Tuesday, January 19th 2010
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.