Secrets of the General Lee

The General Lee of “Dukes of Hazzard” fame continually ranks as one of the most popular and beloved screen cars of all time and is in large part responsible for the immense popularity enjoyed by the 1969 Dodge Charger as a collectible. Die-hard Mopar fans are hard to stump, but for the rest of us, here are some trivia bits about the General Lee.

  1. The General Lee appeared in all but one episode of the series. Tom Wopat and John Schneider were under the impression that they were the stars of the show, but the car actually appeared in 144 out of the 145 episodes while Wopat and Schneider appeared in 126 (they were briefly replaced by a pair of lookalike “cousins” during a contract dispute).

  2. The doors really were welded shut. Not just because Bo and Luke looked cool climbing in and out, but because of “racin’ rules” as the Duke boys explained. In the early days of NASCAR, there was a fair amount of commonality between cars that ran around oval tracks and cars that ran shine. Ironically, the standard B-body Dodge Charger of 1968-70 wasn’t very successful on the NASCAR circuit and it was up to the Charger 500 and Charger Daytona to uphold Dodge’s honor in those days.

  3. An astounding number of Chargers were sacrificed during filming. The show was produced between 1979 and 1985. In the early days of production, now-classic Chargers were just cheap and plentiful used cars. Cars were often scrapped after relatively minor damage from a stunt (usually an outrageous jump). Depending on who you believe, the number was anywhere from 250 to 350 cars. By late in the show’s run, cars were getting tough to source and astoundingly, the production company rented a light plane to do aerial reconnaissance in rural areas to find cars.

  4. The wheels are nearly as famous as the car. As every fan knows, the wheels on the General Lee are not Mopar items – they’re aftermarket American Racing Vector “turbine”-style wheels. American Racing still sells them, in large part because of the demand created by the General Lee.

  5. Actual surviving General Lees are rare. While replicas likely number in the thousands, actual surviving, documented production cars are extremely scarce. Again, depending on the source you believe, the number is fewer than 20 and documentation is always challenging. Before the studio took General Lee production in-house, several fly-by-nighters were involved in sourcing and building cars.

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