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The Original General Lee :(


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Hooray! :) It worked.

This is the General Lee seen in EVERY show opening (except Coy and Vance episodes). It (was) the one with the chrome rocker panels. The orginal 383 is still in it. It wasn't an R/T or SE, just the base model Charger. The wheels are off Pete Hamiltons NASCAR, Charger 500.

After the first episode it was painted it was painted green and had the number "71" painted on the side. And in the episode "Repo Men", the car reappears.

Just a little history.... :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

The post by 426General explains it already, but I'm gonna echo it with some more detail.

The history of this car, from what I've heard, is this. It was "Lee 1 ", the first General built for the show. It was jumped in Covington, GA, off of a ramp in the town square. (The scene appears in the opening credits of each episode, where the General appears to be ramping up a mound of dirt.)

The car landed hard, and that was it for Lee 1's active duty. However, the wrecked Charger was repainted green and used in the episode "Repo Men." In the story, it was a car wrecked by Richard Petty, and the Dukes try to buy it from Ace Parker in order to salvage the engine.

After this episode was filmed, Lee 1 was uncerimoniously hauled off to a junkyard in Georgia, where it would rust in peace for the next 25 years r' so.

About 3 years ago, a car club proprietor from Indiana went on a holy quest to find Lee 1. He found it, and reportedly paid around $500 for it. Lee 1 was proudly hauled to Cooter's Place, at that time in Sperryville VA, to show off at a DukesFest.

A few months later, Lee 1 was sold on ebay for something around $25,000, if I recall right. (Part of the value is reportedly in the certificate of authenticity from Warner Bros, which was obtained prior to sale. The car is said to be beyond restoration.)

So today, Lee 1 enjoys a much more dignified retirement.

Brian

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Yes, anything can be restored (assuming it hasn't been to the car crusher yet). They have restored hemi cars in worse shape than that one. I know of one hemi Roadrunner that sat at the bottom of a hill in a field for 20+ years and the roof of it had been used by the local kids for years as a jump ramp when they were sliding down the hill in the winter. They cut the roof off a Satellite and grafted it on there. It was a beautiful restoration, like most any restored hemi car is (anyone with the money to restore a hemi car is bound to do it right).

About that Lee#1 car, there is a lot of good information and pictures of it here. The car was in rough shape after that jump but they roughed it up a lot more with cinder blocks when it was to be used for the number 71 car in episode #4. Here is a screenshot of the car from epidode number #4 (Repo Men):

71.jpg

You can actually match up most of the scratches and dents if you compare that shot from the show with the way it looks now.

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It would be cool to see the car restored, but it's an interesting question whether it's worth more "as is", or returned to it's original glory.

Not only that, but if it were mine and I had money to burn, I would be faced with a personal dilemma and not necessarily over monetary value either. It would be hard for me to decide which would give me more satisfaction; restore the car perfectly or leave it as it appeared in episode 4 (+ 23 years of exposure to the elements). After all, any 2nd generation Charger can be made into a perfect clone of the original General Lee and the only real difference is in the mind. Of course, the only thing that gives that wrecked Charger any value in the first place; is in the mind as well; it is not as though it is actually good for anything practical, beyond its value as scrap metal.

All in all, I would probably end up opting for the best; most accurate restoration possible; not before taking many, many high quality photos of its present condition for posterity. The only problem is; with the extent of restoration that car would require, at what point does it become a different car? I mean, could you just grab the drivetrain, fender tag, build sheet and VIN plate and slap it into any old Charger and still claim that it is the original General Lee? because that is; for all intents and purposes; what the result of a "restoration" on that car would be. You may be able to retain the original subframe/portions of the floorboards and engine bay structure with some serious straightening and fabrication and mostly likely what is left of the drivetrain components (motor, transmission, rearend) could be rebuilt but still...

Like I said; a dilemma and I think I have almost talked myself out of the restoration idea, lol.

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Heh! Maybe that's the "beyond" in the "beyond restoration" report I'd heard of, years ago.

