by Patrick Rall
The American Muscle Car Exhibit recently ended at the National Corvette Museum, having successfully paid tribute to some of the tuffest rides (which aren’t Corvettes!) of the past half century. Few cars live up to the American Muscle moniker as aptly as the General Lee of “The Dukes of Hazzard” fame.
Collaborations between the American automotive industry and the entertainment industry have spawned some legendary cars, but few are as easily recognizable as the 1969 Dodge Charger from the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard” which wore the name General Lee. During the filming of the program in the 1970s and 1980s, the crew purchased and built 309 General Lee Dodge Chargers but the majority of them were destroyed during filming ? mostly during high flying jump scenes.
The 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee models were easily recognized due to their Hemi Orange paint scheme with the familiar ?01? racing numbers on the doors and the Confederate flag on the roof ? flanked by the cars name over both front windows. In addition to the numbers, the flag and the bright orange paint job, the General Lee Charger was equipped with a set of distinctive turbine style wheels, a massive whip antenna on the trunk for CB radio communication and a police-style push bar out front.
Inside, the General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger featured a very basic interior layout with beige bench seats and a matching roll cage. To help strengthen the body of the vehicle for racing and moonshine running, the doors of the General Lee were welded shut, which forced Bo and Luke Duke to always climb through the windows when they were about to roar off into the sunset in their gorgeous Mopar muscle car.
The final distinctive piece of the General Lee puzzle is the unique horn, which plays the first twelve tones of the song Dixie and was added to the show’s 1969 Dodge Charger as an afterthought. During early filming of the Dukes of Hazzard, the production crew was driving along a back road when a local country boy went past in his pickup and when he saluted the out-of-towners with his horn; they heard the first twelve notes from Dixie. The crew turned around and followed the guy until he stopped ? offering him more and more money until the guy agreed to sell the horn setup to the production crew.
The Dukes of Hazzard never stated what engine powered the 1969 Dodge Charger known as the General Lee but there were three regularly used engines. First off, whenever the hood of the General Lee was open on the show, it exposed a big block Mopar engine ? presumably to most to be a 440 cubic inch mill since that was the biggest engine choice of the time and of course, the General Lee had to have the biggest engine. However, the truth is that while a select few General Lee’s had 440s, the majority of them were powered by either 318 cubic inch small blocks or the standard 383 cubic inch big block. The 440 models were used for the highest speed scenes and the longest jumps but since jump cars were almost always destroyed upon landing, the production crew tried to avoid using the costlier 440 models for jump scenes. Most jump cars were powered by lightweight 318 engines that helped to keep the car from nosing down in jumps and for basic chase scenes, the 383ci models were usually chosen.