By Patrick Rall
It is assumed by some that the General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger in The Dukes of Hazzard was equipped with the 426 Hemi, but it was never stated nor implied. Exact numbers are not known, but the majority of the 309 General Lee’s were packed with the 383 big block; many of the engine shots during the show revealed the 383. Deemed “close up cars”, Chargers carrying the 383 were kept in better condition than those used for chase scenes. There were some designated with the 440 big block for long distance jumps and other high speed maneuvers, although many of the jump cars were powered by 318 cubic inch engines that weighed less. During those jump scenes, the rear of the cars would be packed with lead weights as heavy as 1000 pounds to prevent the car from nosing down on its landing. Almost all of the cars used during the jump scenes were destroyed on impact, as the incredible amount of weight added to the rear often caused them to fold in half. Even the very first General Lee, named LEE 1, was jumped in one episode and then wrecked in a later episode before being towed to an Atlanta area junkyard. Later, it was purchased and fully restored by Travis Bell.
The General Lee Charger was equipped with a Chrysler 727 Torqueflite
transmission, although some believe that it was a manual due to some
sound bites used during the series. And it is rumored that there were a
handful of manual transmission models.
The throaty exhaust of the General Lee Dodge began as stock exhaust
systems with the rear portion cut off. With more strict emissions
standards in California, the cars used for the west-coast filmed
episodes had either a fully modified exhaust system, or a stock system
that was dubbed over. The “close-up cars” used in the seasons two thru
5 featured Blackjack brand headers, full dual exhaust, and Thrush
“Glass Pack” mufflers, but even the models with the improved exhaust
systems had their sounds augmented during editing.
The Rebirth of the General Lee?
The Dukes of Hazzard returned as a movie in 2005, but this star-studded
rebirth did not prove to be a popular one. Many Dukes enthusiasts were
unhappy with the amount of sexual content in the movie, a view
supported by the original “Cooter”, Ben Jones. Of note, the show was
bashed by critics in the US, although it ended up doing fairly well
worldwide. One aspect the movie got right was the bright orange 1969
Dodge Charger, proudly displaying the Confederate flag and the infamous
01. Even with a cast that included Jessica Simpson (Daisy Duke), Willie
Nelson (Uncle Jessie), Burt Reynolds (Boss Hogg), and Johnny Knoxville
(Luke Duke), as well as the General Lee in all of its glory could not
help the movie.
Though the 2005 movie showed poorly, The Dukes of Hazzard remains very
popular among Mopar enthusiasts. At any decent Mopar event or show, you
are sure to see at least one or two quality General Lee reproductions;
there is even one touring the eastern US that rides on a four wheel
drive chassis. The General Lee name has become one of the most famous
cars ever; with the return of the 2009 Dodge Charger to the new car
lineup from Chrysler, modern day renditions of the General Lee built on
the current sedan platform have become popular, thus securing a
continuation of the legend.