Satellite of Trabant
Manufacturer(s): Bennett, Turnagain / ARM, Maxwell, Chance (import)
Debut year: 1965
First UK produced: 1965
Last UK produced: 1983
Total UK number: around 40
Summary: Clever motion of an off-centre counter-rotating base. The ring of seats tilts drastically and then dives and climbs in a seemingly erratic fashion. This ride ushered in the era of advanced lighting techniques, forsaking traditional decor for stunning illumination. The ride became established as a reliable park attraction.
If any ride adopted a variety of names then this was the best example, travelling under the names Satellite, Trabant, Mexican Hat, Razzle Dazzle and Hully Gully. An original American design built by Chance, the ride became popular in Germany and took on the name Trabant, the German for Satellite. Its introduction into the UK paved an important part of our fairground heritage in that it helped to establish the Long Eaton based engineering company set up by Ivan Bennett. The machine was introduced with a full-page advertisement in World's Fair (9/1/65) stating that the Trabant (now to be known as Satellite), would be built by Ivan Bennett under licence from US company Chance. A short legal battle ran with Frank Codona about the production of the initial ride with Frank originally down to receive the first model. Technical details announced that the machine could sit on a single load, be built up by 2 men in 3 hours and had 20 seats and a wooden platform. A similar advertisement in June of that year listed the original list of orders placed including: Eddie Monte, Teddy Morley, Seldon (Rhyl), Botton Brothers (Battersea), S. Crow, Porthcawl Recreations, Martland Brothers (Southport), Margate Dreamland and Reuben Wilson (Great Yarmouth). Frank Codona never received the original ride, but after resolving his dispute with the company would later purchase his own machine, designed with a square front for maximum impact.
By October 1965 Ivan Bennett had secured a feature in the paper giving a potted history of the company and providing a glimpse at some of the key players in the next few decades of fairground engineering, including Pete Smith, who later developed Nottingham UK. The feature showed Ivan standing proudly in front of a Satellite in full flow at Nottingham Goose Fair, whilst his technical crew were photographed in the factory examining the interior of the recently developed full hydraulic Satellite, the UK's first fully hydraulic ride. Ivan Bennett, who began in the textile printing business, proudly proclaims this as the most progressive step ever taken in the ride business.
Bennett built around 24 Satellites, including 1 for Sweden and 1 for Australia, proving the theory that the ride would be a success. At the same time there was some swift changes of ownership and this, combined with the fact that the machines were remarkably similar in appearance, made tracking them an impossible task. The ride was brightly decorated with plastic panels, their interchangeable nature making any ride able to look like any other or totally different from itself in a previous guise. Whereas some rides began to drift on the fringes of the fairground and spend sporadic amounts of time in various parks, others became established on the circuit.
Norman Print took over the Battersea machine and travelled this for 15 years before its sale to Ireland, Billy Crow made successful use of his ex-Porthcawl machine before this went over to Ireland, whilst S. Crow's 1965 Satellite spent 10 years in the north east before time with Michael Wallis, who fitted hoods onto the cars.
The Oxford based engineering company Turnagain / ARM took up manufacturing of the Trabant at the end of the 1970s, making a slightly more modern ride utilising a chequer-plate finish. The first machine was delivered to Keith James in time for Ilkeston Charter Fair in 1977, the company organising a coach trip from Oxford to celebrate this initial acheivement. Turnagain quickly developed an even more futuristic looking ride by adding a sloping floor and increasing the visual impact through added lighting. Sloped-floor machines were produced for John Manning, Billy Crow (Razzle Dazzle), Arthur Stevens (Hully Gully) and George Traylen (Galaxy). By the early 1980s the ride was starting to appear dated and Turnagain focussed their attention on providing standard machines for a number of Butlins parks.
Scottish company Maxwells also built a single Satellite, this machine having a long chain of owners before spending a long period at Mablethorpe amusement park.
Satellite variations existed in small amounts. The Gyro was a novelty travelled by Kenny Raywood and Claude Margett, with at least one juvenile Gyro also in existence. This juvenile machine was later converted into the 'Turbo' novelty travelled by the Wilmot family. A homemade Astronite was travelled by J. Peters, though this only lasted a short while.
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