John Schneider as Bo Duke, race car driver & former moonshine runner
Hazzard County, Georgia, Fall 1978
Series: The Dukes of Hazzard
Creators: Gy Waldron & Jerry Rushing
Men’s Costume Supervisors: Bob Christenson & Joseph Roveto
Picture a cool fall day in 2005 on a suburban road just north of Pittsburgh. A young – and charming, if I may say – 16-year-old is out with his dad, taking his red 1992 Plymouth Acclaim for a spin with his learner’s permit freshly in his wallet. After about a half hour of learning how to obey basic traffic laws, the father turns to his son and says: “Okay, let’s turn it around and go home.”
The son nods obediently, yanks the emergency brake release, taps the column shifter into neutral, and – without reducing speed – jams his foot onto the emergency brake. The rear tires of the Acclaim lock up, the steering wheel is yanked to the left, and within seconds, the surprisingly powerful V6 engine roars as the Acclaim is shifted back into gear to head home.
The son smiles smugly with his perfectly-executed first attempt at a bootleggers’ turn while the father breaks his steadfast rule about cursing around the kids:
You’re not Bo fucking Duke!
Needless to say, the son – whom you’ve no doubt gathered was me – refrained from further bootleggers’ turns… at least while Dad was in the car.
While I’m grateful to both my father and mother, it truly was Bo Duke who taught me how to drive. I raised myself on spinning tires, bootleggers’ turns, and car chases being the norm. By the time I could slip behind the wheel of my own car, the first things I did were to install a Dixie horn under the hood and a Midland CB radio under the dash. (Before you ask… no, I never tried to jump it over anything. I didn’t have 300+ Acclaims at my disposal like Warner Brothers did.)
Thanks to The Dukes of Hazzard – and confirmed by Bullitt – it was always my dream to own a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. The role of Bo Duke – speeding around skillfully in that great American muscle car – would’ve been a dream job for me, just as it was for 18-year-old John Schneider when the casting call went out in late 1978.
When Schneider heard about Bo, he knew that it was the role he had to have. Unfortunately for him, the role of a twenty-something Southerner might be hard for a New York-born teenager. Adopting a few tips from Civil War volunteers, Schneider presented his birth date as 1954 instead of 1960 and showed up to the auditions with a few days’ worth of stubble, a can of beer, and some chewing tobacco wadded into his mouth. His Southern accent and claim to have attended the “Georgia School of High Performance Driving” convinced the producers, and Schneider was cast as Bo Duke. (He eventually made good on at least one of his lies by attending the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.)
After Reb Brown’s failed Captain America series was cancelled after just eight episodes, The Dukes of Hazzard premiered as its mid-season replacement in January 1979. Only nine episodes were initially ordered, but CBS appreciated both the production and the reception and decided to give the show a shot.
35 years later, John Schneider – and his very masculine voice – is still proud of his connection to the show, refurbishing and selling old General Lees for fans. Like his co-star Tom Wopat, Schneider was able to leverage his Dukes stardom into a successful country music career and is still acting today, most notably playing Superman’s father on the popular, long-running Smallville.
What’d He Wear?
Like his cousin Luke, Bo Duke has a base look best described as a tan snap-down shirt, light wash jeans, tan cowhide riding boots, a flashy gold belt buckle, and – in early seasons – a light blue t-shirt underneath. While some may choose to simply say this sums up his attire throughout the show, this statement would be inaccurate – plus it would render most of this post useless and a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!
Throughout the first season, Bo’s base shirt is a flannel snap-down shirt with distinctive Western-style jokes across the back and front shoulder panels. The color is primarily tan, although it appears somewhere on the yellow spectrum between mustard and gold – complementing Schneider’s flaxen locks – in some lighting.
An indication of the times, as filming began in 1978, Bo’s primary shirt has a very large point collar that are at least 3″ long. This shirt is seen both in the first five episodes filmed in Georgia and the following first season episodes filmed in California.
Occasionally throughout the first season, this shirt would be swapped for a yellow version with a slimmer collar. This shirt is especially seen in “Repo Men” (Episode 1.04), although some car interior shots from “One-Armed Bandits” (Episode 1.01) and “Daisy’s Song” (Episode 1.02) also feature the slimmer-collared shirt.
Both shirts have patch pockets on the chest that close with a single snap on each pointed flap. (Rhyme!) The cuffs also have three snaps each, although Bo often wore the sleeves rolled up his arms.
Bo almost always wore his shirt tucked in as the front and rear hem were very long. Not only does a long, untucked hem look sloppy, but it would make climbing in and out of the General Lee very difficult.
The pilot episode, “One-Armed Bandits” (Episode 1.01), marks the only time Bo wore a brown t-shirt underneath his shirt. This dark brown t-shirt had very short sleeves and a small patch pocket on the left chest.
Beginning in the next episode, “Daisy’s Song” (Episode 1.02), Bo was seen wearing exclusively blue undershirts. “Daisy’s Song” featured a very vivid sky blue t-shirt that was styled similarly to the previous one with its short sleeves and chest pocket.
From “Mary Kaye’s Baby” (Episode 1.03) well into the third season, the t-shirt was a lighter tint of blue. Despite the different shirts, all featured the same short fit, short sleeves, and small chest pocket.
In the second season, the costumers evidently faced some confusion when finding shirts for Bo. Rather than his usual – and more Southern – snap shirts, Bo was often seen wearing a light tan shirt with white plastic buttons down the front placket, much more like a traditional dress shirt. Instead of snapped chest pockets, these shirts only had a single breast pocket.
