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Dukes of Hazzard & Other News - Flies Again

All the News Without Fear or Favor

Nov 1, 2003
0311_sccp_01_z+dukes_of_hazzard_other_news+general_lee Photo 1/1   |   Dukes of Hazzard & Other News - Flies Again

Careful analysis of this magazine's demographics and harmonization of those figures with historical records indicates that the most important date in our average reader's life was January 26, 1979. That, of course, was the Friday night "The Dukes of Hazzard" replaced "The Incredible Hulk" on the CBS network schedule.

Dukes is to car guys what "Star Trek" is to sci-fi doofs and "Charlie's Angels" is to chronic masturbators: a television show set in an idealized world where the laws of man and nature have been twisted to indulge our dearest fantasies.

For Travis Bell however, it wasn't enough to watch "The Dukes of Hazzard," he wanted to live it. And this past June 29, he did that by building his own "General Lee" Dodge Charger, filling it with one of the original stuntmen from the show, and launching it 22 feet high and out 139 feet in the same Georgia town where the show was first shot a quarter century ago. We're only three years into this century, but it's hard to imagine anything more magnificent happening in the next 97.

Travis, 30, works as a club DJ in Indianapolis and is also co-president of the North American General Lee Fan Club (www.generalleefanclub.com), which is dedicated to celebrating the more than 300 Chargers that portrayed the General Lee and the stunt crew that launched it every week into prime-time orbit. Where those of us who grew up on the Dukes may have a fond place for the show in our hearts, Bell's heart beats to the rhythm of the show's Waylon Jennings theme song.

"The show came around at just the right time in my life," Bell says, explaining his obsession. "I was too young to be interested in [Daisy Duke's] shorts, but I was the perfect age to be impressed by a big orange, indestructible car."

So impressed, he dug $27,000 out of his not-particularly deep pockets and spent two years finagling his contacts within the Dukes fan and production community to launch his own General Lee as part of the three-day Hazzard Homecoming event in Covington, Ga., where the first five episodes of the show were shot before production moved to Southern California.

The Hazzard Homecoming event itself included tours of filming locations, a car show overstuffed with dozens of General Lee replicas (and even a few interloping Knight Rider Firebirds and Starsky & Hutch Torinos), and a chance for fans to meet stuntmen from the show.

But the highlight would be the big jump. Bell had called stuntman Corey Eubanks (son of game show host Bob Eubanks) on a whim two years ago and invited him to another Dukes event (Dukesfest 2001). It was at that event where Eubanks suggested jumping a General Lee might be appropriate at some future get-together. At Dukesfest 2002, Bell sought out the components to make such a leap possible at the Homecoming.

The car itself was actually the hulk of a '68 Charger located in Washington state and donated by its owners, Bobby and Jamie Smith.

"They donated the car," says Bell. "It had a decent frame and nothing else. But they also lent us a '70 steel crank 440 V8 and 727 automatic transmission, cosmetically converted the car to a '69, trawled on three and a half gallons of Bondo and painted it orange. There was no interior, no side glass, and the grille was held together with zip-ties, but it looked good from 10 feet. But up next to it, Holy..."

The car came to Bell in Indianapolis; he jury-rigged the suspension and exhaust, added the correct American Racing Vector wheels and a "Hazzard County" license plate, and applied reproductions of the graphics and the front push bar donated by www.buildageneral.com. "We built the car for less than $2,000 and even got a correct CB antenna," Bell claims. "The only thing it didn't have was the [Dixie-playing] horn."

The running car was then shipped to North Carolina where Tom Sarmento, who was the mechanic who'd kept the Generals running during the TV production and made it safe to jump, now lives and sells Snap-On tools. Sarmento built and installed a rollcage identical to those he built a couple decades ago. He also built the steel and plywood ramp used to send the Charger skyward above Covington's Legion Field.

While this was going on, news of Eubanks' upcoming jump spread throughout the stunt community in Hollywood and other stuntmen who'd worked on the Dukes petitioned to be included in the show. So Bell also acquired two Dodge patrol cars and a Chevy Malibu "bad guy" car and prepped them to be rolled as part of the festivities.

Rain the Saturday morning of the jump thinned the crowd somewhat, but by early afternoon, the weather had cleared and the Georgia clay shivered under the sound of a poorly muffled 440-cubic inch V8.

Eubanks accelerated the car down an adjoining road and then hit Legion Field's turf with a crash of the front suspension bottoming and then springing upward. The car was just settling down when it hit the ramp at 70 mph and launched into the air and through the low-hanging branches. It easily cleared the '74 Dodge Monaco placed before (the exact car that the first General Lee jumped when it first jumped) and then nosed over pounding into the ground almost exactly where Eubanks predicted the car would.

Other stuntmen orbited the landing zone in two of the other stunt cars, ready to punt the Charger away from the crowd, but the big orange Dodge behaved just as Eubanks thought it would; it bounced once, rotated in the air, came back down on its trunk, then landed on all four wheels, rolled backwards and stopped. Bell had been calling the action on a loud speaker and he rushed toward the car. Eubanks was unhurt, the Charger was junk, and the crowd was ecstatic.

