One of a Kind
When the first General Lee rolled onto the set, it was one of a kind -- a 1969 Dodge Charger painted "hemi orange" with a Confederate flag painted across the roof. The doors were numbered "01," and the only way in or out of the car was to climb through the windows.
It didn't take long before the General Lee wasn't quite so unique anymore. For scenes filmed with Bo and Luke actually in the car, a "first unit" General was used. This version featured a 375-horsepower, 440-cubic-inch, Magnum V8 engine, according to the studio. It had been souped up with a racing carburetor, heavy duty suspension parts, and custom wheels and tires. A glasspack muffler helped give the General its signature throaty roar. A padded roll bar was installed in the driver's compartment, and a custom push bar was mounted to the General's front end.
The stunt crew used an entirely different General Lee, this one modified even further both for performance and safety. A full steel roll cage protected the driver and passenger and a special weight box was placed in the trunk. The crew could vary the amount of weight by several hundred pounds to help balance the car for different jump distances. This was important to keep the car from flipping over in the air. Each jump was planned very carefully, including the length and height of the jump, speed of the car, angle of the ramp, and weight in the trunk. Some of the longest jumps (almost 150 feet) needed 600 pounds of weight in the trunk-mounted weight box.
In his guide to "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, author David Hofstede includes a list of parts that would be needed to build a replica General Lee. Obviously, a 1969 Dodge Charger is the most basic ingredient, although the 1970 model is almost identical and the 1968 is very close. Hofstede recommends a set of Mopar parts (although other brands are fine), including an electronic ignition, a Torqueflite A-727 transmission, transmission cooler, double roller timing chain, and a high-volume oil pump. Ten-spoke American Racing Vector SE rims complete the look.
In the next section, we'll see how they put the General through all those crazy stunts.