It’s possible that these “un-Southern” shirts were an attempted solution to keep Schneider cooler in the now warmer climate of California; perhaps the costumers couldn’t find any lightweight snap shirts but wanted to retain Bo’s base look.
By the third season, Warner Brothers noticed the stars appearing frequently on Teen Beat covers and decided the show would be best served as The Beefcakes of Hazzard. Bo’s undershirt was never seen again once he matched Luke with his shirt open halfway down his torso. This was likely also done to keep Schneider more comfortable so he wouldn’t have to suffer through the show’s many action scenes wearing multiple layers during the warm days in Southern California.
Bo’s main shirt also changed a good bit during the third season in terms of color, material, and style. The Western-style snap shirt thankfully returned, although the color was a pale cream that often reflected white under the hot California sun. The warm flannel had also been abandoned in favor of a more lightweight cotton. The cream shirt was briefly paired with his pale blue t-shirt for a few early third season episodes, but the shirt was typically worn on its own.
For the sixth season, the show’s costumers reverted to a more first season-inspired look for Bo as he once again wore a tan flannel shirt. This shirt differs from the first shirt with its more moderate-length collar and richer light brown color.
The seventh and final season found Bo again wearing the cream shirt from the middle of the show’s run.
As one would expect for a country bumpkin, Bo was hardly ever seen wearing any pants other than his blue denim jeans. His jeans differed from his cousin’s by always being at least a shade lighter and certainly snugger. The high rise of his jeans emphasize Schneider’s already tall 6’3″ frame.
Especially for men, light wash jeans are difficult to wear fashionably. I’m not sure whether Bo’s lighter jeans were John Schneider’s preference or the production team’s choice, but they work better for Bo since he doesn’t wear a denim jacket with them.
In the first season, Bo’s jeans were more of a neutral light-medium wash, and they appeared to have the telling red Levi’s tag visible in several episodes. As the seasons went on, his jeans got both lighter and tighter. While tight jeans were also in fashion back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the fit was also probably helpful for Schneider so there would be no baggy parts snagging while constantly climbing in and out of the General Lee.
When Schneider and Wopat made their triumphant return after nearly a season-long separation from the show, both cousins were back in darker wash jeans that allowed slightly more breathing room.
Corresponding with his lighter jeans, Bo also consistently wore lighter-colored boots than his cousin. Bo’s boots were tan cowhide riding boots with decorative stitching and raised cowboy heels that both boosted Schneider’s height and gave Bo more of a countrified strut.
In “The Big Heist” (Episode 1.08), a small plot point derives from Bo purchasing a stiff pair of boots to replace his old ones. While switching them out on the street, we get a rare glimpse of Bo’s choice of socks. He appears to wear plain white cotton socks with a very high rise.
Both Bo and Luke wore brown leather belts that, either by accident or design, matched each cousin’s personality. While Luke only wore plain brown belts, Bo was always wearing a flashier Western-styled dark brown belt with ornate white and brown tooling.
Bo wore two different belt buckles over the course of the show. The first buckle was only worn during the first five episodes – the ones filmed in Georgia. This buckle was a large dulled brass rectangle with five alternating horizontal stripes in dark enamel and brass. The center of the buckle was a brass star surrounded by a circle, filled in with the same dark enamel. Stars make for a very common belt buckle motif, especially in the South and areas surrounding the “Lone Star State” of Texas.
Beginning with “Swamp Molly” (Episode 1.06), the first California-filmed episode, Bo started wearing the gold oval buckle he would wear for the rest of the show’s run. This buckle had a blue turquoise center surrounded by six “teardrop” perforations.
Bo’s Other Shirts
Despite what it looks like, the Duke boys did wear different shirts… occasionally. Typically, Bo only changed his shirt when Luke did, and it was almost always in situations not involving the General Lee so that the editing team didn’t have to worry about continuity when recycling shots of the car in motion.
Bo’s wardrobe remained much more consistent throughout the show than Luke’s, thus it was more noticable when Bo actually appeared in a different shirt.
The bright red flannel shirt Bo wears to the Starr recording studio in Atlanta is very similarly-styled to his early yellow shirts with the snap front, long-pointed collar, and chest pockets. Unusual for Bo during the first season, he wears no undershirt. It’s a very loud shirt, and that’s saying something for a guy who drives a bright orange Dodge Charger.
This red shirt only appears in “Daisy’s Song” (Episode 1.02) and only for the scenes set in and around Atlanta. By the time he returns to Hazzard, Bo returns to the comfort of his yellow shirt and t-shirt. The reason for his red shirt hasn’t been explained – at least not to me – but it was likely a way for the show to re-dress their characters for the sake of variety. Continuity could be sacrificed since “Daisy’s Song” contains their sole trip to Atlanta and all shots of the General Lee driving through the city would be useless for other episodes.
Bo next switches up his attire when he and Luke take ATF agent Roxanne Huntley “jukin'” in “High Octane” (Episode 1.05). While Luke is set up at the bar to bait Enos, Bo is the one actually out on the floor to juke and romance Roxanne. For this outing, he wears a light blue chambray shirt that snaps down the front, although he practically wears it open all the way down to his waist line.
