February 21, 2012 2:36 PM
A 1969 Dodge Charger was once the star of one of network
television’s most popular shows. Did you know that? The car,
named the “General Lee” from The Dukes of
Hazzard (1979 – 1985), was probably the most talented
performer on that CBS comedy, which was set in a rural part of
fictional Hazzard County, Georgia.
The Charger belonged to Bo and Luke Duke (John Schneider and Tom
Wopat, respectively), a couple of good ol’ boys
“fightin' the system like two modern-day Robin Hoods," as
mentioned in the show’s theme song, performed by country star
More than 25 years have passed since the show’s last
episode,* but the “General Lee” is at the center
of a controversy today, and it doesn’t involve fictional
moonshiners and corrupt politicians.
It involves NASCAR and PGA Tour golf pro Bubba Watson.
It seems Watson was set to drive the “General Lee”
Dodge Charger on a parade lap before the March 4 Sprint Cup Series
race at Phoenix International Raceway. But NASCAR and track
officials canceled those plans because of concerns about a negative
reaction to an image of the Confederate flag painted on the
car’s hood, just as it was on the TV show.
"(The) Confederate flag is not something that should play an
official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans
and make NASCAR more inclusive," NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said
in a statement Friday.
While the flag may not be welcome in an official capacity in
NASCAR, it often can be seen flying from fans' vehicles in
Ben Jones, who played mechanic "Cooter" Davenport on Dukes
and is a former Georgia congressman, said in a statement that
“during this Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, NASCAR has
chosen to dishonor those Southerners who fought and died in that
terrible conflict by caving to political correctness and the
uninformed concerns of corporate sponsors.”
Reached Friday at the Northern Trust Open golf tournament in Los
Angeles, Watson said the car only has the flag on it because that's
the way it looked on the show.
Watson recently bought the car at an auction for $110,000. He said
he still will attend the Phoenix race and still plans to let NASCAR
driver Denny Hamlin caddy for him in the Par 3 tournament at the
Masters in April.
Just a couple of good ol’ boys, havin’ fun.
Now, some facts on the “General Lee:” It is a modified
Dodge Charger that was driven on the show by the Duke cousins, Bo
and Luke. It is known for its chases and stunts, especially high
jumps, in almost every episode, and for having the doors welded
shut, leaving the Dukes to climb in and out through the windows.
The car's name is a reference to the Confederate General Robert E.
Lee, and indeed the vehicle embodies the southern United States,
sporting a horn which plays the melody from the first line of the
The television show was based on the movie Moonrunners,
itself based on actual moonshine runners who used a 1958 Chrysler
called “Traveler,” named after General Lee's horse.
“Traveler” was originally intended to be the name of
the Duke boys' stock car too, until producers agreed that
“General Lee” had more punch to it.
*There was a movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard
in 2005. Even though it earned over $110 million worldwide, it was
a terrible film and will not be mentioned again.