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thelma and louise car Fotos International/Getty Images
Fotos International/Getty Images

Do you realize that it was 30 years ago that Thelma and Louise joined hands to “keep going” in that iconic Ford Thunderbird convertible, perched at the edge of the Grand Canyon?

While it’s hard to applaud the destruction of any perfectly lovely classic car, this final scene has been so completely ingrained into the American movie lexicon, that it’s almost impossible to think about a ’66 Tbird without picturing this turquoise beauty soaring off the cliff.

So, what’s the story with the Thelma and Louise car? How many Thunderbirds are actually at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?

The 1966 Ford Thunderbird May Be a Bigger Legend Than You Expected

Thelma and Louise has been heavily influential as a road movie about two women who encounter a bunch of unexpected detours on a road trip to go fishing. They kill a would-be rapist, pick up a sexy hitchhiker — played by Hollywood newcomer Brad Pitt — blow up a gasoline truck, and re-route to Mexico to avoid Harvey Keitel and the police. It’s not exactly a feel-good movie all the way through, especially if you’re really into 1966 Tbird convertibles.

But, the film became an instant classic. The film drew six nominations at the 1992 Oscars, including “Best Actress in a Leading Role” nods for Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, “Best Director” for Ridley Scott, “Best Cinematography,” and “Best Film Editing.” Out of all these nominations, however, only one Academy Award was received: the “Best Original Screenplay” Oscar went to screenwriter Callie Khouri. Khouri was the first woman to win this award on her own since 1932, making movie history.

Read More: The Car From “Wayne’s World” Has Been on a Wild Ride Over the Years

So, How Many of the Movie Cars Are in the Grand Canyon?

If you’re looking for the famous cliff-diving 1966 convertible, you’ll want to start in Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah — that’s where those final scenes were filmed. Also, despite what you might have read on the internet, director Ridley Scott did not doom dozens of customized convertibles to a rocky fate.

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The production crew used at least five Ford Thunderbird convertibles throughout the movie. The Hero Car was used primarily for exterior shots. Another version was used for filming driving sequences. Two stunt cars were employed, along with a backup. None of them were customized, beyond making them suitable for the required camera shots.

For the final scene, however, the crew had to deal with that ultimate party pooper: Physics. In order to get the car to fly off the cliff dramatically, rather than tumbling appropriately, they had to remove much of the weight from the car, which meant dismantling the operational parts. A ramp was built to give it a little more height, and — as you hopefully guessed– Davis and Sarandon were replaced with dummies.

At least two takes were done after the ramp was built, but beyond that, it’s hard to nail down exactly how many Thunderbirds can be found somewhere deep inside Utah.

Did Any Tbirds Survive?

A movie is nothing without memorabilia, and this is no exception. At a 30-year reunion, Susan Sarandon confirmed that Ridley Scott gave away most of the cars used throughout filming to his sons, though one model, signed by many of the cast members, has a permanent home at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

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While Thelma and Louise taught us all valuable lessons about friendship, feminism, road trip safety, and staying the course, it’s obviously not a great idea to drive any car off any cliff. Of course, the Dukes of Hazard and every off-roader ever might disagree with that notion…

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