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IMAX® Film TOP SPEED at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center


(photos from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center)

If you love high-speed action, you’ve just got to see TOP SPEED – a new IMAX® film now playing in the giant dome of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center at San Diego’s Balboa Park. You don’t even need to be a fan of fast cars to enjoy it.

I found out about the film thanks to my membership in the San Diego Region of the Porsche Club of America. We were all invited to a private screening. I’m very glad I went.

Stills from the IMAX® film TOP SPEED

Hosted by Tim Allen – racecar driver and a popular star of the television show Home Improvement, TOP SPEED artfully blends several different adrenaline-pumping modes of speed, including automobile racing, sprinting, mountain bike racing and extreme off-road vehicle driving. The musical score by Mozart was uplifting and the visual impact of being in the IMAX® dome made the experience especially realistic. Before the film began we were cautioned to simply close our eyes if the sensation of speed was too intense. That is good advice. Thankfully, except during a precipitous roller coaster drop I didn’t come close to needing to close my eyes.

In one mode of speed we were introduced to Marion Jones, a world-renowned track and field sensation with the nickname of “the fastest woman in the world.” Among her other career accomplishments she won three gold and two bronze medals in the 2000 Olympics. Not satisfied with resting on her well-deserved laurels, Marion is in training for the 2004 Olympics. She takes obvious pride in being a source of inspiration and motivation to kids. It was especially interesting to watch and listen as Marion analyzed key elements of her winning sprinting form: the Response -- when the starting gun is fired, the Drive and the Transition to an upright stance on the way to the finish line. Top speed: 23 MPH!

Stills from the IMAX® film TOP SPEED

Marla Streb is a world-class mountain biker. It was breathtaking to watch her bound down rutted, rock-strewn trails – especially alongside bikers many years her junior. One summer I once rented a mountain bike to ride (at my own, leisurely pace) down a trail at a San Bernardino ski resort. Let me tell you, when you’re pointing down a dirt and gravel-covered, winding path, and you get going even a little bit too fast, it can quickly become a terrifying, truly dangerous experience. It’s not like you can just hit the brakes and stop whenever you want. When you’re bounding over rocks and getting airborne you don’t slow down. If anything you continue to speed up. Autocrossing my car is a piece of cake compared to mountain biking. At least in a car you have the reassurance of significant protection against getting hurt. It is hard to believe that Marla was a research biologist who worked on finding a cure for AIDS at Scripps Institute. Watching her cycle down an icy bobsled run was unbelievable. She earned my respect. Top speed: 67 MPH!

At another notch up on the speedometer, in 2002 Lucas Luhr won the 24-hours of Le Mans in the GT class. If you like fast cars as I do you’ll love the IMAX® experience of being along for a wild ride on the track. Porsche fans will especially enjoy this special treat – that is if the enthusiastic whooping and hollering of the assembled members of the San Diego Region of the Porsche Club of America was any indication. Tim Allen was really in his element here. Top speed: 203 MPH! Now that’s exciting!

Stills from the IMAX® film TOP SPEED

Add in a smattering of other examples of speed, such as the aforementioned roller coaster ride and an in-depth look at the new Porsche Cayenne SUV, and its clear there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. Host Tim Allen adds a light-hearted tone to the whole experience. To see these and other still photos from the film, go to

One word of advice: unless you want to get quite a bit of exercise do not do what I did and try to get to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center from the west side of Balboa Park. The main roadway heading east ends at a pedestrian mall. I had to turn south and ended up parking quite far away from where I needed to be. So, what you should do is enter from the east via Park Blvd. Go about two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo and you’ll find several convenient parking lots to choose from.

ExploraZone at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (photo from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center)

Also, the next time I go there I will need to make a point of getting to the theater early enough to spend some time enjoying the rest of the Science Center too. I got there just in time for the film but missed the five exhibit galleries and DEEP SEA: The Motion Simulator Ride. Don’t make the same mistake. You can find out much more, as well as see these and other pictures of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center at We are very lucky to have a truly world class, interactive science center nearby.

Kids experiencing the Bernoulli Effect at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (photo from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center)

Trust me on this one. Go and see the MacGillivray Freeman film TOP SPEED at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. For show times call (619) 238-1233 or visit the Science Center online at (not .com). I want to experience TOP SPEED again!

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright © 2004, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #89r2 AutoMatters

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