A small black logo patch is visible on the top of the right chest pocket flap. Although too light-colored to be the same shirt, it is likely that Bo’s jukin’ shirt is from the same manufacturer as his royal blue chambray shirt worn in the promotional photo shoots. In both the photo shoot and the Boar’s Nest scenes, he wears it with a slightly darker pair of jeans than usual to provide a reasonable contrast.
A few seasons passed before Bo again felt comfortable in new clothes. On Christmas Eve, in “The Great Santa Claus Chase” (Episode 3.09), Boss Hogg drops in on the Dukes as they trim their tree, exchange gifts, and sing “O Holy Night”. Sure, it’s a corny, bucolic country Christmas, but Dukes always put warmth before humor and Rosco’s surprised yelp at the realization of Santa’s existence is perfectly timed before a quick cut to the outside of the house.
For Christmas Eve, Bo wears a warm dark green shirt with white and black plaid. Unlike most of the Dukes’ shirts, it buttons down the front with large white plastic buttons down the front placket rather than snaps. The patch pockets on the chest are also unflapped with just a single button to close. He wears it with his usual light wash jeans and caramel-colored boots.
This shirt, with its subtle but seasonal color, is a fine option for a casual Christmas celebration.
Schneider also this shirt on the cover of his 1983 album If You Believe. As his belt, jeans, and haircut are also part of his Bo Duke persona, it’s safe to say that Schneider felt a strong association with the character. (Despite the title and context of the shirt, If You Believe was not a Christmas album. Schneider had previously recorded an album of holiday songs in 1981, titled White Christmas.)
Three more years would pass before Bo appeared again in plaid, this time wearing a gray plaid shirt when romancing his “boss”, Mary Beth Carver, in “Undercover Dukes, Part 2” (Episode 6.17). This is his busiest shirt yet, with gray tones predominant and a blue and brown overcheck of various widths crossing throughout the shirt.
This shirt is lighter weight than his flannels – likely cotton, polyester, or a blend of the two – and has a slimmer spread collar and pointed patch pockets on the chest. The Western-style yokes are present, and the two chest pocket flaps each have two snaps – each snap on its own point.
The “Undercover Dukes” two-partner, as well as “Welcome Back, Bo ‘n’ Luke” (Episode 5.19), also featured Bo in his racing suit.
He wears a white lightweight rollneck under the suit, best seen when switching off with Daisy for the conclusion of the climactic race in “Undercover Dukes”.
“Happy Birthday, General Lee” (Episode 7.01) also offers a much different look for Bo as we’re taken on a flashback to 1976 when the Dukes first obtained General Lee. Bo, implied to be freshly out of high school – whether he actually graduated or not is left unsaid – wears more traditional “redneck” attire, perhaps a nod to the immaturity of his younger age.
Instead of his usual tan or yellow, Bo wears a red short-sleeve shirt with a thin white and black overcheck. It has black-toned snaps down the front with matching snaps on each of the pointed chest pocket flaps.
The shirt’s spread collar is a bit too slim to truly be convincing as a shirt from 1976 (as the episode was filmed in 1984), but it’s a refreshing – if uninentional – callback to the younger Bo’s predilection for red as seen in “Daisy’s Song”. The shirt also has 1″ cuffed short sleeves that barely clear his shoulder and curved front yokes rather than the traditional Western points seen on most of his other shirts.
Bo also channels his inner Cooter by donning a dirty yellow trucker hat with “RADIALS” stitched in red across the structured foam crown below a dulled gold sphere. Like all trucker hats, the back half is composed of plastic mesh and has a plastic adjustor strap.
Despite the new shirt and hat, Bo still has the same jeans, belt buckle, and boots as he wore in later episodes.
In fact, other than Bo’s outfit, Rosco’s mustache, and Boss’ reduced weight, the episode doesn’t try very hard to remain consistent with the characters’ looks at the outset. Luke’s boots, ring, belt, and buckle are the same he wore in later seasons, Daisy is still ’80s-ed, Cooter is still the “clean living” mechanic, and the declaration that Boss was too cheap to hire even one deputy doesn’t jibe with the multiple deputies seen in the pilot episode.
Bo rarely wears a jacket, usually just preferring to layer a shirt over his t-shirt. Since “The Great Santa Clause Chase” (Episode 3.09) takes place – obviously – at Christmastime, the showrunners decided it should be a slightly colder day in Hazzard and brought out Bo’s brown corduroy “suit” jacket that made brief appearances the first two seasons of the show.
This jacket will be discussed in its own context in the next session, but keep in mind that this is what Bo considered part of a suit.
If sueded corduroy isn’t your idea of redneck outerwear, perhaps the olive drab army jacket that Bo borrows from amateur thief Neil Bishop in “The Big Heist” (Episode 1.08) would be more fitting. After Neil robs Boss at finger-pretending-to-be-gun-point then holds the Dukes hostage, somehow the Dukes decide it’s a good idea to team up with Neil and fake-rob him again to trick him into- you know what? Just know that Bo borrows the jacket.
Neil’s jacket is a variation of the U.S. Army’s classic M-1950 field jacket in olive drab (techncially OG 107) constructed of 9-oz. treated cotton designed to be both wind resistant and water repellent. It has a covered button fly with an exposed top button in brown plastic. The jacket has four outer pockets – two large patch pockets on the chest and two on the hips – and an elasticized waistband. The cuffs button on a pointed tab, and the epaulettes fasten to the neck with similar brown buttons.
Though Bo only wears the jacket once, it works well for both his character and a proud, active Southerner. Of course, the show’s location in sunny California prevented jackets from being a practical everyday costume consideration.
