1969 DODGE CHARGER
The General LeeText and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
The Dodge Charger is a car that requires no introductions; it is one of the world’s most respected American Muscle cars; with five generations on offer there was a design to please any taste. The second generation Charger may’ve been in the production for just as little as 3 years (1968-1970); however, it made a huge impact on the history of American Muscle cars and it still remains one of the most desired Chargers. It has been a superstar of multiple Hollywood movies, like Bullitt (sp), Blade, Death Proof & Fast and Furious and above all the TV series and movie - the Dukes of Hazard.
In 1965, at the heart of the “pony era”, Dodge decided to enter the mid-size car market with their b-body RWD coupe – the Dodge Charger, hoping to compete with the successful Plymouth Barracuda and Ford Mustang. Just three years after the production of the first generation Charger begun, Dodge announced a release of a facelift model. Designed by Richard Sias and Harvey J.Winn the car received dual circular unit taillights, kick up spoiler and a vacuum mechanism now operated the headlights. Following the customer complaints the facelift model interior was altered - the electroluminescent gauges were replaced with more conventional design, tachometer became an optional extra, full sized rear seat replaced the buckets seats and the boot carpet was replaced by a vinyl. A new R/T (Road/Track) model was introduced with a 426 Hemi engine as an optional extra.
In 1969 the car was altered once again – the front grille was now featuring a new centre divider and the rear taillights reverted back to the longitudinal design. The production continued for another year until the third generation model was introduced. It is particularly the 1969 model that has been amongst the most desired Chargers and arguably remains one of the finest designs Dodge has ever come up with.
Mike Barr’s lifelong dream finally came true in 2005 when he became the proud owner of a black 1969 Dodge Charger; however, the car was certainly not perfect. He admitted “the paintwork was screaming for attention, it had a grizzly green interior, the engine was tired and the wheels were tiny.” Although Mike had plans to turn the car into a General Lee he does admit that it was a hard decision to divert from the bad ass look of the black paint. It looked so mean in fact that a few years earlier Texaco fuels actually used this exact car for one of their TV Commercials. The Charger was driven by Hollywood actor Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs) and filmed down in Dublin, check out the clip here:
After some very hard and expensive work the car was soon fully restored and Northern Ireland’s first ‘proper’ General Lee was born (unlike Mikes first Mk5 Ford Cortina attempt). The car was re-sprayed in the Hemi Orange that looks glorious under the sunlight.
It wouldn’t be General Lee without the appropriate paintjob so the number 01 is located on both doors, while the battle flag of the Confederate States of America is located on the roof with the General Lee name located next to it. The doors never got welded shut though, for practical reasons – i.e. getting in and out, you know!
The Body work was treated to a new roof skin, boot floor, rear and front valence as well as the rear window panel. To make it as authentic as possible (which is very hard when every episode featured 2-3 different cars on average) a correct tan interior was used.
Devil is in the details and no General Lee is complete without the famous horn that features the first 12 notes from the famous Confederate States anthem “Dixie”. Radio and CB Antennas were also installed, as was the front grille guard in black.
The worn out wheels had to go and a set of beautiful 15” Vectors (7” front and 8” rear) replaced them wrapped in the finest Radial rubber. Under the bonnet the 6.3 litre big block 383 V8 with the Hemi Orange engine block is attached to a 727 Torque Flight transmission amongst all the shiny chrome parts really makes the engine bay look outstanding while the twin stainless steel exhausts make the car sing.
So the car looks like General Lee, but can it do the same tricks? We all know what American muscle cars are really all about: cruising in an average family sized sofa, enjoying the luxuries, the noise and most importantly the rapid ¼ mile acceleration capability. Let’s be honest - none of the muscle cars were famous for their cornering capabilities as the rear suspension is the old fashioned leaf springs. Furthermore hands down the stunt men that actually managed to perform a jump or negotiate a corner in these cars, as manoeuvring a Boeing 717 around the town would be easier than making a three point turn in one of these. Furthermore, pony cars have the mental acceleration and shocking deceleration. Drivers have to anticipate the road well in advance; the brake pedal has to be fully applied 1000 yards before the place you intend to stop; therefore, a full on break disc conversation was done to replace the big drums.
All this is just minor – once the ignition key is turned, you forget about all this and just enjoy the ride with a huge grin on your face. Mike admits: “So handling isn’t fantastic I agree, but what it does have is character and presence. With its hideaway headlights this car has a front grille that looks like it could swallow you up whole! It’s a bad ass car and it’s been a dream of mine to own one since I was 5 or 6 years old!”
Since the car was built it has been used for promotional work surrounding the 2005 movie starring Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott and has attended several events with the actual actors from the original Dukes series. In fact Catherine Bach (AKA the ‘original’ Daisy Duke) has signed the underside bonnet lid and John Schneider who played Bo Duke has signed the passenger side sun visor.
If you want to experience the General Lee for a day check out http://www.starcarhire.co.uk or http://www.facebook.com/starcarhire for the hire options.
1969 Dodge Charger
Fully restored General Lee replica
Re-sprayed in Chrysler EV2 a.k.a. Hemi Orange; 01, battle flag of the Confederate States of America and General Lee vinyl
CB & Antenna
Dukes of Hazard style black grille guard
Engine and Transmission
Rebuilt 6.3 litre big block 383 V8 Motor
727 Torque Flight Transmission
Suspension and Wheels
Original 15” Vector wheels (7” front and 8” rear)
Upgraded steering box
Disc brake conversion on front