Varsity Blues a movie about football, girls, parties and the glory days of high school. Oh yea and trucks! Good ole Billy Bob drove one of the baddest '73 - '87 Chevrolet Trucks ever featured in a Hollywood movie. The only thing bigger than Billy Bob's character was his 1973 Chevrolet 4x4 Truck. It was big enough to pack half the football team, Billy Bob and his prized pig.
Quote from Billy Bob about his pig: "I sure do love that dog."
The truck is a long wheel base truck. The front end features a factory grill shell with aftermarket grill insert. The bumper is tubular with a integrated push bar and fog lamps. Note the head lights are round. Until 1981 all Chevrolet trucks had round headlights. The fenders have the fender extensions/guards. They're real important when you're running from the law through the bushes. Ya don't wanta get your truck scratched up.
From the side you can get a better view of the big "69" number decal on the side of the doors. Right above the decal on the driver's door is Billy Bob's name hand-brushed. You can also see the crew in the back. There is also a hand-brushed "Coyote Powered" script on the tailgate as well. The tailgate also features the tail-panel band insert. The rear bumper is tubular just as the front. There is also a light bar. You can also see the tubular step-bars in this shot. It's hard to judge the size of the lift kit. But you can tell it is lifted. My guess would be around 4" - 6" inch lift kit was used. The tires are in the neighborhood of 35" - 38" inches.
According to a post on moviemistakes.com the front drive shaft is missing. I haven't seen this for myself, so I'm gonna have to watch it again to verify. But It wouldn't surprise me that a detail like this goes unnoticed in a Hollywood production. I find it kinda funny. But it doesn't take away from the sheer awesomeness of the truck or the movie!
I chose to do this post, because my brother had a 1984 Chevrolet 4x4 Pickup (SWB) in the early '90s. It was a close replica of Billy Bob's truck, long before the movie was made. It had a sweet looking hand-brushed script that said "Summertime Blues" on the tailgate. The color was an exact match. Other than the fact the years and wheelbase were not the same, it could have been the movie truck! Every time I see something about Varsity Blues, it reminds me of the truck my brother had. Till next time, keep on trucking! We'll be working on another On Screen Cars post!
The first five episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard TV show were shot in Georgia during November 1978. A total of six Dodge Chargers were used for filming. These first General Lees were built by Warner Brothers and are identified by extra markings on their VIN tag (LEE1, LEE2 and LEE3). Above is a video of the first jump performed using the famous General Lee, labeled "LEE1". Here's your First Look at The General Lee!
LEE1 Before Dukes of Hazzard
As with most of the 321 General Lees used, LEE1 had a semi-short life on the show. Before Dukes of Hazzard, LEE1 was a Light Bronze Metallic (Mopar Paint Code T3) 1969 Dodge Charger with a black vinyl top. Under the hood packed 383 V8 backed up by a TorqueFlite automatic. LEE1 was equipped with air conditioning (A/C) and drum brakes on all corners. Experts say that LEE1 may have belonged to a college student somewhere in California, as there was a student parking decal found on the windshield.
Becoming a General Lee
Warner Brothers production crew made a lot of modifications to turn the Copper Charger into a General Lee. Most noticeable of course is the Hemi Orange paint job with the Confederate Flag on the top. Gone is the black vinyl top. Other details include the 01 number on the driver and passenger doors. A Radio Shack CB antenna and under the CB dash unit, kept the boys in constant contact with Uncle Jessie and the gang. The wheels are American Racing Vectors, 10 spoke. Can't forget about the black push bar on the front and the full roll cage in the cabin. Several pounds of concrete were added to the trunk to help keep the nose level on landing during jumps. Chrome strip on the rocker panels? Yep, chrome strips were only featured on the LEE1. They're very noticeable in the clip above.
After General Lee
LEE1 was reused later in the show in episode 4, "Repo Men". It was painted a dark blue/green color with a big "71" on the top and had Nascar sponsor decals on the side. The American Racing Vectors were replaced with gold painted steel rims. The sides of the car were banged in further to give the appearance of a battered race car. The car was portrayed as Richard Petty's "Tire Test Car." Then it was retired to a Georgia junkyard, where it would remain for over two decades before it would be resurrected. If it hadn't been for Dukes of Hazzard fans Travis Bell and Gary Schneider, it may still be there.
