Evel Dave & the General Lee

Thirty years ago last week, an orange ’69 Dodge Charger flew across televisions for the first time-literally.  The airborne Mopar, named “General Lee,” came into our homes on that cold January night, instantly capturing our hearts and our adrenal glands.  Millions tuned in every week to see the adventures of Bo and Luke Duke, as they work to thwart the evildoers that threaten Hazard County.

Evel Dave Radey's 1978 "General Lee" Charger

However, the big star wasn’t Bo or Luke-it was The General.  Fanmail for the famed car poured in by the truckloads, mostly asking for an “autographed” picture-that is, an 8×10 picture that had been driven over, showing the tire tread marks of the car.  Some fans, such as Evel Dave Radey, decided to take their fandom one step further, and build the General Lee replica that you see here.

Evel Dave Radey's 1978 "General Lee" Dodge Charger

It started out innocently enough;  Dave’s daily driver used to be an ’87 Charger, what was supposed to be the last year for the famed name plate.  That was when he encountered a Chevy Monte Carlo that had the unfortunate luck of being painted like the General Lee.  Somehow, a “conversation” was struck up with the poor car’s owner, and Dave walked away thinking “screw him, I can do better…”

Evel Dave Radey's 1978 "General Lee" Dodge Charger

After a few buckets of orange paint, the ’87 Charger became what might be the only 2nd generation Charger to become a General Lee.  It was a hit at car shows and cruise nights, garnering attention until it was finally replaced with a true ’68 Charger, just like many cars on the show.

Evel Dave Radey's 1978 "General Lee" Dodge Charger

Modifying a ’68 Charger to look like a ’69 was standard practice for the folks at Warner Brothers.  Just changing the grille and the tail lights is enough to fool most TV viewers into thinking that all those cars were one and the same.  Besides, they went through more than 300 cars in the show’s 8-year run, making it hard to be fussy.  “Officially” only seventeen remain, including this example on permanent loan to the World Famous Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota.

General Lee at the Pioneer Auto Show, Murdo SD

Unofficially, there’s at least one more.  Travis Bell, a DJ from Indiana, came across the very first car.  The car had been smashed, repainted, and intentionally smashed again for use as a prop in episode #4, leaving it a complete mess but perfectly suitable…. for melting down and making ashtrays.

Nonetheless, Bell soldiered on.  Eventually, the car found a new owner who insisted that the prairie DJ oversee the car’s restoration.  Years later, “General Lee 1” is back on the road-although it won’t be making any more legendary jumps for prime-time television.

And neither will Evel Dave Radey’s charger.  Not only is it too precious for him to take the big hunk of Detroit steel airborne, but he’s got something even better to get off the ground with.  You see, Dave’s other ride is an Evel Kneivel-style Harley Davidson.

Evel Dave Radey's Harley Davidson Sportster

There’s more, too-his riding jacket and helmet are emblazoned with stars and stripes, just like the Evel one himself-a suit that’s easily recognizable at car shows and cruise nights all over town.

Even though the Dukes of Hazard has been off the air for ages, it’s as loved now as it was thirty years ago.  And thanks to people like Evel Dave, the General Lee will be just as popular thirty years from now.

Evel Dave Radey's 1978 "General Lee" Dodge Charger


6 Responses to “Evel Dave & the General Lee”

  1. 1 blasterhappy
    February 3, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Great piece as always. We actually have one of the Police cars from the Dukes Of Hazard here locally. It’s no General Lee but it has great history. It’s was restored from several wrecked cars from the TV series for a little boy here that suffers from MS. The actual original stunt team from the TV show presented it to him 2 years ago. I was there when he received the car. I hope to catch with him and do a feature on M3.

  2. February 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    That is a great story! I really like the “autographed” picture of the General.

  3. May 2, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Great post and photos of the General Lee!!

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