The bright orange car having its roof painted with a Confederate flag, popularly known as General
Lee, is one of the very popular legendary cars the world has seen. This 1969 Dodge charger has been extensively used in the television series The Dukes of Hazzard and later in a movie with the same name and based on the same story. The car is well known for its chases and stunts, more precisely its high jumps which took place in almost every episode of the television series. The eyes of the fans stuck to the television screen to watch the crazy escapades of the cousins Bo and Luke Duke, Jesse and Daisy duke. It can be said that The General Lee has been the desire of every single young boy in that era. The name of the car refers to the Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the roof of the car bears a Confederate naval jack and the horn is quite unique which plays the first line of the song Dixie.
Basically there is a long story behind the reason of naming the car as General Lee. The show Dukes of Hazzard was based on a movie named Moonrunners. There was a car in the movie known as Traveller, which, in turn, was the name of the horse of General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. In the Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, the name or the car was changed into The General Lee which was quite catchier. The name was quite widespread throughout the globe for the good reputation of the show and many Dodge Chargers had been painted orange in honor of the high flying car driven by the two crazy cousins.
For a brief history about Robert E. Lee, it can be said that he was one of a very successful military officer who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War. He was also the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. During the declaration of the secession of Virginia from the Union in April 1861, Robert E. Lee followed his home state, keeping aside the personal desire of the intactness of the Union and the great offer of President Abraham Lincoln to command the Union Army. His esteem grew all over the Continent, even in the North, principally after his death in 1870. He is an iconic figure of the American military leadership and undoubtedly one of the greatest military generals that the world has seen.
Getting back to the car, the number of cars used in the show was as much as nearly 256, some also claim that the number was as much as 321. They differed from sources and builders involved. On average, more than one General Lee has been used up per show. During the filming of a jump, sand
bags or concrete ballasts of 500 to 1000 pounds were placed in the trunk to prevent nosing over of the vehicle. According to the report of the stunt drivers, they enjoyed the flight much but the landing was harsh. Despite the ballasts, it was quite impossible to predict the landing attitude of the car which results in moderate to extreme violent forces, depending on the nature of the landing. A series of mechanics was provided at the front end of the car to avoid scrapping the vehicle against the ramp and slowing its speed, which acted as a cushion for the drivers upon landing. Most of the cars bent upon impact of the high jumps. The cars used in the large jumps were retired immediately for the heavy structural damages they face. According to many, still there are 17 General Lees which exist in different stages of repair.
The models of the cars were built effectively to give more popularity to the vehicle. Even in later years, the 1968 and 1969 model-year chargers were converted according to the specifications of The General Lee. Obtaining cars became quite problematic during the later years when Warner Brothers moved building of the cars in house in favor of keeping the appearance of the cars consistent. At a later stage of the show, it became quite expensive to produce more chargers. This resulted in using previous jump footages in many other episodes and later on radio controlled miniatures took the place during the final season.
The engines used in the General Lee during the television series varied between 318, 383 and 440 CID V8s big blocks. However the specially purposed Ski Car which was used for driving on the left side or right side wheels with the opposite wheels in air had a 318 to decrease its overall weight. The
Stunt drivers preferred 440s for jumps as the engine performance was higher. Hence these Lees are saved for higher and longer jumps. Most of the cars had 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmissions; it’s the sound effect which made them muscular in television. The General Lee was not provided with opening doors. Despite the fact that the doors of the racing cars are welded shut, in the series, this also added entertainment to the viewers when Uncle Jesse had to squeeze through the window. The exhaust system of the car were basic, with the standard exhausts with pipe cut before the rear end, and some are provided with glasspack mufflers. The Thrush brand glasspack gave a good deal of exhaust sound to the California-era episode of the show which gave an added attraction to the car. The sounds of the close up cars were produced by the Blackjack brand headers, the Thrush mufflers and the Dual exhausts. However after the scenes were filmed, the sounds were dubbed. Coming to the tires, there has been a great variety of tires used for the General Lees among which B.F. Goodrich Radial T/A was the best know make and model. The common sizes were P235/70R14 and P235/70R15. In some shoots, Winston Winners were also used.
Even today the 1969 orange Dodge Charger, Legendary General Lee, have a great craze throughout the globe to those who enjoyed seeing the large jumps and the escapes of the crazy cousins, and dream of having such a tough ride.