The previously-discussed sartorial anomaly “Happy Birthday, General Lee” (Episode 7.01) gives us a glimpse of the show’s attempt at a flashback episode where Hazzard in 1976 looks far more like it does in 1984 than it did in 1978. The episode briefly shows Bo exiting the family truck wearing a distinctive blue denim jacket with tan suede panels across the shoulders and back. A large “clean denim” patch on the back indicates that a large patch or logo has likely been removed from the jacket. Bo removes the jacket almost immediately when he gets out of the truck – as this episode was filmed in the middle of a hot California summer, we can’t blame him – and it is never seen again.
Many behind-the-scenes photos, especially taken while filming the first five episodes in the chilly Georgia fall, show John Schneider wearing a variety of jackets between takes.
As much of Schneider’s personality directed Bo’s personality, most of his personal attire would be very appropriate for Bo.
Bo Dresses Up
As there’s not much formality required for driving around in a muscle car all day, Bo and Luke are very rarely seen wearing anything fancier than jeans and a snap shirt. However, a visit to their probation officer and a wedding – in “High Octane” (Episode 1.05) and “The Runaway” (Episode 2.14), respectively – call for a suit and tie.
Although Uncle Jesse owns a traditional suit, Bo and Luke decide to go a different route. Luke wears an all-denim suit that redefines ’70s tack, and Bo presents himself in a brown sueded corduroy variation of a leisure suit. Of the two outfits, Bo’s is the least offensive, but it’s still not something that should belong in your closet.
On its own, there’s nothing wrong with Bo’s jacket, a warm sepia brown suede blouson with camp collar and five dark brown horn buttons down the front placket. The corded wales are very thin, giving the jacket a soft, suede-like texture. It has large patch pockets on each hip that close with a buttoned flap. The elasticized cuffs and waistband are both dark brown.
Bo’s trousers are a matching shade of brown, constructed of the same thin-wale corduroy. They are flat front with plain-hemmed bottoms that slightly flare out over his boots. Like all of Bo’s pants, they are very slim-fitting with a straight leg, although they rise lower than Bo’s jeans. He sometimes places his hands in the slanted front pockets. There are also jetted rear pockets that each close with a button. The trousers appear to have a plain waistband with no belt loops.
Bo’s dress shirt is much more traditional than the plaid shirt favored by his cousin. It is light tan with a thin tonal stripe and a large spread collar. The shirt buttons down a front placket with white plastic buttons that match those on the rounded barrel cuffs. There is no breast pocket.
Bo completes the look with a light brown woolen tie. Some shots on the show itself and behind-the-scenes photos of Schneider goofing off at the Boar’s Nest set reveal the tie’s black rear tag, devoid of a manufacturer’s logo.
Of the two, Bo is clearly the more casual dresser as he loosens his tie as soon as it isn’t needed anymore, wearing it totally untied when getting gas at the Boar’s Nest. In the context of the series, there’s no need for him to keep himself duded up, but it provides a contrast to Luke, who keeps his tie fastened throughout the sequence.
The Deputy Dukes
Bo and Luke both enjoyed a brief foray into law enforcement when they were deputized into the Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department in the appropriately-named episode “Deputy Dukes” (Episode 1.10). The two cousins donned the uniforms (but not the sidearms) of a Hazzard County deputy sheriff in a near-suicidal mission from Boss and Rosco to deliver “Public Enemy #1”, the generically-named Rocky Marlowe, back to Hazzard County for a change of venue. The plan is further complicated by a lady policeman who may not be all she says she is (played by Dolly Parton’s less buxom sister Stella), two generic hoodlums, and a pair of devious women who steal clothing from men.
Each cousin is given a light blue cotton deputy’s shirt with seven white plastic buttons down the front placket, epaulettes, and box-pleated patch pockets on each chest with pointed button-down flaps. The spread collar is narrow for 1979, and the long sleeves fasten with two buttons.
The deputy shirt worn by Tom Wopat is available for sale at The Golden Closet for $950. Though it’s mislabeled as the blue chambray shirt he wore throughout the second season, the style and badge holes make it obvious that this was his shirt in “Deputy Dukes” (Episode 1.10).
Each shirt had an American flag patch on the top of the right arm and a custom-made Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department badge on the left. The Dukes were also issued gold name badges worn above the right pocket and gold six-pointed sheriff’s stars worn above the left pocket.
The Dukes also were given the black trooper-style hat, black tie, black flannel trousers, and black leather belt issued by the sheriff’s department. The ties were held into place by gold tie bars.
Bo differentiates himself by being the only character to actually wear a cowboy hat on the show, despite the promotional material featuring he, Luke, and Daisy often sporting them. In the pilot episode, “One-Armed Bandits” (Episode 1.01), Bo takes Jilly Rae Dodson into the middle of a field to teach her how to shoot a bow and arrow. In addition to offering some exposition about the cousins’ probation terms forbidding them from owning guns, the scene also gives us the single instance of Bo wearing a hat that promotional photos would lead you to believe never left his head.
Supposedly, the hat on the show actually belonged to Guy Del Russo, the Georgia makeup artist who worked on the first five episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard as well as Smokey and the Bandit. Bo’s pinched-front hat is well-worn tan leather with a dirty brim. The dark brown leather band has silver diamond-shaped diamond head studs and a few multi-colored feathered tucked into the right side.
