The third variation of Anton Schwarzkopf's innovative speedracer roller coaster design made its debut as the two Willard's Whizzer roller coasters at the two Marriott's GREAT AMERICA parks in 1976. The first of this type was the Big Bend at Six Flags Over Texas. The second was the Zambezi Zinger at Kansas city's Worlds of Fun. The Schwarzkopf speedracers featured unique spiral lifts. The trains had on-board motors that drove them to the top of the spiral. From the top of the spiral, gravity powered the trains through the rest of the course.
Willard's Whizzer's hills and ground-hugging curves gave riders a heightened impression of speed. Lacking inversions, the coaster has been a favorite of families. Many children grew up with Willard's Whizzer being their very first "big" roller coaster ride. Passengers rode tandem, so a small child could ride feeling comfortably protected in the arms of a parent. To the surprise of many riders, the trains had no lap bars or even seat belts. The forces of the ride were designed to keep well-behaved riders in their seats according to the laws of physics. Eventually seat belts were added as a safety precaution.
Willard's Whizzer was named in honor of J. Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott Corporation. Following a tragic fatal accident in the loading station of the Santa Clara ride, the coaster was renamed at both parks as simply the Whizzer. The unfortunate Santa Clara Whizzer was later dismantled. The Gurnee Whizzer continues to delight park visitors to this day.
- Hometown Square
- Final operating season:
- Santa clara: 1988;
Gurnee: still operating