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Dukes of Hazzard


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Good 'ole boys, girls couldn't compete with General Lee


John G. Smith

National Post


May 14, 2004






Boy, I tell you, the General Lee's 15 minutes of fame is stretching longer than Boss Hogg's dinner hour at a Hazzard County barbecue.


It's everywhere you look. Warner Home Video will release a DVD compilation of The Dukes of Hazzard's first season on June 1, UbiSoft will unveil The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee video games in October, and John O'Brien (Starsky and Hutch) has been hired to write a screenplay based on the CBS television series.


A recent survey of 10,000 car enthusiasts even named the 1969 Dodge Charger as the most popular TV or movie car of all time. "We thought the top choice would be the Batmobile, or maybe Tom Selleck's Ferrari from Magnum P.I.," admits McKeel Hagerty of Mich.-based Hagerty Insurance, which conducted the poll.


Then again, the car with a Confederate flag on its roof received more fan mail than any actor on The Dukes of Hazzard -- despite the fact the show also featured Catherine Bach in the short shorts that became known as Daisy Dukes.


"The car is a star," says Ben "Cooter" Jones, who played Hazzard County's top mechanic and who still accompanies replicas during public appearances. "People who are 35 years old now were 10 years old when the show was on the air, and they approach the General Lee like it's some sort of god."


They followed the star and its 440- cubic-inch Magnum V8 from the moment it was unveiled in Episode One, when Bo and Luke Duke rescued it from the Capital City junkyard and won $10,000 in the Hazzard County Road Race. Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle) gave it the name of General Lee.


But once sourced for the show, Chargers didn't exactly enjoy star treatment. Almost 300 of the cars were reportedly used -- and trashed -- during the filming of 147 episodes between January, 1979, and February, 1985, Jones says. A mere 23 survived. "I think we went through close to 800 police cars. Every time [sheriff] Roscoe P. Coltrane got in a police car, that was the end of it."


Stunt-destined 1968-70 Chargers were equipped with roll cages and beefed-up suspensions, had "01" painted on their doors and were loaded with between 500 and 1,000 pounds of ballast to keep them from flipping during their jumps.


But executive producer Paul Picard and producer Gy Waldron are credited with sourcing the car's signature horn after hearing it blast the first 12 notes of Dixie.


"We made a quick U-turn and chased the car for about a dozen miles before we could flag it down," Picard recalls, referring to how the horn was found as crews prepared to film the first five episodes in Georgia. "We told the kids in the car we wanted to buy their horn and they didn't want to sell. We kept upping the price and finally got it for about five times what it sold for in an auto accessories store. We didn't know the musical horn was a stock item."


While the General will certainly appear in the coming feature film, the rest of the cast has yet to be finalized. The Hollywood Reporter has merely sparked a few rumours, suggesting Ashton Kutcher may play Luke and Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) could play Bo. Actors from Britney Spears to Jessica Simpson are expected to duke it out for the right to wear the famed Daisy Dukes.


But filmmakers should also be true to the original General Lee, Jones adds. "If they take the Rebel flag off the car, they'll have insulted tens of millions of Americans, and that's the sort of thing Hollywood would do these days ... The car's a star. And it's a star, in part, because of that."


Reel Wheels focuses on Hollywood's love affair with cars and appears every two weeks in Driver's Edge

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Paul Walker is one of the worst actors Ive ever seen. As bad as Fast and The Furious (1 and 2) were, he made it even worse.


Ashton Kutcher needs to give it up. Because you wear a John Deere hat on Punkd! doesn't mean you can play a good ol' boy from Hazzard County.

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The key is to have more car chases and less story, as well. I was disappointed with the Starsky and Hutch car chase. Dukes is more about that huge Dodge driving fast and jumping cricks. Don't be stupid and make some dumbass plot.


Plus, who but Jim Carrey could replace Cooter!? COOTER RULES!


Now, if only they'd have the 1968 Bullitt Charger in there to race the General Lee. THAT car rules.

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