As the flashier Duke cousin, Bo wears his sunglasses slightly more than Luke does, although they’re still very sparsely seen. In “Daisy’s Song” (Episode 1.02), when each cousin wears a pair of sunglasses, Bo wears gold-framed aviators with solid dark green lenses. They briefly appear again in “Undercover Dukes, Pt. 2” (Episode 6.17).
The “Undercover Dukes” two-parter also features Bo in a pair of very ’80s dark brown plastic wraparound racing sunglasses.
Neither Bo nor Luke wore wristwatches on the show, but each cousin carried a silver open-faed pocket watch that received occasional use. Bo kept his in his right shirt pocket, as seen when he is driving the 18-wheeler casino in “Route 7-11” (Episode 1.12).
Like his cousin Luke, Bo keeps a flapped leather pouch on the right side of his belt for his knife. The pouch is either worn black or dark brown leather with a single silver snap.
The promotional photos for The Dukes of Hazzard show Schneider’s cheeky side that certainly worked its way into his portrayal of Bo. Many of the photos taken before the show was filmed focused primarily on the three leads – John Schneider, Tom Wopat, and Catherine Bach – in order to draw in a younger audience as CBS and Warner Brothers weren’t confident in the rural-based show’s market value.
Since the show hadn’t begun yet, the producers weren’t yet certain how the cousins would dress. All that was certain was that the boys would wear snap shirts and jeans… and Daisy would wear her famous extra-short shorts. Only the belt and boots would remain the same from Bo’s photo shoot onto the show itself.
One of the yellow wide-collared snap shirts Schneider wore during the photo shoots eventually found its way onto the show. The other shirt worn by Schneider was a royal blue chambray snap shirt that appears to be a darker version of the blue “jukin'” shirt from “High Octane” (Episode 1.05).
Schneider also wore plenty more accessories than Bo ever did for the promotional photos, including an ornate brown cowboy hat and plenty of silver and torquoise jewelry including a necklace pendant, a bracelet, and a pinky ring. The photos also feature a stainless watch on his wrist, very out of character for Bo as he was never seen wearing a wristwatch on the series. The photo shoot also utilized a very flashy and very large gold oval belt buckle that was replaced by the simpler star by the time production was underway.
Schneider was especially receptive to the country aspects of the show and worked much of Bo’s attire into his offscreen image.
Go Big or Go Home
Bo Duke was the impulsive cousin, the yin to Luke’s cooler-headed yang who often got the duo (or the whole family) into trouble with his quick thinking and heart on his sleeve. He both fell in love easily and would get angry easily, and often Luke, Daisy, or Uncle Jesse would need to talk him out of whatever emotion he was experiencing.
Bo’s impulsiveness certainly worked to his benefit also. The fast-acting Bo was often tasked with firing the arrows destined for their foe, although Luke was quite the bow marksman himself. His leadfoot also came in handy in the driver’s seat of the General Lee. For all of its faults, “Happy Birthday, General Lee” (Episode 7.01) wisely shows Bo unknowingly taking the General down a construction road to a closed bridge. Rather than trying to stop the car or turn around, Bo decided to just go with it and discovered instantly that the General Lee was more than capable of jumping over a ravine.
As the most common driver of the duo, Bo is likely based on Jerry Rushing himself. Jerry Elijah Rushing was the actual source for most of the Dukes‘ story, having regaled producer Gy Waldron with tales of moonshining in North Carolina. By the time he was 12 years old, Jerry had a reputation around the hills as a reckless but talented moonshine runner – or “moonrunner” – that could outrun any trap sent his way. He eventually got his hands on a modified 1958 Chrysler 300D, a powerful 2-door boasting Chrysler’s innovative 392 cubic inch “FirePower” Hemi V8 engine. With speeds topping 140 mph, Rushing’s 300D became a local legend. He named the car “Traveller” after General Lee’s horse, and fitted it with a rig that would dump oil on the road to further impair any lawman’s pursuing cars.
With the success of moonshine stories like Thunder Road (1958) and White Lightning (1973), Rushing decided he had a story worthy of being told. Rushing divulged tales to Gy Waldron of running whiskey made by his wise old Uncle Worley, often accompanied by his brother Johnny and female cousin Delane. Leaving the moonshine life behind him, Rushing became a capable bow hunter and entertainment advisor.
Waldron was captivated by Rushing’s stories and, in 1975, the film Moonrunners was modestly released. Filmed in Georgia on a shoestring budget, Rushing’s stories came to life against the raw and real-life setting of a small part of Appalachia that still hasn’t changed in the last forty years. Rushing, who had a small role in the film as a syndicate henchman, was portrayed as the impulsive Bobby Lee Hagg (played by Hill Street Blues‘ Kiel Martin). Bobby Lee’s cousin Grady was more of an easygoing womanizer, played by James Mitchum; James was Robert’s son with whom he had starred in Thunder Road. The proud family patriarch who compared his moonshine to a “Model T Ford” was now Uncle Jesse, played by veteran screen actor Arthur Hunnicutt. Though not a cousin, the film’s eye candy Beth was played by newcomer Chris Forbes.
While Rushing’s stories alone would have been enough to inspire an entertaining flick, Waldron and producer Bob Clark added a new element of corruption in the form of Jake Rainey, a syndicate gangster who wants to monopolize the county’s moonshine industry. Together with the weary and corruptable Sheriff Rosco Coltrane, Rainey’s men find resistance with the proud Hagg family.
