The Tragic Truth About This Dukes Of Hazzard Star's Dodge Charger

If you grew up watching The Dukes of Hazzard, you know all about the infamous General Lee. Between January 1979 and February 1985, that Hemi orange 1969 Dodge Charger got the Duke boys from Hazzard County out of more close calls with Boss Hogg and Roscoe P Coaltrain. It jumped over more things and carried more moonshine than any good ole car had the right. It may not have had any dialogue, but it appeared in all but one episode and was as much a character of the CBS television show as Luke, Bo, Daisy, or Uncle Jesse.

Bo Duke was played by John Schneider, who has since gone on to have a successful Hollywood career with over 170 credits to his name, including portraying Superman's adoptive dad on "Smallville." He is also a country music recording artist and owned and operated John Schneider Studios, a 58-acre production facility located in Holden, Louisiana, specifically designed to provide independent filmmakers with tight budgets a place to make movies. It's where his own version of the General Lee resided. Then Hurrican Ida struck.

This is one obstacle the General couldn't avoid

Ida landed on Sunday, August 29, near Port Fourchon as a Category 4 hurricane. The sustained winds of 150 mph battered everything in the vicinity, including John Schneider's home and studio in Holden. Ida is now considered the second most destructive hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana, sitting only behind Hurricane Katrina (2005).

Schneider and his family were in Nashville, Tennessee, organizing flood relief efforts for victims in Middle Tennessee at the time, so they were unharmed. However, they couldn't say the same for his home, studio, or the General Lee. A picture from the outside the studio shortly after Ida rampaged through shows the General tilted up on its side by large roots, with a tall pecan tree laying on top of its crumpled roof.

A report from TMZ shortly after the incident said this was only a "stunt car," and Schneider owns "several" others models of the General. Schneider gave an exclusive interview to the Daily Mail where this was confirmed. According to Schneider, the damaged General Lee wasn't even a 1969 Charger but a modified Ford Crown Victoria they used as a stunt car at the studio for a few years. He planned to restore it but only "straighten it out a little bit and leave it that way."

The Dukes of Hazzard made the '69 Charger endangered

"The Dukes of Hazzard's" effect on the 1969 Dodge Charger was a bit of a double-edged sword. Much like "The Italian Job" had done for the Mini Cooper and "Bullitt" had done for the 1968 Mustang, an appearance in a popular work of fiction upped the Charger's status. It was no longer a simple muscle car — it was something you could use to escape the law and run moonshine in. Unfortunately, alongside making the '69 Charger more desirable, the show also drove it to the brink of extinction.

An estimated 300 vehicles were destroyed during the "Dukes of Hazzard's" run, with most meeting their end after one of the show's many iconic stunts, according to Motorious. Jumping a car looks great on film, but a real-life Bo and Luke aren't likely to drive off after they land on the other side of the ramp. A car's suspension is fine for bumps, but several tons dropping at speed from a height tends to be more than a car can handle. Stunt drivers are also human, and humans make mistakes. When one of the show's sequences resulted in an unintended crash, producers would try to make use of the footage and write it into the show. Unfortunately, it was yet another way a 1969 Charger could meet its end on the "Dukes of Hazzard" set.

While the show may have made the vehicle desirable to fans, it also needed to replenish its own stock of Chargers. The situation got so bad that producers were allegedly conducting flights over homes in search of Chargers they could offer to buy, as well as searching through parking lots for the model, according to The Vintage News. Similar cars, like the AMC Ambassador, were also disguised as Chargers and used in some episodes.

The incident isn't the first news story involving the General Lee's roof

In this day and age, the General Lee's decor — and name to some extent — is a point of controversy. For this reason, one owner of an original car from the show, golfer Bubba Watson, decided to redo the paint job on his piece of television history. Watson, who is a huge fan of the show, bought the car from the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale for around $112,000 in 2012. Three years later, he made the decision to replace the controversial stars and bars that traditionally adorned the roof with the stars and stripes. The decision was announced via Twitter, with Watson saying: "All men ARE created equal, I believe that so I will be painting the American flag over the roof of the General Lee #USA"

While justifying his decision, the two-time Masters winner said (via ESPN): "After all of the controversy and everything, I don't want to offend anybody. The car is American history, so why not the American flag on it? The show is a great show. It was what me and my dad watched. There was no racism in the show, but the flag offends people, so I thought for sure that was what we should do is to take it off. Remove it, hide it, whatever you want to call it. And make sure nobody is offended by it."

Watson's car is one of only three left in existence, a number that also includes the now tree-damaged Lee. The golfer's car has also been dubbed "Lee One" as it is the car seen jumping over the police cruiser in the show's opening credits.