In the early days of 1979 a television show hit the airwaves that has become an American icon. Millions of fans followed the escapades of the Duke boys, their cranky Uncle Jesse and short shorts wearing cousin Daisy every week. While there are many characters on the show that were fan favorites (I mentioned Daisy, right?) The General Lee was hands down the star of the show from day one.
The 1969 Charger was already considered a classic muscle car at the time, in spirit if not yet technically, at only 10 years old. This model was pounding the streets at the end of the '60's and the drastic new emission standards that would all but kill the Muscle Car in the next decade had yet to hit Detroit. But no matter how many fans this Dodge had before it was nothing compared to the exposure this model would get from the Dukes of Hazzard.
There is a rich history behind the first ever General Lee that has captivated fans and collectors alike. Sadly many of the details have been lost to time, or in many cases, never considered important enough to keep track of in the first place. I mean, really, who ever would have thought that this show would be as popular as it became?
What we do know is that the television show was based on the movie "Moonrunners." Of course some names were changed and the characters and cars were dressed up quite a bit. The name of the car in the movie as "Traveler," named after the horse General Robert E. Lee rode during the war. In the revision for the TV show the name was obviously changed to the much catchier General Lee.
One of the writers of the show only had one thing in mind for the car he wanted. When he talked to the boys down at the Warner Bros. motor pool he told them he wanted an orange car. That's it. No specific model or size or anything besides orange. At the time the boys in the shop did not think too much about building this car for some TV pilot. Their prep work was, shall we say, a bit slapdash. One coat of orange paint, a rigged together roll bar and some left over graphics finished out the General Lee. As you can imagine, as the show took off they paid a great deal more attention to their star car! Over 300 1969 Chargers were used in the filming of the hit show duration.
The first ever jump of the General Lee is seen in the opening credits of every Dukes of Hazzard TV show. It's the now famous "dirt pile in the middle of the street" jump over a police car, right in the center of town. It's at the end of the introduction clip and can be found easily on YouTube is you'd like to check it out.
At over ten feet high and almost eight five feet long it was (forgive me here) the Jump Heard 'Round the World.
This show has solidified the 1969 Dodge Charger as "the" car to have for most guys growing up in the Eighties. All it takes is the first few notes of Waylon Jennings guitar to bring all the car chases, big jumps and wrecked police cars come roaring back. Well, that and Daisy's short shorts. Thanks!