The film was a moderate success, especially among drive-ins in the South, but additional movies like Gator and Smokey and the Bandit revived the public’s interest in good ol’ boys fighting the system with a fast car and illegal liquor. Waldron returned to Rushing, and The Dukes of Hazzard was developed.
The first five episodes, the ones filmed in Georgia, are most reflective of Waldron and Rushing’s vision. Most of the story lines – the pregnant woman by the side of the road running from gangsters, the friendly relationship with certain revenue agents – all derived from real life experiences. Waldron often explains that if production had remained in Georgia, more of these accurate and interesting stories would have come to life on the show rather than the formulaic “bad guys show up” plot, as Tom Wopat eloquently stated.
These early episodes are also the most aesthetically accurate from the old buildings in Covington Town Square and Newton County’s picturesque dirt roads surrounded by changing leaves to even the inimitable human scenery that rings true.
More discussion of the actual Georgia locations from the first five episodes can be found in the Luke Duke post from last Friday.
How to Get the Look
Though more prone to variation than his cousin Luke, Bo had a solid look that is most associated with him.
- Tan or yellow flannel long-sleeve shirt with snap-front placket, Western-style yokes, snapped chest pockets with flaps, and triple-snap cuffs
- Light blue cotton short-sleeve shirt with breast pocket
- Light-medium wash blue denim jeans
- Brown ornately-tooled leather belt
- Gold or brass belt buckle with turquoise center or gold star
- Dark brown leather flapped knife pouch with single snap, worn on belt
- Light brown leather “cowboy” riding boots
- White cotton high rise socks
If it’s a sunny day, Bo might accessorize with a dirty light brown pinched-crown cowboy hat or a gold-framed pair of aviator sunglasses. A cold day may call for a brown corduroy blouson jacket. Or maybe just a t-shirt and a snap shirt are all you need!
Only on a show as good-natured as The Dukes of Hazzard could two lead characters get away with driving a car named General Lee… enhanced with a large Confederate battle flag painted on the roof.
If you go to Google Image Search and type “General Lee”, you won’t see a single photo of the bearded Confederate war leader. Instead, you’ll see dozens of images of a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger R/T with a black “01” painted on each side and… that flag… painted on the roof. Although somewhere around 300 General Lees were made – and crashed – during the run of the show, at least twice that many replicas have been made by fans and collectors since Dukes went off the air in 1985.
When developing the show, Gy Waldron and his team knew the car was going to be a special part of it. Moonshiners like Jerry Rushing, Junior Johnson, and Willie Clay Call all fondly remember their big old Fords and Chryslers used to deliver whiskey. Not only would the Dukes be moonshiners, they also were racers. Thus, the search was on for a car that would be convincing as a powerful performer that could evade both the police and fellow racers. The Pontiac Trans Am, freshly popular from its use in Smokey and the Bandit, was a top contender before the Charger was famously chosen.
The name “General Lee” resulted from Jerry Rushing’s old Chrysler, which was named “Traveller” after the real Robert E. Lee’s horse. Deciding to cut out the middlehorse, Warner Brothers settled on naming the car after the man himself.
Once the show was written and cast, Warner Brothers purchased the first three Dodge Chargers to “play” the General Lee and shipped them to Georgia for the filming. Transportation coordinator John Marendi began labeling each Charger as LEE1, LEE2, or LEE3, distinguished with a small black tag besides the vin tag on each car.
Each of the first three LEE cars are prominently seen in the first five Georgia episodes in various states of repair…
LEE1, an original 1969 Dodge Charger, was a second unit car with a full rollcage and a 383 V8 engine. The original “light brown metallic” (T3 code) color was repainted orange to look like the General with the flag and the “01” vinyl decals placed before shipping. The interior was tan leather with a three-speaker dash and air conditioning. LEE1 is very distinguishable from the others as it was the only one to retain the chrome rocker panels.
LEE1 didn’t receive much original screen time, but it literally leapt to stardom in “One-Armed Bandits” (Episode 1.01) when stuntman Craig Baxley jumped it over Rosco’s patrol car in front of Seney Hall at Oxford College. This jump, on November 11, 1978 (35 years ago tomorrow!), became legendary as it closed out the opening credits of most episodes. Unfortunately, the 16′ high and 82′ long jump wrecked the car on impact despite the concrete weights in the trunk to keep the car from overturning due to the heavy 383 engine.
Lessons were learned, and the car was repurposed as Richard Petty’s crashed junker in “Repo Men” (Episode 1.04). By that time, it had its front seats and 1969-styled grille and taillight panel removed in order to modify a 1968 Charger to look like a ’69 for future episodes. LEE1 was retired to a Georgia junkyard after its appearances on the show, but it was later bought and restored by John Schneider to its original condition.
LEE2, likely another original 1996 Dodge Charger, was another second unit car with a full rollcage and tan interior. Like LEE1, the orange paint and “01” vinyl decal were added before shipping it to Georgia. LEE2 performed the first jump actually seen on the show when the General leaps over and down Covington’s Elm Street in pursuit of Rosco’s stolen patrol car.
LEE3, a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T SE (Special Edition), was the first unit close-up car for these episodes. It was the second General Lee built by Warner Brothers, but it was labeled last because it hadn’t yet made it to Marendi’s shop for repairs. The original color was green (F5 code) with a tan interior, woodgrain dash, power windows, and power brakes. It carried the powerful 440 Magnum V8 under the hood with a 4-barrel carburetor and rated horsepower of 375 hp… although this was rumored to be much higher. The green was repainted with a 1975 Corvette “Flame Red”, but a special base coat was needed when the red appeared too blotchy as it was applied directly over factory paint.
