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Could This Be the End of the General Lee?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page. Dodge Charger Topics:  General Lee

Could This Be the End of the General Lee?

Bill Crittenden
June 25, 2015

General Lee carPhoto by "Valder137," used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
Following the tragic murders of nine African Americans by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina last week, there has been a renewed push to remove the Confederate battle flag from state houses, state flags, and retailers. Proving yet again that almost any issue can be tied to cars in some way, the widespread takedown of the flag has killed the General Lee.

For those who don't remember, "General Lee" was the name of an orange 1969 Dodge Charger driven by the protagonists of the Dukes of Hazzard television show (1979-1985) and movies (2005 & 2007). The car had a big, NASCAR-style "01" on the door, the name General Lee over the windows, and a huge Confederate battle flag painted across the roof.

And the intellectual property of the series belongs to Warner Bros., a family-oriented company that has decided to preempt any sort of protest or backlash by pulling the licensing of products featuring a symbol of "southern pride" to a few and of ignorance & racism to many.

"Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof — as it was seen in the TV series. We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories." - Warner Bros. statement

The model kit licensee was a company called Round 2, which is a toy maker specializing in reissuing vintage and retro toys including MPC and AMT model kits. It's unclear who the die cast licensee was, but Ertl has produced a 1:18th scale die cast replica in the past.

Warner Bros. could have continued to license the vehicle sans Confederate flag, but as I've seen that the typical model car collector isn't much interested in inaccurate, edited-for-content replicas (such as NASCAR models with beer logos removed or edited), this probably makes production of the General Lee without the flag financially unfeasible. Warner Bros. seem to know this, too, citing a minimal loss of sales clarifying its statement to Yahoo! Autos saying that they wouldn't be licensing a General Lee without the flag, either.

The small amount of money it brings in just isn't worth the trouble right now. Maybe it won't ever be again.

But even without the flag, the damn name of the car is the "GENERAL LEE," named for the Confederate general who led the Army of Northern Virginia against the United States in the Civil War. Even to this northerner with family history on both sides of the front lines, General Robert E. Lee should be honored as a brilliant military strategist - but that is something better left to museums and history books and the military, not silly car chase TV shows or the merchandise they spawn. So I've never been a fan of the vehicle.

I get the whole nostalgia thing, being more sentimental than most, but I'm not sad to see it go. But for those who will miss it, little is truly really gone just because you can't get it at Walmart. You can still watch Dukes of Hazzard on Netflix, and find previously made and sold General Lee merchandise at model car swap meets and eBay. You might even see one of the many replicas at a car show or museum. The history of the General Lee isn't being wiped away, it's just being left to the past.

As far as new material goes, it looks like the end of the road for the General Lee. But maybe this road's end is just another one of the show's famous jumps to be made, and the Duke boys and their orange Charger will land safely sometime in the future after this outrage has passed. To this possibility, I can only leave you those three famous TV show words that everyone is familiar with:

To be continued...

* - quote #1 source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/06/24/no-more-dukes-of-hazzard-toys-with-confederate-flag/29210683/

Yahoo Autos source: https://www.yahoo.com/autos/general-lee-from-dukes-of-hazzard-losing-its-122294326432.html

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