Bell had, pre-jump, pre-sold the General Lee hulk for $5,000 in order to retrieve some of his expenses, which included airfare and lodging for eight stuntmen, a fee to Eubanks, and a $6 million indemnity policy. All he kept from the car was the license plate.

"It took two years and cost $27,000 for four seconds of air time," said Bell a few days after the jump. "Not too many people get to fulfill their childhood dream. And I just got to see the General fly."

Rumors&Liesf,,* Autobacs USA has opened its first store at 12679 Beach Boulevard in Stanton, Calif. The renowned Japanese tuner shop can be reached at (714) 799-9320 and it's working on a Web site at www.autobacsusa.com.

f,,* Here's our quote for the month: "It's a no-brainer that we did not have any street-racing deaths before the movie came out and now we have at least three deaths directly attributed to street racing since the movie's release," said Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Greg Meyer to "The Los Angeles Times." Meyer, head of the Valley Traffic Division, was, of course, referring to "2 Fast 2 Furious" after the death of Anthony Tai, 20, who was allegedly racing on Winnetka Avenue when he slammed into another vehicle.

f,,* Whispers from deep inside Honda have at least one Civic coupe running around with an RSX Type-S drivetrain as a proposed new Civic Si. Let's hope so.

f,,* Renault has said it would like to buy Volvo from Ford "if the price was right." Hell, if it was cheap enough, we'd want to buy it, too.

f,,* Toyota started selling Echo three- and five-door hatchbacks in Canada during July. It has to be better looking than what we get here.

f,,* According to a contest run by the Precision Tune auto service centers, "Betsy" is the most popular name that people who name their cars, name their cars. Our favorite names for cars? Pile, Load, Nightmare, and Cluster F#*$.

f,,* Look for "Overhaul" on the Discovery Channel where junkers will be turned into jewels. Whatever. Or was it The Learning Channel? We don't care.

f,,* Hyundai is reportedly looking at opening an R&D center in Alabama or Michigan.

Accomplishment & TragedySubaru Rally Team USA's Mark Lovell and his co-driver Roger Freeman finished first overall in the SCCA ProRally class during June's running of the 2003 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in their WRX (see page 144). It's just the sort of accomplishment everyone at Subaru and everyone on the team could cherish.

But two weeks later, at the Oregon Trail SCCA ProRally, both Lovell, 43, and Freeman, 52, were killed when their car hit a tree moments into the first special stage of the event. Lovell and Freeman had been rallying together for 20 years with significant success, including the 2001 Overall Drivers Championship for 2001. Both British subjects, Lovell is survived by his wife Julie, and sons, Oliver and Thomas, while Freeman leaves his wife Alison, daughter Becky, and son John, behind.

In the close-knit world of rallying, this tragedy is a deeply felt one. Our heart goes out to everyone at Subaru, its Rally Team and the rallying community at large. We will, as we hope everyone will, strive to remember these two men for the full lives they led.

Mazda's Renesis Wins International Engine of the YearInternational panel of automotive journalists has named Mazda's new Renesis rotary the "International Engine of the Year 2003" in addition to honoring it as "Best New Engine of 2003" and "Best 2.5-liter to 3.0-liter." The 247-hp Renesis is offered only in the new RX-8 sports coupe.

"Mazda's International Engine of the Year Award success is a remarkable achievement," says Graham Johnson, editor of "Engine Technology International" magazine and chairman of the awards. "The judges are hugely impressed by the RX-8's smoothness, refinement, performance and eco-friendliness. Indeed, 44 of the judges voted for this rotary engine to become International Engine of the Year 2003-a new awards record. Mazda can rightly state that it produces the finest automobile engine in the world."

From the provided photo, it's obvious that at least three guys at Mazda are thrilled about this.

DVD Review:High Octane USA and High Octane 2New Zealanders are pretty much Australians with speech impediments. They also, obviously, are fairly well nuts for cars.

The High Octane series is produced by New Zealanders and has a distinctly Kiwi flavoring. They like masturbation jokes and aren't afraid to include them, along with some gratuitous cussing in their DVDs. They also like goofy humor, but it would be better if their humor included something funny.

The High Octane USA DVD was shot primarily in California and includes a look at the Import Auto Salon and, more obsessively, a lot of looks at the breasts of women at the IAS. There are also some mostly yawn-worthy shots of track day at Willow Springs that includes some decent drifting. By far, the highlight is a comparison between a Ferrari F355 and a Dodge Viper GT-S that includes the Viper going clean off a mountain road and down a 100-foot cliff. It's so unexpected, you have to back up the DVD to make sure that what you saw really happened.

High Octane 2 takes place completely in New Zealand and dang if we can understand a third of what they're saying. Still there's some Skyline racing that's worthwhile and a New Zealand bikini contest in which no one entered.

These are two-hour DVDs with about 30 minutes of decent and worthwhile footage in each of them. We found ourselves using the fast forward button almost as frequently as we hit the pause switch for the bikini contests. Each of the DVDs is $19.95 through 247Motoring.com.

WebsideWebside is supposed to be a lighthearted romp through the Internet. So come on, lighten up and send us the URLs of sites you enjoy, seek out and don't feature photos of your pets. We're still at SCCNews@Primedia.com, so there's no excuse.

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