A look back at Carowinds’ Thunder Road

Posted | Contributed by Amnesiac

From the article:

On May 23, 2015, Carowinds announced the closure of its iconic racing wooden roller coaster, Thunder Road. Originally opened in 1976, Thunder Road has taken nearly 40 million riders on a wild ride across the North Carolina and South Carolina state line, becoming the first roller coaster to accomplish this feat. With the closure of the classic coaster rapidly approaching, we wanted to take a look at Thunder Road’s storied history, and that begins with the history of Carowinds itself.

Read more from Coaster101.com.

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Bobbie1951's avatar

Alan House's comment to the effect that a coaster doesn't have to be the largest or fastest to be fun to ride just about says it all. This coaster was a lot of fun to ride - much more so, IMHO, than Hurler - and I'm really sorry to see it go. I would rate it 5th best at Carowinds - after Fury 325, Afterburn, Intimidator and Nighthawk. Interesting history.


Still a bit perplexed by this decision. Money was invested to improve the ride a few years back and being an out-and-back, I can't see maintenance costs being all that high. Hurler probably costs more to maintain on a yearly basis.

slithernoggin's avatar

Perhaps a few years back a water park expansion was not yet on the table, or was only one of multiple future projects.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

I only visited the park once in 2012, and I had a fantastic time. I remember Thunder Road as one of the highlights, and although it was not racing on that particular day, it was still great fun. I too am sad about this, and at first I assumed it was Hurler. Very sad to see it go.

It's definitely a better ride than Hurler, and I would guess more riders ride it (it has twice as many trains). It's a capacity eater.

Unfortunately, i think these parks are now pinching pennies and it will cost them dollars. When there is a racing coaster, all the parks see is double payroll, extra trackwork etc. They forget that having a capacity eater adds a lot of value to the guest experience on busy days. Guests can get coaster rides on the busiest of days with a small wait. When you lose your capacity eating rides, guests have a miserable experience on busy days and eventually chose other forms of entertainment. Disney knows the value of capacity eaters.

From what I seen of Carowinds yesterday (Monday, July 11), attendance is horrible. The parking lot was maybe 1/4 full, and even their "superstar" Fury had only a 5 to 15 minute wait all day. Not sure how they justified putting that coaster in there with that kind of attendance. Was it an off day? Weather was fine until 8pm......

It really is a shame that this wonderful coaster is being destroyed. Another racing coaster lost, probably because of payrll expenses. Racing coasters are the most fun of the all IMO because of the train/people interaction

Thabto's avatar

According to a rumor at Coaster Studios, the licensing deal for Intimidator expires at the end of this year and the ride will be renamed next year. Intimidator merchandise was marked down this week.



rollergator's avatar

^CF is (still?) way too cheap on IP...

I'm no NASCAR fan, but I am smart enough to know I'm far from the average Southerner.

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Thabto's avatar

Here is a video detailing it:


bjames's avatar

Thabto said:

Here is a video detailing it:

Lol "Rougarou" is a good name and they're gonna repaint these rides. No. I'm mostly expecting two names that end with "hawk" and not much actual retheming (definitely no repainting) anyway.

Last edited by bjames,

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

slithernoggin's avatar

super7* said:

...I would guess more riders ride it (it has twice as many trains). It's a capacity eater.

Is it? I'd be interested in seeing the ridership numbers.

They forget that having a capacity eater adds a lot of value to the guest experience on busy days.

Maybe... or maybe they've determined an expanded water park will bring more value to the guest experience than this coaster.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

LostKause's avatar

I'd like to think that adding two B&Ms in the last few years more than makes up for the capacity lost from taking out Thunder Road, and the log flume (sniff).

Also, I'm all for a name change in this instance. I'd prefer a generic race car theme over a specific race car driver theme. I just think I could emotionally engage myself with a generic theme a little bit better. I don't know. I have a bad attitude about Nascar. I feel the opposite of enjoyment for it. A generic race car theme would be safer to allow myself to get lost in the theme, if that makes any sense.

rollergator's avatar

I think to a large degree, Carowinds was expecting that the rehab would have "fixed" the ride.

Wooden coasters do not work that way!

So now, we're at a point where the waterpark expansion might not *require* the immediate removal of Thunder Road, but it's going to require another heavy dose of cash to restore it to where it SHOULD be if the work were properly maintained. And CF doesn't want to dump another load of cash on a ride that really doesn't generate lines in my experience at Carowinds (capacity is great and all, but you need people who want to ride it in order to run full trains) - especially if it really is going to be "in the way" over the next few years.

Like Hershey, I think this is another case of a poorly placed waterpark....but it's also a case of not keeping up the rehab work, and like missing oil changes on your car, it gets expen$ive....

Last edited by rollergator,

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Raven-Phile's avatar

Too bad Thunder Road is taken and is just being dismantled - because honestly, that's a pretty good name for a racecar themed ride.

Wouldn't it have been wiser to have Intamin retrack Thunder Road with the same track on El Toro or something along those lines? With a high banked turn around, and the return track running together and twisting over the first outward run of track. It could have been an amazing new ride for a reasonable investment, and kept its original feel.

I really hate this because racing coasters are my favorite, and they are becoming more rare with the destruction of Rolling Thunder, the conversion of Colussus into a dueling coaster and now this.

I never did understand spending the $ for the Intimidator name. I think the coasters themselves brought people to them, not the tie-in. The video is funny when it says Cedar Fair is pretty good at coming up with names lol based on their past renaming of rides. Maybe they are trying to get away from being Generic Fair since Rougarou is an original name...

Thabto's avatar

That deal was made under the old administration, the new administration probably doesn't think it was worth it to renew the deal. The money they save on this deal could go to better investments. I don't think they will be repainted. All they need to do is strip the Nascar references from the ride, put new decals on the trains and rename the ride.


kpjb's avatar

Why would they even need to rename it? The word "intimidator" doesn't refer to anything specific when removed from the Nascar tie-in. Just strip the signature font, names, and nascar themeing.


ApolloAndy's avatar

super7* said:

Wouldn't it have been wiser to have Intamin retrack Thunder Road with the same track on El Toro or something along those lines?

Since Intamin's never done it, I'll just assume we're talking about an RMC style conversion. For a ride that will "eventually" be in the way of water park expansion, that is way too much money. They really don't need a brand new butt-kicking ride having just plopped Fury in (for umpteen million dollars). You may like the ride, but saving it in any form just doesn't make much financial sense.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Trademarks of names are not universal. "The Intimidator" may be trademarked as regards to racing and anything related to that, but it is not trademarked as regards to everything.

Ask United Airlines and United Van Lines. Or Delta Airlines and Delta Dental. Or Apple Records and Apple Computer.

This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

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