By Matt Wolfe
January 26th 1979: The first episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard” airs on CBS.
Few TV shows have succeeded at making a car into an icon as The Dukes of Hazzard did. The Orange 1969 Charger driven by Bo & Luke Duke through Hazzard County’s seemingly endless backroads inspired an entire generation to dream of jumping a police road block while letting out a rebel yell.
Named after the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee, The General appeared in every episode but one during the show’s run. Though always portrayed as a 1969 Charger, numerous 1968 and 1970 Chargers were modified to look like a 1969 model. The car’s signature orange paint and livery was a constant throughout the show’s production. Most of the car’s exploits in the show revolved around escaping from a police chase in some ludicrous fashion, like jumping over a river or crashing through a barn. Many of these jumps set world records.
Though spectacular, most these stunts completely destroyed the car that was used in them. It is estimated that 309 Chargers in total were used in the production of the show. Only 17 original cars are still known to exist in various states of operation. The popularity of the show and the General Lee has prompted many fans to purchase and build replica General Lee’s. One such replica sold for $450,000 at the 2008 Barret-Jackson auto auction. 35 years after the show originally aired, the General Lee is still an instantly recognizable automotive icon.