly remembered attractions, along with the likes of the Fun House, Pioneer Village Railroad and others.

The hill in front of The Spider that was once part of the Speedway’s overpass. Photo: B. Miskin

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NOTES

1. The Flying Jets (now known as the Flying Aces) were located just south of the Roller Coaster station from 1956 until the early ’80s. The Lagoon Music Theatre was built in its place in 1982.

SOURCES

1st-Run Films, Resort Events Mark Holiday. Deseret News, 27 May 1960.

Lagoon newspaper ad. Deseret News, 28 May 1960.

Lagoon Chief Cites Improvements, Predicts ‘Most Promising Season’. Deseret News, 6 Apr 1963.

New Rides For Lagoon. Deseret News, 1 Apr 1969.

Arrow Development catalog, 1977.

We’ve Been Around. Arrow Dynamics, 1986

Kohler Engines Owner’s Manual – Models K91, K161 & K181. Revised July 1997.

Fowler, Scott E. Images Of America: Fantasy Farm Amusement Park. Arcadia Publishing, 2014.

Three Decades of Arrow’s Cars. ArrowDevelopment.blogspot.com, 27 Feb 2017.

Utah Troll Road. Lagoon Is Fun Wiki, updated 14 Sep 2018.

Current Preservation Projects – Streifthau Turnpike Car. Southwest Ohio Amusement Park Historical Society, accessed 22 Feb 2019.

Streifthau. Southwest Ohio Amusement Park Historical Society, accessed 22 Feb 2019.

Sports Car Speedway. Email to the author from George A. 19 Mar 2005.

Speedway. Emails to the author from Mike. March 2018.

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