Melvyn Strand's Miami, manufactured by KMG, 1990Quick Facts

Manufacturer(s): Nottingham UK, Emmett, Fairmatt, Eurofab, FunLight, KMG, Harry Steer
Debut year: 1990
First UK produced: 1992
Last UK produced: current
Total UK number: over 100

Summary: Late arriving ride that has proved to be a classic. Simple, easy to manipulate, and proving to be a shot in the arm for some of the best fairground art to be seen.

The Miami Trip history, in terms of the UK, is important for many reasons, not least since it is a sheer oddity. The ride emerged in Holland as a series of experimental versions based on previous experimental rides that failed to perform as necessary. By the time it had had a short success in its home country the future of the ride type looked bleak. That was until it was introduced into the UK, and became possibly our most manufactured ride for many decades.

The Dutch Beginnings of the Miami

The Scheibenwischer-Welle, or 'windscreen wiper wave', has its origins in Dutch fairground production. It dates back to 1978 and a sequence of smaller manufacturers trying to establish an original ride, struggling in the shadows of the German super-manufacturers.

Chris Van Otterloo consulted with the Apeldoorn company Berends Van Loren to build a novelty ride Draken Whip ('Dragon See-Saw'). This ride worked similar to a Flying Carpet with four arms, offering independent movement from the front and back sections, allowing the platform to buck and rise. A minor success, the machine vanished after a year or so. Attention then switched to build a larger Flying Carpet, or Teppich, with the German company Zierer getting in on the act to establish a popular version. The Dutch, however, had created a version by Jan Bakker (also based in Apeldoorn) called 1001 Nights, using a twin arm and reaching a height of 24 metres. This 1981 machine had many technical problems and is rumoured to have visited only a single fair before being retired. Jan Bakker passed away the following year, but a company called CAH was formed to continue his work and proceeded to build a second 1001 Nights using a single arm construction and acheiving a slightly lower height. This machine performed very well, and formed the basis of Huss's successful Rainbow ride.

Observing from the sidelines was Dutch showman Gerrit Tegelaar, who worked with an idea to build an ultra-compact Teppich ride. The basic shape and size of the Scheibenwischer-Welle was now emerging, though Tegelaar's 1982 built 'Topper' experienced many technical problems. This ride still had the Teppich style seating arrangement, and had a back-flash made of 1000s of metal discs. Crucially the ride was sold the the Kroon family from the North of Holland and had a rebuild that included the forward facing seats that characterised the Scheibenwischer-Welle. This ride was renamed 'Disco Swing' and can be classed as the first Scheibenwischer-Welle or Miami Trip, passing later to the Hank family, then to Portrush Amusement Park, before heading off to Australia.

Isje Kroon built his own 'Tropical Trip' in 1988, and established the KMG company. His design was further improved in the following year with a second ride christened 'Miami Trip', a ride which quickly came to the UK and established the name Miami over here. In Holland production continued with both KMG and the Kroon family producing and redesigning these Scheibenwischer-Welles. Dutch showman Bram Dobbe teamed up with a manufacturer to form the Sluijs/Smalcor company in 1991, enabling another stream of rides to emerge. However, by 1993 the craze seemed to have run its course.

The World's Fair newspaper of 20 October 1989 sees the first attempt to bring the Miami craze over to the UK. J.E.A. Manning and Sons International had carved a niche through the 1980s importing new fairground technologies from USA and the Continent. Interestingly the proposed ride was not given a name, reflecting the diversity of developments that we have seen spread across Europe. Mannings describe their ride as being manufactured by Carminitie from Belgium, with a 16-seater 'La Bamba' shown in the photograph. It would appear that Manning's offer to bring the ride to the UK did not take off, and it would be a full year before the UK Miami scene began in earnest.

