Who would think a car could be a character on a television show, complete with its own name and personality? Well, it happened once or twice, and resulted in the making of an icon. The 1969 Dodge Charger, otherwise known as The General Lee, was a powerful force on Dukes and was as much – maybe more – a part of the show as the actors that drove it.
For many of the show’s seasons, twenty-three or more Generals were on the lot at any given time. The team that worked on the cars made sure to maintain integrity and consistency; everything had to be exactly right, from the tire lugs to the license plate holder (which never identified the state where the General Lee was registered). During the show’s seven seasons, about 300 Chargers traveled through the air.
For a time, every General was mandated to early retirement after its first (and only) hard landing. But it wasn’t easy keeping a healthy supply of Generals on hand and eventually, the cars were reused. Scouts were always on the lookout for Chargers they could buy, sometimes chasing people down the road asking to buy them on the spot. For a time, they were being hunted by air, with Piper J-3 Cubs searching for replacement Generals.
Who knew that when we wrote a script note in the first episode that said, “Put a Confederate flag on top of the car,” The General become legendary. At first, I pictured a Pontiac Firebird, but the team presented a Dodge Charger and explained that it was a better match. I trusted them to make the right decision, as cars were their area of expertise, not mine. And boy, were they right.
What trivia do you have about The General to share with me?