LOS ANGELES -- Six Flags Magic Mountain in nearby Valencia operates the world's longest hybrid coaster, the world's first 360-degree vertical loop and the West Coast's tallest pendulum ride.
So when the executives at the self-described roller coaster capital of the world were looking for a new kind of thrill to offer adrenaline-junkie fans, they turned to the uber-customizer behind the MTV series "Pimp My Ride" and tapped into the growing demand by amusement park fans for a new experience with each ride.
West Coast Racers, Six Flags' new twin-track coaster that opened last week, was designed with the help of Ryan Friedlinghaus, the mastermind behind "Pimp My Ride" and the follow-up series "Street Customs," two shows about the art of high-end car customization.
The new coaster features vehicles that were designed and painted by Friedlinghaus to look like custom sports cars. The entrance to the ride, part of an overhauled 4.5-acre land called the Underground, also resembles Friedlinghaus' auto shop, West Coast Customs in Burbank. Passholders, park members and members of the media will get to preview the coaster until Jan. 9, when the ride opens to the general public.
"It's different, fun and never been done," Friedlinghaus said of his partnership with the manufacturer of the coaster, Baltimore-based Premier Rides.
Although Friedlinghaus' roller coaster is unique, it reflects the push by theme park designers to give riders a new experience during each ride, prompting fans to return more than once.
The latest example is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disneyland, which has varied outcomes with riders in control of the iconic "Star Wars" spaceship. At Knott's Berry Farm, an interactive attraction called VR Showdown in Ghost Town lets users rack up points by destroying an invading robot horde.
Work is underway to complete a new land at Universal Studios Hollywood based on popular Nintendo video games that is sure to include a few interactive features. An opening date has not been announced.
Martin Lewison, a business professor at New York's Farmingdale State College and a roller coaster aficionado, said that dual-track coasters date to the 1920s but that many theme parks don't always make the extra effort to launch the two vehicles at the exact same time.
An amusement park in the Netherlands called Efteling opened a popular dual-track racing coaster in 2010, Lewison said. At the end of the ride, a banner falls over one of the tracks, signaling the winner of the race.