I think the majority of any General's value is in its recognition, though. With the condition Lee 1 is in, only the astute and well-studied Dukes fan is going to make the connections. But how much would a "restored" Lee 1 be worth, in running condition? The grandaddy of 'em all?

It would be a monumental project, but then again, it's a monumental car.

I'd heard tell of the last General produced for WB, being worth an incredible amount of money. (six-digit range.) And I don't even think it was ever used in a show. On that basis, I'd have to venture that LEE 1, restored to glory, would be worth at least as much - or more. Which would make that ebay price tag look like nothing, if they could affordably accomplish the job.

The massive restoration effort would be a story in itself, too.

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The more I think about it, the more I think they should restore that car. If you think about it, the major damage to that car came from its famous jump in episode number 1. So when you are talking about restoring the car, this is a good picture to start with:

71-04.jpg

I had my friend (bodyman/fabricator extraordinaire) look at that picture along with all the others on this page. Not knowing anything about the car's history he determined that the front end was twisted but didn't consider that to be much of a problem. I showed him the pictures of the car in the air and he figured that would definitely do it, lol.

Since the rest of the body was wrecked via attack of the cinder blocks, that is pretty much superficial damage. He figured that the body could be fixed without even resorting to replacement panels. It spent the next 23 years in the elements but it was a southern state so we figured that the attacks of the rust beetles on the structure of the car wouldn't be too severe.

For all intents and purposes he decided that the block was screwed, as it has been sitting without heads or intake manifold for what appears to be a long time and the crank is probably rust-welded to the block as well as major pitting in the cylinders, camshaft bore, etc. Now people have gone to great lengths to restore valuable numbers-matching blocks before (such as on hemi cars) and with enough money, that one could probably be saved. He questioned whether it would be worth it. He said if it were his, he would not throw the block away, but he would still put a different motor in the car (the original numbers-matching block of a classic Mopar is an important part of its identity).

So we would be talking about replacing all of the suspension parts, rebuilding the drivetrain, straightening and fabrication work on the chassis and body panels; but it would still be the same car.

I would look for the best Mopar specialist bodyman that I could find to restore the car. Then I would see if I could call upon the services of this guy to assist in turning it back into Lee #1 (him having built probably the most accurate clone of Lee #1 in existence already).

BTW, I have that interview with "Bubba Williams" regarding his Lee #1 clone posted on my site. I saved that web page a while ago but I don't have the original link. If anyone knows the real link to that page, please post it.

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I'd be faced with the dilemma myself. On one hand, I'd love to have General 1 restored to original glory. On the other, I like to keep things I get in the condition I get 'em. But, I still stand by my original statements; General 1 should have never been jumped. What they shoulda done was what they did in Knight Rider; have 1 main car and make the rest jump cars. Not only would it have preserved some continuity, but the REAL General would still be with us today.

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What they shoulda done was what they did in Knight Rider; have 1 main car and make the rest jump cars. Not only would it have preserved some continuity, but the REAL General would still be with us today.

I agree; as long as they didn't keep that damnable chrome rocker panel trim on Lee #1 thoughout the entire series. Come to think of it, Lee #1 had a full 'cage which left no room for a back seat. That would have made a lot of the scenes which had people riding in back a little difficult and if you substitute another car that had a back seat, there goes the continuity.

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Having read all the thoughts here, I'd definately like to see LEE-1 restored. I'm kinda of the opinion that if it can be done...it should be done.

It would say something for the enduring quality of all things Duke. Not to mention, that the car would probably become the most holy artifact in the Dukes fandom, if it ain't already.

Brian

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I'm kinda of the opinion that if it can be done...it should be done.
If you look at the car (the photos of it when it was still in General Lee uniform right after the jump are the best so as not to be distracted by all the cinder block damage); it is relatively straight structurally. Things could have been a lot worse for it after a jump, like they were for this General Lee:

hardlanding.jpg

Now that car is bent.

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