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The Autopia on Sunday, September 5
It was Monday, September 6, 1999. Tens of thousands of people flocked to Disneyland Park for the ceremonial final weekend of Summer. It was Labor Day, the final day to experience the park before some attractions, shops, restaurants, and more get closed for refurbishment.
The biggest "refurbishment" in the park this time around will be for the Autopia. It is an attraction with a long and varied history in several forms, being at the park in some form since opening day, when various celebrities got behind the wheel. Now, one of the last vestiges of the 1960's "World on the Move" Tomorrowland will be overhauled.
The Mark VII model cars debuted in 1967. Just think about that - six other models were used from 1955 to 1967, and just this one version of Autopia car has been used in all of the time since.
In a world where new attractions can be budgeted in the nine figure range and feature state-of-the-art technology for ride systems & special effects, the Disneyland Autopia has remained popular even as a simple, no frills attraction featuring individually driven (though track-guided) cars with gas-powered internal combustion engines.
After years of changes, the Disneyland Autopia system gradually settled into two intertwined versions, both featuring the same model of cars. The Fantasyland Autopia's entrance was opposite the Matterhorn Bobsleds entrance, while the entrance for the Tomorrowland version was located between the Submarine Voyage and the Tomorrowland Disneyland Railroad station.
The Fantasyland Autopia has been closed for quite some time, and in recent years had only opened when Tomorrowland's version was closed. The 1998 renovation of Tomorrowland left the Tomorrowland Autopia almost completely untouched - there was new signage and paint applied to the simple waiting area.
Now, the two Autopias will be reworked and turned into a single two-sided attraction, with the entrance at the Tomorrowland side. There will be new sights and sounds, new, longer roadways, a new waiting area, and several models of new vehicles. That's right - while the Mark VII cars had variety in color only, the new Autopia will feature a variety of body styles.
This is all being made possible by Chevron, the new sponsor. It has been a long time since the Disneyland Autopia has had a sponsor, but Chevron has stepped up to the plate. As a result, the new version will be more whimsical, though it will stop short of placing riders in those popular animated cars seen in the Chevron television commercials. They will probably show up, though, as part of the "show".