The UK Miami Scene Begins

Jim Murray's Spritzer Miami, manufactured by Keith Emmett, Athenry Fair, 2004Steven Hill's KMG Miami, alongside Melvyn Strand's machine, were the first machines in the UK. Hill's machine debuted at Manchester's Picadilly Gardens Christmas Fair in 1990, whilst Strand's machine opened at the SECC before heading for the family's park at Portobello. A Sluijs/Smalcor Miami called 'Limbo Dancer' quickly followed for Albert Evans, but by the following year (1992) production began on UK Miami Trip rides. The next decade would see an absolute invasion onto the fairground of UK built Miami Trips...

Whilst the Dutch Miami scene was stagnated by 1993, the UK scene was setting off in full force. The rides could not be produced quickly enough. Tommy Matthews and Pete Smith marketed a prototype ride as 'Trapeze' with an advertisement in World's Fair, receiving several orders. The rides were produced under the Fairmatt banner, an existing company operated by Tommy Matthews and at the time building a steady succession of Tristar rides.

Pete Smith owned Rutland Fabrications and had been brought up under the wing of prolific ride builder Ivan Bennett. The initial machine was built for Robert Birch, the Tropical Trip and another 8 models followed in the same year. These initial machines utilised a number of different artists and worked with varying themes but provided the groundwork for both the success and the dizzying variety of the Miami ride. Success continued for the company throughout 1993 with the production of the rides split between Long Eaton and Redhill and the production of 2 foreign order Miamis farmed out to ARM.

The company renamed itself Eurofab in 1994 as the allocation of the workloads began to shift in balance, also allowing Tommy Matthews to continue with the Fairmatt name for other fairground projects. Much to the confusion of the many Miami enthusiasts in the UK, the numbering system of the rides remained erratic with some machines not numbered and others continuing the Fairmatt sequence. However, the first machine built completely at Long Eaton was Brinley Gore's 'Mega Motion'. This move towards Long Eaton was an indicator of the future production of the ride. Eurofab continued throughout 1994 and 1995, building approximately 11 rides, including a model to a Swiss operator. The company ceased as Pete and Tommy went their separate ways.

Another manufacturer was also busy on the scene. Keith Emmett began production of Miamis in 1992 and maintained a successful run of production up until 1996. Emmett Miamis are even more difficult to record in their entirety with many destined for Scandinavia and others having a somewhat erratic numbering system. The early Emmett machines featured imaginative artwork, if somewhat crude at times, and so provide an important part of the Miami history. Themes varied between surfing and futurism, even combining the two at times and a benchmark machine was produced with Billy Crow's Spritzer (Mark II) in 1992 which saw the artist Paul Wright introduced to Miamis. Emmett Miamis were produced at an astonishing rate and the machines sold to Scandinavia were often re-imported back to UK and Irish showmen. The company ceased production of the rides towards the end of 1996 to focus on building other rides, however a further 'dangly feet' ride was produced in 1999 for Joey Manning.

Tommy Matthews also dropped away from building Miamis around 1996, after forming FGL in 1995 and building a short run of 5 machines all with a distinctive crest shaped backflash. The only other builder around at this time was Freddy Mattia, who produced a single Miami in 1996 for Irish showman John Mohan.

The continuation of Miamis was thus maintained by Pete Smith and his newly formed Nottingham UK (NUK) company. NUK Miamis kept on coming and coming, as slowly the company garnered a reputation for the best in presentation, not least by utilising the services of Paul Wright as the in-house artist. The designers at NUK re-engineered the ride in 1999 to incorporate 'dangly feet' seating and the next few years were spent maximising the visual effects of the ride with added lights and specialist painted areas. The progressive nature of the company product ensured that many showmen came back for second and third rides, benefiting from the ever-evolving visual appearance.

In 2004 a new import appeared on the scene with Czech company Funlight offering a cheaper option tyre-drive Miami. The take up of these rides has been slow with showmen waiting to see how they perform. In 2005 KMG, the originators of the ride, re-introduced the Miami with added features, not least because of the success of the ride in the UK and the fact that NUK were starting to have an impact on the European scene. Whether these new machines will have an impact on the UK scene, and its passion for home-built Miami rides, remains to be seen.

For images of fairground rides visit our collections online

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