LEE3 stayed parked at the Holiday Inn near Conyers with the cast and crew for two months and was often used for publicity photos… often with the doors open and the number missing! This General Lee was the last to receive the trademark “01”, which was painted on the side by Larry West upon the car’s arrival in Norcross, GA. LEE3 was the only original of the three cars to survive all Georgia episodes and was returned to California for use in episodes well into the second season.
These three General Lees were the only ones in the series to sport the crossed Confederate and checkered race flags on the rear panel between the trunk and rear window. Four sets of the crossed flag decals were created, but only three were used. For the ease of continuity, these decals were discontinued when the show moved to California and the surviving General Lee had its crossed flags removed.
Three more General Lees were built during the Georgia production, including at least one 1968 Charger that used the grille and taillight panel from LEE1. Eventually, the show’s desperation for General Lees grew to the point where producers would stake out Charger drivers in parking lots to ask to buy their car on the spot. Several numbers have been given for the number of Chargers used on the show, ranging from 256 (according to Ben Jones) to 321 (according to the LEE1 website). Many give an estimate of 309, which sounds accurate enough. At least 23 are known to have survived the filming and still exist; some are restored, some are still showing their battle wounds from the show’s expert stunt team.
Although the B-body Charger was produced from 1968 through 1970, only 1968 and 1969 models were used on the show. All had fully functional doors for safety and practical reasons, although the show’s mythology always maintained that they were welded shut to be a proper stock car. The paint used was “Hemi Orange”, Chrysler’s color code EV2, and any interior that wasn’t originally tan leather was sprayed with SEM brand’s “Saddle tan” vinyl die. Some of the cars, particularly ones built by Andre and Renaud Veluzat for Warner Brothers from the second through the fourth seasons used the same “Flame Red” (GM code 70) used on LEE3. The Veluzat-built cars were more inconsistent than others with interiors dyed varying shades of brown. Sources state that WB was charged $250 each week for rental of a Veluzat car with between $2000-$3000 to be paid upon the car’s destruction, including the oft-crashed police cars. Maintenance fell to WB’s mechanics at their expense.
As the stunt team noticed cars reducing speed due to the front end scraping the ramp before taking off, later General Lees had the front end raised. Stunt cars were fitted with 500-1000 pounds of concrete ballast or sand bags in the trunk to prevent the car from nose-diving with its heavy front engine. Despite the measures taken, landings for the General Lee were often unpredictable and typically rendered the car unusable after a single jump. Pausing or watching jumps in slow motion often show the car’s frame crumpling as it hits the ground.
Engines on the Chargers varied with Chrysler’s 318 LA-series, 383 B-series, and 440 RB Magnum V8 engines all finding a home under the General Lee’s hood. The standard combination was a 440 Magnum V8 with the 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite A727 automatic transmission. Despite rumors and popular belief, no 426 Hemi engines and very few manual transmissions were fitted into any General Lee Chargers.
Often the engine was reflected by the task demanded of the car. Close-up, first unit General Lees typically had 383 V8 engines. When the General was required to “ski” on either its left or right set of wheels – with the opposite wheels in the air – used the lighter weight 318 V8. The stunt drivers obviously preferred the big-block 440 V8 for jumps, so any Charger with a 440 was typically reserved for heavy stunts and long, high jumps. The difference in weight between a 318 Charger and a 440 Charger was just shy of 300 pounds (3384 lb. curb weight vs. 3682 curb weight).
Looking at the engines, specs, and performance, it becomes obvious that not all Chargers were created equal. A Charger with a 440 V8 and the 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission had an estimated top speed of 136 mph, accelerating from 0-60 in 6.2 seconds and completing a 1/4 mile drag in 14.4 seconds at a speed of 95 mph. This impressive performance was balanced out by its dismal fuel economy of approximately 8.6 miles per gallon, going no further than 164 miles from its 19 gallon tank. The 440’s optional manual transmission offered a lower top speed at 131 mph but a better 0-60 time at 5.5 seconds.
On the low-end, the Charger was also produced in a six-cylinder model that never made its way onto the Dukes… at least not as a General Lee. This 225 cubic inch engine had a top speed just shy of 100 mph with very low 0-60 times of 13.3 seconds with the 3-speed manual, inflated a full second with TorqueFlite. The 225 offered far better mileage with an average of 15.3 miles per gallon, but the depressing trap speeds of 19.3 sec. at 71 mph (or 19.8 sec. at 70 mph with TorqueFlite) aren’t worth the sacrifice.
The powerful and legendary 426 Hemi, on the other hand, could attain a top speed of 143 mph with a stunning 0-60 acceleration of time of 5.4 seconds. Both transmissions were equally impressive performers, although the 4-speed manual offered a slightly better drag time of 13.9 seconds at 100 mph than the TorqueFlite’s 14.2 seconds at 98 mph. Shockingly, the Hemi’s gas mileage was also more economical than the 440 with 9.3 miles per gallon on a TorqueFlite transmission and a relatively impressive 10.2 miles per gallon when equipped with the 4-speed.
The General Lees’ exhaust systems were basic, typically with a standard exhaust pipe cut just before the rear end. Thrush glasspack mufflers were fitted to many of the close-up cars, and the exhaust sound from these cars was often dubbed in to most of the scenes of the car in action.
