General Lee Dodge Charger
For a generation of TV addicts, the indestructible "General Lee" 1969 Dodge Charger from The Dukes of Hazzard is the ultimate car. Today there are probably more General Lee replicas running around than any other media machine. Some of them are meticulous re-creations, but throw some orange paint and "01" decals onto an old Hyundai, and you have a replica of sorts. Jump it over a creek, and you're on your way to YouTube superstardom!
This particular General Lee was built and owned by John Schneider, the actor who played Bo Duke in the 1979–85 TV series. Visually, it's a dead ringer for the (often crummy) '69 Chargers he drove on the show, but it's been fortified with a 511-cubic-inch old-style Hemi V-8, Brembo four-wheel disc brakes, a Hotchkiss suspension upgrade, and a Gear Vendors overdrive behind the three-speed automatic transmission. With about 550 horsepower onboard, the car has been optimized to run (and has run) in open road events like the Silver State Challenge and will, says Travis Bell (he accompanied the car and is the founder of the North American General Lee Fan Club [www.generalleefanclub.com]), gallop along at about 145 mph with the engine turning 4100 rpm. Bell also says the car would take about $200,000 to re-create and is insured for $500,000.
Since it was used in the last Dukes reunion TV movie and appears in Collier & Co. Hot Pursuit, an independent film Schneider has produced and directed, this Charger has a show-business pedigree. But it's not living a pampered life, and the wear shows. The steering is tight, but it has geriatric creaks and groans, and the brake pedal needs to be hammered with femur-cracking force. Still, it's a quick car, making it to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds, despite overwhelming its P235/60R-15 Pirelli P600s on every launch and being geared for top-end speed.
It's not a car to drive to the Vassar faculty mixer, but park it in front of any BBQ joint in America, and the ribs will likely be free.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door coupe
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $200,000
ENGINE TYPE: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and heads, 2x4-bbl Edelbrock carburetors
Displacement: 511 cu. in., 8,374cc
Power (mfr's claim): 550 bhp @ 4,200 rpm
Torque (mfr's claim): 550 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 3-speed automatic plus overdrive
Wheelbase: 117.0 in.
Length: 207.9 in.
Width: 76.6 in.
Height: 53.2 in.
Curb weight: 4,120 lbs.
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.5 sec.
Zero to 100 mph: 12.4 sec.
Street start, 5-60 mph: 5.4 sec.
Standing ¼-mile: 13.9 sec. @ 107 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 244 ft.
It's about 19 feet long spread over a 127.2-inch wheelbase and yet only has room for two. It is without any significant weather protection or storage space or windshield wipers. Every proportion is wrong. The detailing is comic-bookish, and the design theme is furry-flying-pest-based. Yet somehow, the Batmobile -- a 41-year-old redress of Ford's 52-year-old Lincoln Futura concept car -- is staggeringly beautiful, in an oddly timeless and silly way.
Nate Turner's reproduction Batmobile from the 1966 TV series (www.1966Batmobile.com) is an order of magnitude more ambitious than the redecorated production cars in this test. The body is a fiberglass reproduction built by the late Bob Butts (a legend within the teensy Batmobile replica world) from a splash mold off one of George Barris's first Batmobiles. The body is mounted to the chassis of a $200 used 1979 Lincoln Continental sedan with the Lincoln's fire wall incorporated into the structure. Also in place is the Lincoln's emissions-strangled 6.6-liter pushrod V-8 and three-speed automatic transmission. Virtually everything else on the car -- the functional Bat Scope, the missile-launching deck tubes, the flame-spewing rear-turbine outlet, and much more -- was scratch-built by Turner using swap-meet finds and other scavenged bits during its construction, which went on from 1996 to 2003. "It's a giant model-car-kit bash," explains Turner, who is 45. "I built the car to represent what was on the show -- not as the car actually was."
Turner is deliberately vague on his investment in the car. "I didn't keep good records for a reason," he says. "But there are a couple of guys charging about $90,000 for a basic full-build Batmobile."
With only 159 horsepower and 4020 pounds of heft, Turner's Batmobile is dead-dog slow, taking a woeful 13.9 seconds to hit 60 mph and 19.5 seconds to huff through the quarter-mile, at 70 mph. That same dead dog seems to be in charge of a steering system that has no self-centering ability or any feel at all. But that, plus the distortion in the plexiglass canopies and a few dozen ergonomic hiccups, all fades away the moment the Bat Ray rises, or the Bat Chutes deploy, or the Bat Phone rings.
In the Batmobile, well, you forgive a lot.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $120,000
ENGINE TYPE: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and heads, 1x2-bbl carburetor
Displacement: 400 cu in, 6555cc
Power (SAE net): 159 bhp @ 3,400 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 315 lb.-ft. @ 1,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 3-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 127.2 in.
Length: 225.0 in.
Width: 84.0 in.
Height: 48.0 in.
Curb weight: 4,020 lbs.
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 13.9 sec.
Street start, 5-60 mph: 12.9 sec.
Standing ¼-mile: 19.5 sec. @ 70 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 415 ft.