This Day in 1979: 'Dukes of Hazzard' Airs on CBS
“Roscoe, arrest them Duke boys!” The angered exclamation from Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg would always incite a car chase between the police department of– and the Dukes– of Hazzard County, Georgia. The show made for plenty of great quotes, car chases, flying Dodges and crashing police cars– and it all started on this day in January 26, 1979. The show followed the exploits of Bo and Luke Duke, a pair of moonshiners, as they raced to ferry their illegal moonshine around Hazzard County, evading “Boss” Hogg, and his inept sheriff, Rosco P. Coltrane. The show was narrated by country singer Wayland Jennings– all the pieces fit together perfectly for a show that fits into an essential part of pop culture in the second half of the 20th century.
But perhaps the show’s most memorable character is the bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. There were many iterations of the General Lee, accounting for model year changes. The original General was ’69 R/T with 440 Magnum V8 making 375 horsepower. It had “01” on the Side “General Lee” above the doors, a Confederate flag on the roof and the iconic orange paint all over.
When the stunt crews would jump a General, they would fit between 500 and 1000 lbs of sand bags in the trunk to keep the car from nosing over.
Through seven seasons, the General went airborne 150 times on the show. You can bet that many more attempts at flight were unsuccessful. It is estimated that, of the 300 Chargers used for the show, between 75 and 220 cars were wrecked attempting to perform jumps. When a jump would fail, the usable parts were cannibalized (used as replacement parts for working cars), and the rest was sent off to the crusher.
As the show went on through the years, newer Chargers were purchased and retrofitted to look like the original car. At the show's peak, the CAR received an average of 35,000 letters of fan mail per month. When the show was canceled in 1968, the 18 remaining cars were left at the Warner Brothers’ set. 17 of those cars were sold off in 1991.
In 2005 Warner Brothers released a feature film version of the “Dukes of Hazzard,” with Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville. In the early parts of the film, the Duke Boys are driving an old beat up Charger. When it is wrecked, they take it to Cooter Davenport (David Koechner from “Anchorman” and “Waiting”). This is the fruits of their fictional labor:
24 Chargers were used for the film. More than a few met their demise in the same way as some of the Dodges from the original show. To this day, you can find home-built “clones” of the General Lee at just about any car show around the country. The whole look and what it means to car enthusiasts firmly cements it as one of the most recognizable cars of all time.