Back from the Dead
The two found the LEE1 in July of 2000. The car was a wreck, of course. But after it changed hands a few times, the car was completely restored. Precise measurements were made of all the artwork on the flag and side 01 logos. Then the car was media blasted and repainted it's original color Light Bronze Metallic and sprayed over with a cheap orange paint. All the artwork was redone by hand, every star pointing in the right direction. These guys wanted to stay true to the car's state before the first jump.
There are many General Lees, however there is only one LEE1. It's pretty interesting how people can come together and pool their resources to bring back a part of history. Some people would say it's just a another hunk of metal. But to the fans it's much more. Thanks for joining us for this First Look at the General Lee. Stay tuned for the next On Screen Cars!
January 2021 Update:
Travis Bell (the rebuilder of LEE1) appeared on VIN Wiki: Car Stories a while back with the complete story. Embed below.
How many movies do you know that the title of the film is the same as the feature car? Unless the film title is completely about the car, it's pretty rare. But Gran Torino is entitled well for the premise of the movie. Because, to main character Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood, this 1972 Gran Torino Sport is his most prized possession.
After returning from the war in Korea, Walt worked for Ford Motor Company in Detroit, where he built his Gran Torino alongside fellow assembly line workers. As you can see the car is in perfect shape, just as the day it was built. Unfortunately, Walt, now widowed and much older, is not in perfect shape. He is frustrated that his neighborhood is now populated almost entirely with people who remind him of the war. His health is failing and his mind is more troubled than ever. Gangs are causing trouble for the rest of the neighborhood and safety is a major concern.
The Gran Torino is nearly stolen by one of the neighborhood kids, Hmong who is trying to become a member of a gang. Hmong's family insists that he repay for the damage he's caused Walt. After doing chores and helping Walt out, Hmong and Walt become friends. For those who have not seen the movie, I want to stop there. Let's talk about the car a little bit.
As I've pointed out before, the car is 1972 Gran Torino Sport. There were 496,645 Torinos produced by Ford in 1972. However only 92,033 were Gran Torino Sport models, like the one featured in the movie. What makes the Gran Torino Sport special? At first glance, one would notice integrated hood scoop. All of the Sport models had the scoop, however they're only functional with the rare Ram Air Induction package. Some of the Sport models also had the "Magnum 500" wheels as this one does. The laser stripe on the side is an optional piece for the Sport models, and '72 was the first year the stripe ran down the full length of the car.
The base power plant for the Grand Torino Sport is the 302 C.U. Windsor V8 2 barrel. However 351W, 351 Cleveland, 400 and 429 were all available as well. These motors will built for low compression (8.5:1) for better fuel economy, thus reducing horsepower as well. 1972 was the beginning of the end for muscle car era. That's part of what makes it a perfect fit for the movie. Both the car and the main character were part of a time that was challenging and difficult for some people to accept. Frozen in time, the car and character struggle to move on in a new changing world.
When watching featured cars, I often wonder "Where did they get these cars?" Well I did a little research about the '72 Gran Torino in the movie and traced down an article from the Cassville Democrat. The Missouri paper did a special article about the car and it's previous owner, Jim Craig. Jim said the car was a "barn-find," but was in decent shape mechanically. He had the car for about five years before doing a full restoration. The car was kept original as it is in the film. The car was not bought directly from Jim by Warner Brothers, but through a classic car dealer on eBay. Until the film was released, Jim didn't know his car was the car featured in the film.
I really enjoyed the film. However I do have one issue with it. In the movie Walt talks about working on a production line and how he installed the steering column in his car. Being a car buff, I had to look up the production plants that made Gran Torinos. Not to my surprise, '72 Gran Torinos were not made in Detroit. This makes for a little historical inaccuracy in the film. But I don't think it takes away from the over-all quality of the movie. Hollywood does something like this in every production. There are very few perfectly historic films. I think they like to leave things like this for us to talk about.
I think it's a great film. I really enjoyed watching this movie in Blue Ray. I would say it was my first Blue Ray experience. On a 47 inch screen in high def, Clint Eastwood looked about 7 foot tall and appeared to be in the same room. Yea I know, I'm exaggerating. I would recommend buying this film to be part of a car movie collection! As a matter of fact, it's in our gift shop (Gran Torino Section)! Check that out, while we roll out the next On Screen Cars article!
Update: The guys over at GranTorinoSport.org forum have confirmed the engine in the movie car is a 351C 2V with CobraJet Heads. Thanks for all your help guys!