1969 Dodge Charger R/T
Body Style: 2-door fastback coupe
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 440 ci (7.2 L) Chrysler “RB”-series V8 with 4-barrel carburetor
Power: 375 hp (279.5 kW; 380 PS) @ 4600 rpm
Torque: 480 lb·ft (651 N·m) @ 3200 rpm
Transmission: 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite automatic
Wheelbase: 117 inches (2972 mm)
Length: 208.0 inches (5283 mm)
Width: 76.7 inches (1948 mm)
Height: 53.0 inches (1346 mm)
The Dukes of Hazzard was on the air for six seasons before any real explanation was given for how the Dukes got ahold of their damn near magical car. Finally, the seventh season premiere (“Happy Birthday, General Lee”) offered a look back to eight years previous when Bo was just finishing high school and Luke was freshly home from the Marine Corps. Anxious to win one of Boss Hogg’s upcoming races, Bo and Luke purchased a dilapidated black ’69 Charger from a “Capitol City” junkyard and tuned it up with a fresh engine and a fresh coat of orange paint – the only amount Cooter had enough of in his shop.
Very few mentions are made throughout the show of the General Lee’s make and model, though it is plainly obvious as a 1969 Dodge Charger. The show took care to remove the emblems, first with the sail panel and tail light panel emblems for the first few seasons, and finally all emblems were removed from 1982 onward.
Many grown-up Dukes fans have attained their life goal of owning their own General Lee. To begin, you need a 1969 Dodge Charger, preferably an R/T and preferably fitted with a 318, 383, or 440 V8 engine. Next…
The paint. Chrysler’s “Hemi Orange” (EV2) is often cited as the most correct color for the car’s exterior, although GM’s “Flame Red” (70) from the Corvette also works, providing a darker hue. Other colors used by fans for replicas are “Big and Bad Orange” and the light “Vitamin C Orange”. The entire body should be painted, but the tail light area should be left black.
The wheels and tires. General Lee used American Racing’s all-aluminum “Vector” rims with ten spokes, usually 14″ x 7″ although occasionally 15″ x 7″ were used on the rear wheels. These rims were mounted on B.F. Goodrich Radial T/A P235/70R14 tires, correct for the standard Charger tire size of F70 x 14.
The push bar. You know that badass black thing on the front of the General Lee that looks like it could belong on a police car? That’s called a push bar. For the first few seasons, the General was fitted with a narrow push bar that was welded to the bumper, but this damaged the grill with each bump. From 1982 onward, the General wore a wider push bar that attached to the actual frame.
The doors. Bo and Luke chose to weld theirs shut, but… this isn’t a very good idea. Instead, feel free to emblazon them with a proud “01”, indicating that you’ll be #1 as Bo desired when he chose the number. The first two Generals and many modern replicas use vinyl decal kits, but most of the show’s examples had them painted on. Gearhead Diva offers an excellent series of measurements to be used when making the perfect General Lee replica.
The flag. This might get you into some trouble. An American flag may be a nice, politically correct way to update the car for the 21st (or even the 20th) century, but a true General Lee will wear the Army of Northern Virginia’s battle flag on its roof. Though never officially adopted by the CSA, it’s now simply known as a “Confederate flag” or “Dixie flag”. Gearhead Diva again has the correct guide for painting or placing this flag on the roof.
Duke purists would also consider adding the crossed flags from the Georgia General Lees on the panel behind the rear window to keep their General distinctive.
The interior. Dodge’s “saddle tan” is the correct color for most General Lees, although the post-1982 Generals all typically were colored a lighter tan which was often just spray-painted. A non-functional roll bar, created from foam-padded exhaust tubing, adds the “stock car” look to the General’s interior.
Breaker, breaker. The constant use of CB radios on The Dukes of Hazzard is one of the things even a casual viewer remembers. The Dukes kept a Cobra 78x CB radio in their car through the sixth season, when it was replaced by a Sharp 40-channel radio. The trunk-mounted antenna was the Archer 21-908A from Radio Shack, which was also replaced in 1982 by the square-based Avanti Racer 27.
The horn. And, of course, the “Dixie” horn. Wolo currently makes a 5-trumpet electrical music horn, Model #430, that most replica owners purchase for their cars, typically from J.C. Whitney. You can even order one from Amazon now.
The story goes that two directors were eating breakfast in Covington’s town square when they heard a car drive by playing the opening twelve notes to “Dixie” as the horn. The directors chased down the owner and bought the horn from his car for $300, placing it in a General Lee for inclusion on the show. Unfortunately for them, they later learned that this type of novelty horn could be purchased much easier and much more cheaply from any auto parts store. After the first five episodes, the horn was dubbed during post-production as it would be very impractical to purchase and install 300 horns on cars that will just be crashed.
The license plates. The General Lee had Hazzard County license plates CNH-320, although Georgia plates would be the best match. Appropriately enough for a place where time seems to stand still, the General’s plates were always dated 1976.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I live here. I choose this life. Not because I don’t know no better, but because I believe it is better, and I’m gonna fight anything or anybody that pollutes the well where I drink.
Footnotes and Sources
Helpful links about General:
- Gearhead Diva’s guide to creating your own General Lee was invaluable.
- Hazzard County Car Club provided some great stories about the original Georgia General Lees. for story about some of the original GA cars and a replica made
- The Automobile Catalog has a great page on the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum TorqueFlite with in-depth specs and performance notes for it and many, many, many other cars! This is one of the few sites I visit on a daily basis.