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Famous roller coaster to close after 36 years of thrills

Earlier this summer, roller coaster fanatics all over the country let out a collective scream.

The Six Flags theme park empire announced it would shut down its most famous wooden coaster, Colossus, in California, CBS News' Carter Evans reports.

With a track that's nearly a mile long, 11 big drops and a bone-shaking ride that lasts almost four minutes, the Colossus roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain outside Los Angeles is about as iconic as it gets.

It's even starred in movies, taking Chevy Chase and John Candy on a wild ride in the 1983 comedy classic "National Lampoon's Vacation."

"Colossus, 36 years old, much beloved, and people are concerned that it's going away," said Six Flags CEO James Reid-Anderson.

When Six Flags kicked off the summer by announcing Colossus is closing at the end of this season, the news was met with shock and disbelief.

"They can't just take it down," one fan said.

"I was here on day one," said another, "and we drove up again last night from Orange County to close it."

Riders try out Colossus on its opening day, June 22, 1978

Colossus isn't going away as much as evolving into a new coaster using hybrid technology: Twisted Colossus, where steel tracks are laid on top of the old wooden structure, giving riders the best of both worlds.

"You've got the ability to take a traditional wooden coaster, make it much smoother and then add elements, such as inversions, top five, you know, zero-G rolls, barrel rolls," Reid-Anderson said.

Six Flags has already done this at four of its other parks, to rave reviews.

"We track our guest satisfaction scores very very closely, and, almost without fail, those hybrid coasters get the highest scores possible," Reid-Anderson said.

Twisted Colossus composite image
Six Flags

As for not taking it down completely, the CEO says, "We really believe that that heritage, that history means something. You know, we want to retain the history, but keep that thrill edge."

As for the thrill edge, Reid-Anderson says one drop is "gonna be 130 feet, and you'll have 18 of those moments of weightlessness versus around 12 right now."

The fact that Colossus will live to thrill another day comes as welcome news to the Bernards brothers, who built the original structure in 1978.

"Our mother still brags about the fact that she rode the Colossus roller coaster," Jeff Bernards said.

"And she's afraid of heights," his brother Greg added. "She doesn't even like to go up to the mountains."

As far as riding the new coaster goes, brother Doug said, "need an invitation. I don't wait two hours in line anymore."

But that's a small price to pay for true die-hard fans of roller coaster history.

The new, improved and twisted Colossus is scheduled to open next summer.