Masters champ Bubba Watson and his controversial car, The General Lee

Bubba Watson’s $110,000 “Dukes of Hazzard” car was banned from a NASCAR event because of the Confederate flag on the roof. Photo: One of many: The General Lee

VIENNA, Va., April 11, 2012 — There is a real connection between the Civil War and the 2012 Masters Champion, a super golfer from Florida named Bubba Watson. It’s his 1969 Dodge Charger named The General Lee that once “starred” in “Dukes of Hazzard.” The dots all connect.

Anyone old enough to remember the 1980s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” can recall that there were two iconic images of that series: One was the Daisy Dukes, short-shorts worn by the lead female of the series. You still hear shorts referred to by that name today, although kids have no idea of their history.

The other is The General Lee, the bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger driven by Lucas and Bo Duke as they broke laws, ran moonshine, and otherwise terrorized a small area of Georgia known as  the fictional town of Hazzard.  

The car was named for a Southern hero, General Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate forces in the Civil War, whose personal “ride” was a gray horse named Traveller. A one-horsepower ride.

This particular icon, the car, has come back into prominence in the last week or so with the information that one of the cars was bought by this year’s Masters champ, Bubba Watson, a couple of years ago for the sum of $110,000.

Bubba Watson in The General Lee

Anyone who keeps up with such things knows that was a mere pittance compared to some of the prices paid for similar cars within the last few years, one going as high as a million dollars. For a 30+ year old American car.

Watson had been wanting this car for some time, and his wife Angie had promised him if he won a major tournament, he could have the car, which now sits in his garage in Florida.

And yet only two months ago, when Watson was invited by the Phoenix International Raceway to be one of the parade of cars prior to a NASCAR race, NASCAR hastily withdrew the invitation when the organizers learned that Watson’s car was identical to the original, complete with the Confederate battle flag painted on the top. 

One wonders if these misguided minions of ersatz political correctness realized that the same flag was on the original, all 321 originals? That’s what made it The General Lee  and not just any 1969 Charger.

The “Dukes of Hazzard” was written and watched in an era long after the Civil Rights major thrust was made, after schools had been desegregated, but back when movies and TV shows were made for enjoyment and pleasure, not to further a political statement or agenda.

One would think that the “good old boy” contingent, which has been the heart and soul of NASCAR for decades, and its organizational leaders would have figured out where their bread and butter came from. NASCAR is based in the South, and one still sees dozens of Confederate flags flying from cars and campers in the parking lots at every NASCAR race.

How does that differ from having a special car owned by a very special sportsman be driven by him around the track, just because the Confederate flag is on the top?

Watson was a disappointed guy when he received the word that he was welcome, but his beloved car was not. He tweeted:

@bubbawatson Sorry to say @NASCAR won’t let me drive The General Lee at the @PhoenixRaceway !!! #dreamcrushed — dated 15 Feb.2012

Back when the “Dukes of Hazzard” was on television, it was set in a backwoods area, its characters from Cooter to Roscoe to Boss Hog were stereotypical country folk from the woods of Georgia, and yet no one is fussing at the misrepresentation of Southerners 30 years later!

John Schneider, aka Bo Duke

Running from Jan. 26, 1979 to August 16, 1985, there were 146 episodes over a seven-year span, and it’s still available through companies who revere old time movies and TV programs and sell them.

The car that Bubba Watson purchased is only one of something like 321 such models. The original was a souped up 1969 Dodge Charger, featuring a 440 cu. in. Magnum V-8 engine, and every hot rod accessory an engine can hold, including a Holley four-barrel carburetor. It would deliver 364 hp at 5,000 rpm, and 490 lbs. of torque at 2,400 rpms. The rims were 14”x 7” Vectors, but sometimes 15” x 7” rims were put on the rear, and 14” x 7” ones on the front to improve handling.

The tires were B.F. Goodrich Radial T/A. The most common size was P235/70R14, although P235/70R15 was also used. If you watched the series, when the “good guys” shot out the tires in a chase, the Dukes stopped and retrieved 2-3-4 new ones from the seemingly bottomless trunk and changed them on the spot, then resumed the chase.

The doors were welded shut in some strange obeisance to the model of NASCAR-esque fans of the era, requiring the driver (and passenger, if any) to enter and exit through the open windows. Some of them actually had a roll cage or bar inside.

During the show’s heyday, some 30,000 requests for autographed photos of the car were received. This was accomplished by spreading the photographs of the car on the ground and running  over them, leaving the impression of tire treads.

Each weekly program featured a wild car chase between the Duke boys and the Sheriff or someone else, requiring The General Lee  to leap off cliffs, jump huge spaces, take a nose dive into the lake and still come out running. After a significant jump, the basic integrity of the car was damaged, and it could no longer be used. Chassis, wheels, suspensions can only take so many assaults.

The cars were loaded with around a thousand pounds of sand or concrete ballast in the back, so that the nose (closest to the driver) would have a softer landing.  Depending on the severity of the stunts, a car might be sufficiently wrecked after a week of shooting and have to be discarded. A new one would be rolled into place. Many were snapped up by fans from a junk yard, and more than a few were “rescued” by people who worked on production crews for the series and taken home to restore.

Supposedly the one owned by Watson is “the original” car, fully restored and like new. There is also a “General Lee” on display at the Appomattox, Va. site off the Museum of the Confederacy’s first satellite venue. They seem to pop up from time to time and there are several presently listed for sale.

Oh yes – when the horn was sounded in the TV shows, it played the first 12 notes of “Dixie’s Land.” Bet the NASCAR fans would love that. Bubba Watson still loves his car, and when little Caleb, all of six weeks old, gets big enough, bet Daddy lets him behind the wheel of it.

As long as there are no NASCAR buddies in the area.

_________________________

Also Read Martha’s Masters coverage: 

Masters 2012: another look at Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and the field

Some interesting stories about the 2012 Masters’ golfers and their quirks, making the game all that more interesting. Published 9:32 a.m. April 10, 2012 

Sports Around »

Gerry “Bubba” Watson, uses a pink-shafted driver with a large pink head, and seems to never stop smiling, broke down when he realized he had won the 76th Masters

Sports Around » 

Peter Hanson’s second Masters has him leading with 65 on Day 3

Today saw the guys‘ scoring all over the course: Couples was three under; Dufner leading six under, Lee Westwood ties second; Kuchar ends as co-leader.

Sports Around »

 

Follow the column on Face Book or LinkedIn at Martha Boltz, and by email it’s MBoltz2846@aol.com Read more of Martha’s columns on The Civil War at the Communities at the Washington Times.


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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."

 

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