With this article I’m starting a series of model car reviews, with a special focus on movie and TV show cars. What better way to start with the iconic 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” of the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. Since I’m lucky to have two seemingly identical General Lees, they will also be compared and checked whether or not they are identical twins.
History of the car
The second generation Dodge Charger was launched in 1968 and was replaced after the 1970 model year. Nevertheless, to this date it is still a very famous and highly desirable American Muscle car. Partly because Muscle cars of the 1960’s and 70’s in general have always been symbols of the American way of life, and also because the second generation Dodge Charger has been the star of several TV shows and movies, such as Bullitt, The Dukes of Hazzard obviously, and more recently the Fast & Furious franchise.
It came with a plethora of engines, from the 3.7L inline 6 cylinder, all the way to the 7.2L V8. The 1969 model showcased in the Dukes of Hazzard had the 380 hp, 383, four barrel, 6.3L V8. The model cars reviewed here were made by ERTL. They don’t have functioning engines, but that won’t stop me from having a look under the hood.
The Charger R/T comes complete with the signature orange paint, the black push-bar in the front and the American Racing Vector cast aluminum wheels. ERTL even put a sticker placement on the left side of the grill for the “Charger” and “R/T” (road & track) lettering. However, of the two cars reviewed here, only one has the “R/T” sticker on, but not the “Charger” one. The second car is missing both stickers. Speaking of missing stickers, the second car also lacks the front and rear license plate stickers, as well as the “R/T” badge on the back of the car. Funnily enough, the confederate flag depicted on the front license plate plaque of the first car to my knowledge was never present in the TV show.
Moving on to the doors of the car, where we can clearly see the iconic “01” on either side painted in black with white contouring. A nice touch is the fact that the doors don’t open. Yes, any Dukes of Hazzard aficionado will be pleased about that, because that’s just the way it was on the show – the doors were welded shut, so that the main characters, Bo and Luke Duke had to jump into the car to get in. However, if you really want to open them, you can do so by disassembling the car and remove the little piece of black plastic that prevents the door mechanism from moving.
Look at the roof of the car, and you’ll see the “General Lee” decals on either side, as well as the confederate flag between the letterings, which is accurate as such. Nevertheless, the “General Lee” lettering of the real car of the TV show, as well as on the more recent remake movie of 2005, covered the length from the A-pillar to the beginning of the C-pillar. On these model cars it goes all the way back until the middle of the C-pillar.
As mentioned before, only one of the cars features the correct rear license plate sticker “Hazzard County CNH320” of 1976, as well as the “R/T” badge.
Another nice feature is the left rearview mirror only, as well as the chrome fuel filler cap with the “FUEL” lettering on it. Unfortunately, the trunk does not open. The shut lines are clearly visible, but they are fake – the trunk lid is a solid part of the car body. It has been molded to show the lines. Speaking of the trunk of the car, the Dukes of Hazzard’s original car had a radio antenna mounted between the rear window and the trunk. Furthermore, there were two little flags, one checkered and one confederate between the antenna and the rear window. These items are missing on the ERTL model cars.
Oddly, the models have silver painted stripes around all wheel arches. There was never anything like that on the actual car. Funnily enough, where ERTL should have painted a chrome line was on the lower edge of the C-pillars, in order to imitate the ones shown in the TV series. Furthermore, the model cars feature a little Chrysler pentastar logo on either front right fender only. These were probably added due to the fact that the cars arre Chrysler licensed products. These logos were not on the actual show cars. Overall, they are very solid metal model cars. The shut-lines are generally very good and the trim finish, such as mirrors, door handles, bumbers and everything with an actual three dimensional shape are well built. The only significant negative thing I have to mention about the exterior of one of the cars, is the alignment of the hood and its shape at the front end. It doesn’t really align nicely with the fenders on the rear half part and it’s clearly a little too long on the front left side. It looks as though the factory didn’t shape and cut it correctly but passed quality control anyway.
Pop the hood and you’ll find a mighty V8 engine. The most important items like the engine block, headers, air filter, battery and radiator are there, but it’s a pretty simple finish. ERTL didn’t seem like they thought it would be important to build the car as accurate as possible in there. On the flip side, as I mentioned in the video review (see below), it comes down to the price of the vehicle; if they’d made it super expensive, I would have expected it to look like the actual car in every detail.
A look underneath the car shows the continuation of what’s visible in the engine bay. ERTL did a nice job with the pear grey exhaust pipes and silencers all the way back to the chrome finished mufflers. However, the transmission is sort of cut in the middle: the visible grey part is attached to the red part, which appears to be a single unit with the engine block. The rest of the undecarriage is quite alright: Yes it’s all plastic, but the entire steering, control arms, etc. are all functioning and linked to the steering wheel. The push-bar is firmly attached to the car with two of the total six screws that bold the chassis to the body. The rear leaf spring suspension have no give at all but are nicely molded – even the shock absorbers are in place.
The interior follows a similar quality philosophy as the exterior. It’s accurately painted in beige, there is a roll cage, although it’s missing a diagonal bar for increased stiffness, like in the TV show car. The seats are partly accurate, meaning that the front seats have the correct shape, including the head-rests. However, the back seats are completely missing, which is pretty odd. The General Lee used to jump over obstacles a lot, but it was still meant to be a race car, not a stunt car. Over the series, many people drove with the Duke cousins. Hence, it’s strange to have the seats missing.
On the plus side, the door trims are very detailed and elements such as the window lever are in chrome color. The dashboard dials are also all present. The main dials are meticulously replicated in black color and are contured by a touch of grey.
The steering wheel with the beige center and circle, as well as the three metal spokes is a precise replica of the real one. On the flip side, the gear lever is L-shaped and comes out of what appears to be a black soft cloth cover. In the TV show, the gear lever came out straight and there was no additional cover to the existing housing.
Back on the road
Even though these ERTL version of the famous 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” is not perfect in every detail, it is a very pleasant example of one of the most iconic TV show cars ever. Any fan who can name one of these it’s own should simply keep it.