Gould Manufacturing at center of reemergence of auto rides

AT: David Fake

Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada — Gould Manufacturing, a manufacturer of auto rides for amusement parks, was started by Peter Gould in 1965. The company featured the Antique Auto Ride. The ride utilized a center guide rail that still allows a bit of freedom to actually drive and maneuver the otherwise fully functioning, two-thirds size replicas of 1911 Ford Model Ts. The ride with its two or four-person options enjoyed immense popularity in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, but in the 2000s, several parks began removing their auto rides to make way for bigger, more thrilling, or more currently themed attractions. Soon after their removal, however, a very unexpected phenomenon occurred that has many of these parks bringing back the auto ride.  

Peter Loewen, president-manager, at Gould told AT, “[The parks] soon realized they had patrons returning to the parks that now had families of their own and were looking to share nostalgic moments with their children that they had shared with their parents.” It was the Antique Auto Ride, in particular, that these patrons were missing. Parks such as Valleyfair in Minnesota brought back its Antique Auto Ride in 2014, and Kings Island in Ohio did the same earlier this year. Loewen said, “When Kings Island opened the new Kings Mills Antique Autos with brand new vehicles from Gould, a new location was chosen because it was experiencing significantly less traffic. Now that same area is known as a bottleneck in the park thanks to the popularity of the ride.” Loewen added that Santa’s Village in Illinois even claims that the Antique Auto ride is the most popular attraction in the park.

Loewen hears very similar stories of nostalgic memories each year at the IAAPA Expo, with comments from attendees such as, “That is the first vehicle I ever drove,” or “I remember that was one of the first rides I rode at a park.”

Not long ago, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, approached Gould Manufacturing to replace its aging Arrow automobiles on the Highway 66 ride. The company obliged, which prompted the design of a new sports car model for the park. Gould’s new two-seat Grand Prix model was on display at the IAAPA Expo and will debut next spring on Hersheypark’s Highway 66 Ride. A four-seat Grand Prix model is also in the works.

Since the opening of the company, very little has changed about the Antique Auto Ride, with the exception of the use of newer Honda motors and a slightly narrower body width, which allows for side-by-side shipping in an overseas shipping container. Gould now also offers a two-seat Safari Jeep and the previously mentioned Grand Prix Auto version of the ride. All cars are fully functional, with gasoline or battery-powered motors, and can operate either on a predetermined track or individually as Parade Vehicles. 

Loewen expects the rides resurgence of popularity to continue and said, “The auto ride is here to stay. This ride has become a mainstay for parks. Its nostalgia factor ranks right up there with the carousel and the Ferris wheel.”


This article appears in the JANUARY 2020 issue of Amusement Today.
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