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Starring two chicks and a 1966 Ford Thunderbird Convertible
Thelma & Louise was controversial when it was released on Memorial Day weekend in 1991. Starring two female actors who’s weekend road trip getaway goes horribly sideways, as they blossom into feminist outlaws, the film is now considered important classic.
It featured two, leading women, who don’t fight over a man, but instead, depict true friendship.
A friendship that beats the crap out of a really sweet T-Bird. 😉
The unsung hero of Thelma & Louise is, of course, the 1966 Ford Thunderbird Convertible. Often referred to as a “land yacht”, this car was a movie set in itself. Convertibles are often chosen for action films because of the ease of shooting the actors. And while the T-Bird has that perfect cruising persona, it also had a massive back seat, for other characters along the way.
Five identical, but functionally different, cars were used for the filming; the “hero car”, a camera car, one back-up car, and two stunt cars. The full-featured T-Bird was 17 feet long, 6 ½ feet wide, and weighed in at 4,700 lbs. It had a 345 horsepower 428 cu. in. V8 engine, an automatic transmission, dual-exhausts with resonators, a turquoise (which often looked powered blue) paint job, a slick white leather interior, and a true-technological marvel, Ford’s “swing away” steering wheel.
Interestingly, in 1957 Ford introduced a slick new convertible top that disappeared into the trunk, where motorized body panels folded out and back in place leaving no sign of the retracted roof; just the smooth curves of the car.
It’s obvious these cars were “Built Ford Tough”, as they were the only five used in the filming. Often action movies have upwards of 10 or more. And none of them were customized in any way.
For motor heads, here are the undercarriage specs:
Independent with Ball Joints
4.18″ ID Helical Coil–Rubber Mounted
Hydraulic, Telescopic, Vertical Mounting
Link-Type Mounting, Rubber-Bushed
Integral Spindle and Steering Arm
Opposed Taper Roller
Number of Leaves
Leaf Length x Width
Longitudinal Semielliptic Leaf Springs, Rubber-Bushed Attachments
60.00″ x 2.5″
Hydraulic, Telescopic, Angle Mounting
Parallelogram with Cross Link and Idler Arm
Recirculating Ball and Nut with Integral Power Unit
20.4 to 1
3.6 (Lock to Lock)
42.6 Feet (Curb to Curb)
16 Inches (Diameter) with Swing-Away Column
Red Band Stripe
8.15 x 15 4 Ply Rayon
Goodyear, Firestone (Red Band tires provided by Firestone only)
3/8″ (with Whitewall Stripe only, at additional charge)
3/8″ between White Stripe and Red Band
Amongst all the mayhem the movie journeys through, the real memorable scene is referred to as the “Off The Cliff” shot, and amazingly, this famous flying-car scene was (luckily) achieved on the second take. The production team only had three Thunderbirds to get it right, two shell-stunt cars, and the backwards-driving one. So, they worked for hours rigging ramps and cables, but the first T-Bird launched a little crooked, and fell like turkey. A few tweaks and tequilas later… on the next day, the second launch was an airborne success, and the final scene you see… was filmed in just 45 minutes.
Director Ridley Scott, famous for Aliens, brought the action scenes to life, providing the audience with gunshots, screeching tires, sirens, and Susan Sarandon driving like a maniac in many of the shots. And in the final scene, that really is Gina Davis in the car speeding along the rim of the canyon. The driver, though was a seasoned pro.
And the outtakes from the film eventually won an award at a soft-porn festival. (Better get the blu-ray for the extra content.)
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!