Paint job stops reproduction of General Lee cars


THE COLLECTIBLE General Lee matchbox car, discovered last week by The White Glove in Seneca, was featured in the Dukes of Hazzard television show. Production of the replica has ended since it has Rebel Flag.
By: 
Tonya Michalec

In the 1980s it became one of the most recognized cars in American TV history. It was called “General Lee”, a 1969 orange Dodge Charger featured in the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
But as of two years ago, reproductions of the General Lee were halted, especially as a children’s toy, all due to what was painted on its roof.
The General Lee became famous for being the main get-away vehicle for the good old’ boys on a popular action-comedy TV series.
CBS aired the show for six years and the car was featured in each of the 147 episodes between Jan. 26, 1979 to Feb. 8, 1985.
The White Glove found a die cast replica of the General last week while visiting What’s New? Nothing! at 304 N. Main St. in Seneca. The 13-inch 1:64 replica was plucked from a massive bin of matchbox cars marked three for $4 or $1.50 each.
The replica was manufactured by The Ertl Company, an American toy company known for die-cast metal alloy collectibles of farm equipment and vehicles. Although based in Dyersville, IA, home of the National Farm Toy Museum, the toy company’s 1981 productions, as well as many other years, took place in Singapore.
The undercarriage also states the name of the car, copyright information and year it was molded: Replica General Lee Car/Dukes of Hazzard/Warner Bros., Inc. 1981.
In 1981 the show had a No. 2 ranking on the Nielsen Top 20 TV entertainment chart. It was also a big year for The Ertl.
According to Dan Stearns, author of “Standard Catalog of Die-Cast Vehicles: Identification and Price Guide,” that same year the toy company won the Toy of the Year Award for its Dukes of Hazzard series, which outsold runner up the Rubik’s Cube.
In 1981 alone, Ertl sold more than 20 million Dukes of Hazzard matchbox cars, including: The General Lee, Daisy’s Jeep, Boss Hogg’s Cadillac, Roscoe’s Police Car and Cooter’s Pickup.
But what could cause one of the country’s leading entertainment companies to cease production of one of its leading memorabilia replicas after 36 years of insurmountable success? According to journalist Tyler Durden, it’s all because of what made the car stand out on the road in the first place - the paint job.
Durden wrote an article “Iconic Dukes of Hazzard Car ‘General Lee’ Stripped of Confederate Flag: This is a New Level of P.C. Idiocy.”
The General Lee was painted with the Confederate flag, making it a victim in the anti-Confederate Flag movement that lasted 150 years.
According to Durden, the movement achieved its first step toward the ultimate goal of removal of the Confederate flag after a racially driven shooting spree known as the Charleston Church Massacre occurred on June 17, 2015. The shooter, who was sentenced to death earlier this year, is a 21-year-old white supremacist named Dylann Roof who killed nine individuals during a prayer service at a Charleston, SC church.
Following the tragic hate crime, former SC governor Nikki Haley; supported by former President Barack Obama, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush; pushed legislation to have the flag removed from state house grounds because of the strong racial symbolism. Her rally was won on July 9, 2015 when the vote passed in the House by a two-thirds majority, 94-20.
After she signed the bill the next day, the Confederate Flag was taken down for good at all governmental sites in South Carolina. Shortly afterwards, the governor of Alabama followed Haley’s lead and banned all flag paraphernalia related to the Confederate Memorial Monument.
Southern governors and anti-Confederate Flag Movement supporters are not alone in their desire to put to rest the flag that represents the four year separation of our great nation.
Major retailers such as Amazon, Ebay and Walmart immediately followed suit after the House ruling and removed Confederate flags from their listings. But, the stand against the flag that symbolizes division did not end there.
On June 24, 2015, Warner Bros. announced a halt of all toys and replicas of the Dukes of Hazzard iconic sports car known as the General Lee. After 36 years and 20 million toy cars, it’s paint job was its doom.
For die-hard Dukes of Hazzard fans this marks the end of an era, but also a more profitable dawning of another. The price of replica General Lee cars has nowhere to go but up. Now that no more will be made, they have become more sought-after than ever.
According to multiple on-line auction sites, 1981 replica General Lee cars made by The Ertl vary greatly in price.
Those with scratches and dings, like the one found by The White Glove, fetch $1 to $10. But, those untouched and in its original package are worth much more.
Unopened mint condition 81’ General Lee cars are currently selling for as much as $135. The real money is in the ones that have been signed. The starting bid for one autographed by the show’s two main characters, Bo and Luke, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat, is currently  $324, or best offer.
Why that’s enough to haunt old J.D. Hogg.
Contact writer Tonya Michalec at tmichalec@fpnusa.com.