The General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger
The General Lee (sometimes referred to as simply “the General”) is the name given to a 1969 Dodge Charger driven in the television series The Dukes of Hazzard by the Duke cousins, Bo and Luke, along with cousins Coy and Vance (in season 5). It is known for its signature horn, its police chases, stunts — especially its long jumps — and for having its doors welded shut, leaving the Dukes to climb in and out through the windows.
Although the estimated number of General Lees used varies from different sources, according to former cast member Ben Jones (“Cooter” in the show), as well as builders involved with the show, 320 General Lees were used to film the series. Others claim about 255 were used in the series.
Approximately 17 still exist in various states of repair. On average, more than one General Lee was used up per show. When filming a jump, anywhere from 230 to 450 kg of sand bags or concrete ballast was placed in the trunk to prevent the car from nosing over. Later in the series the mechanics would raise the front end of the car to keep it from scraping against the ramp causing it to lose speed, thereby providing a cushion for the driver upon landing.
Stunt drivers report enjoying the flights but hating the landings. Despite the ballast, the landing attitude of the car was somewhat unpredictable, resulting in moderate to extremely violent forces, depending on how it landed. On many of the jumps the cars bent upon impact. All cars used in large jumps were immediately retired due to structural damage.
Chargers from model-years 1968 & 1969 (no 1970 Chargers were used until the 2005 movie) were sourced and converted to General Lee specifications (taillights, grills, etc.). Despite popular belief, according to all builders involved over the years, obtaining cars was not a problem until later years.
By that time, the car was the star of the show and Warner Bros (WB) moved building of the cars in house to keep the cars consistent in appearance. Later in the show’s run, when it got too hard and/or expensive to continue procuring more Chargers, the producers started using more “jump footage” from previous episodes. In the final season radio-controlled miniatures were occasionally used to the chagrin of several cast members.