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Forgotten Facts about The Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee

Chris Kaiser

The General Lee Car of the Dukes of Hazzard was fast, orange, and often airborne. You know the car, but here are some interesting bits of trivia you might not know.

Television’s Greatest Car?

There’s Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T., B.A. Baracus’ A-Team van, and Magnum P.I.’s Ferrari but far and away the most iconic, recognizable, and, dare I say, beloved hero car of 1980s TV is The Dukes of Hazzard’s the General Lee. The Duke boys’ orange 1969 Dodge Charger was the ultimate bootlegging muscle car. Nearly every episode of the series saw the General Lee careening down dirt roads and making death-defying jumps with Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in hot pursuit.

The Birth of The General Lee

Bo and Luke, with a little help from Cooter, transformed a junked black Charger into the brash and bold General Lee. In the first episode, they dropped in a new engine, added a roll bar inside and a push bar up front, and welded the doors shut. Then, for added character, they painted the car orange, added a Rebel flag and the name “General Lee” to the roof, 01 was painted on the doors, and, as a final touch, a horn that played the first 12 notes of “Dixie.”

'69 Dodge Charger General Lee - carsforsale.com

1969 Dodge Charger General Lee – carsforsale.com  |  Shop 1969 Dodge Charger on Carsforsale.com

Most of the mechanical upgrades were to make the General Lee race worthy, even if most of the racing Bo and Luke did was racing to evade law enforcement. The cosmetic additions, aside from that awesome orange paint, are a bit cringeworthy by modern standards. Now it’s more than a little ironic seeing the fun-loving mischief of the Duke boys wrapped up a Confederate flag, but back in 1979 “Southern pride” read very differently than it does today.

You can watch the initial build of the General Lee here.

Forgotten Facts

You might be familiar with the General Lee car but there are a ton of interesting facts behind the production of The Dukes of Hazzard that might surprise you.

  • The jump seen in the opening credits of was also the longest jump for the General Lee at 82 ft. long and 16 ft. high.
  • The cars usually had between 500 and 1,000 lbs of cement or sand in the trunk to prevent the front heavy Chargers from nose diving midair.
  • The show averaged two jumps per episode, with nearly every jump resulting in serious structural damage including bent frames. This means the show ran through somewhere around 285-300+ cars over its six-year run from 1979-1985 (estimates vary).
  • The original Charger used for the General Lee was a ’69 but ‘68s were also used, with modifications to the front grille work and taillights. You can pick out the ‘68s by their lack of a marker light on bottom of the rear quarter panel next to the bumper and the presence of a side mirror on the right/passenger side (absent on ‘69 Chargers).
Car lot of General Lees and Police cars for the Dukes of Hazzard - historygarage.com
Car lot of General Lees and Police cars for the Dukes of Hazzard - historygarage.com
  • The original Charger used for the General Lee was a ’69 but ‘68s were also used, with modifications to the front grille work and taillights. You can pick out the ‘68s by their lack of a marker light on bottom of the rear quarter panel next to the bumper and the presence of a side mirror on the right/passenger side (absent on ‘69 Chargers).
  • As more cars were wrecked in filming, ’69 Chargers became hard and harder for producers to procure. Body parts and components were being salvaged off jumped wrecks and used to modify AMC Ambassadors (along with creative camera work and stock footage) to stand-in for the ’69 Charger.
  • Producers also resorted to putting fliers on ’68 and ’69 Chargers around Southern California offering to buy the cars for use on the show.
Dukes of Hazzard production using miniatures in season 7 - screenrant.com
Dukes of Hazzard production using miniatures in season 7 - screenrant.com
  • By final seasons of the show, suitable Chargers and Ambassadors were so hard to come by miniatures were used for some of the stunt jumps.
  • Up until the use of those miniatures, all the jumps you see in The Dukes of Hazard were manned jumps. Many were quite dangerous, and almost all featured hard landings (remember those bent frames?).
  • The show often used the sound effects track from the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt, which featured a ’68 Charger. This led viewers to assume the General Lee had a four-speed manual, due to the audible gear shifts in the SFX track. In reality, the General Lee had a three-speed automatic.
  • The ’69 Charger ran a number of different motors, from 225, 318, two 383s, 426 Hemi, and two 440s. The Dukes of Hazzard primarily used the 383s, along with a few 318s and 440s, with the latter often reserved for jumps due to the extra power.
  • There are 17 General Lees that survived the show’s production.
  • In 2008, Dukes star John Schneider sold his General Lee at Barret-Jackson’s auction house for $450,000.

The TV Classic Car

The Dukes of Hazzard was the kind of family friendly, slapstick comedy you don’t see much these days. It gave us Daisy Duke, Boss Hogg, and Bo Duke blowing up an outhouse with a dynamite tipped arrow. But by the far the greatest legacy from the show are all those totally rad jumps with that totally rad orange Charger known as the General Lee.

'69 Dodge Charger General Lee - rmsothebys.com
'69 Dodge Charger General Lee - rmsothebys.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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