The coaster was built in 1923 and is one of the oldest operating roller coasters in the northeast.
Originally, the Coaster was built as an out-and-back coaster, meaning it went straight out from the first drop, turned around and came straight back. The ride was reconfigured in 1930 to its present design with a figure-eight twister section in the middle of the ride. Over the years, the ride has seen many cosmetic changes. At one point the ride featured a bright yellow paint job, which has since been painted over with an off-white color.
The original station pavilion featured a separate bumper car ride, around which wrapped the line for the Coaster, providing some entertainment to those waiting in line. Originally, the ride began with a tunneled section, and ended with another tunneled section, as the train went under the portion of the pavilion devoted to the bumper cars. However, the bumper cars were removed following Cedar Fair's purchase of the park in 1993, leaving the tunnel that began the ride as an open concrete trench.
Thunderhawk was maintained by a man nicknamed "Shorty" from 1961 until his sudden death in the winter of 2001. A plaque in the ride's station honors him and his work on the ride.
Despite the newer coasters at Dorney Park, such as Steel Force, Talon, and Hydra, Thunderhawk is one of about a dozen classic landmarks in the park and continues to be one of its most popular and beloved rides. The coaster is fairly smooth no matter where one is seated, and provides thrilling pops of out-of-your-seat airtime. To this day, it remains a classic example of an early American wooden roller coaster.