Warner Brothers Finds Homes For Dukes of Hazzard Car & Parts
In this fast paced, dog-eat-dog world of today, there afew inspiring rays of hope that somewhere is a semblance of justice. Disgusted, we watch as ------- tell of doom and depression, madness, and mayhem. Tales of corporate America run amuck, treading on the back of the little guy who never seems to get a break. Well stop crying in your Dr. Pepper, there is a glimmer of hope - proof positive that not all the world is a dark and scary place.
At the tender age of 12, Wayne Wooten saw his first '69 Charger - an image which stuck with him for life. Immediately taken with the car, Wayne vowed to someday own one of these machines. As the years progressed, mild interest turned to ------- obsession. By the end of the 1970's, Wayne was a complete devotee to the Dodge Charger. Owning a '68 Charger, he spent every spare minute researching everything he could about them.
One of Wayne's favorite activities at this time was to park himself in front of the television and watch a new show tailor-made for the Mopar ------ of the day - "The Dukes of Hazzard". Every week, life came to a standdtill in the Wooten house, as Wayne sat transfixed watching the bright orange General Lee racing around the countryside and jumping everything in sight. A Charger enthusiest couldn't have asked for better entertainment.
This activity continued throughout the show's six year run. Finally, in 1985, the General Lee, Bo and Luke Duke, Uncle Jessie, Boss Hogg, Rosco P. Coaltrain, Cooter, and of course Daisy Duke, all became victims of the Neeilsen Ratings.
In the mid-eighties, Wayne's infatuation led him to found The Dodge Charger Registry - an organization dedicated to documenting and sharing information on these cars. Unlike other groups, The Dodge Charger Registry is a ---- fide nonprofit operation, with Wayne handling a lot of the expenses out of his own pocket. Several other members help with the cost of the mailing, but there are no dues, no fees, no charger for information - nothing! With around 600 members, this is no small feat! Wayne thoroughly enjoys accumulating information on his favorite subject, and equally enjoys passing it on to others. Sounds like a nice guy? Well, he is.
In 1988, Wayne got the idea to contact Warner Brothers Studios to see if they still had any information on the many Chargers used in the Dukes of Hazzard series. He penned a nice letter asking if there was any information available to add to the registry's records.
About a month later, Wayne received a phone call from Warner Brothers! Surprised, he enthusiastically answered a large number of questions about his organization. They apparently wanted to know if this guy was for real. After a lengthy Q&A session, Warner Brothers was convinced. Near the end of the conversation, they aroused Wayne's curiosity by stating that there were still a lot of parts from the Dukes cars sitting around. After asking more questions about the parts, they bid Wayne good day.
A few months later, Wayne received a call from the head of transportation at Warner Brothers. He asked Wayne if he had any interest in the spare parts that had been lying around since the show was canceled. Naturally, Wayne replied yes, but told the man he and his registry operated on a very limited budget and probably couldn't afford the parts. The man laughed amusingly and said, "No, you don't understand, we don't want to sell you the parts. If you know of people in your club that could use them, we'd be glad to give them to you!" Wayne's heart nearly stopped! He was invited out to the studio to see if the stuff was worth the trouble.
Wayne quickly scraped his money together and flew to Burbank, California. Once at the studio, the friendly transportation boss saw to it that he was treated like royality. Wayne was led to a back lot and through a large fence - the sight that met his eyes amazed him. Stacked all around in the weeds and dirt were doors, hoods, trunklids, fenders, grilles - all kinds of Charger parts. All wearing the familiar orange paint and graphics of the General Lee. These were the bits and pieces of cars destroyed in the filming of the series - leftover of those machines which did not survive the jump scenes.
Following this mind-blowing sight, Wayne was led to another lot where a huge collection of cars and trucks were stored. In one corner sat three original General Lee Chargers! Wayne was thrilled. After years of watching the series on television, he was now face to face with the real General Lee - three of them no less! Having only the weekend to load his parts, he wasted no time starting to work. It took Wayne a day and a half to load a 40 foot truck halfway full of the parts! Think there were a few bits and pieces out there of what?
After Wayne finished with the loading, his host returned and offered a personal tour of the studio. After viewing all types of television and movie sets, Wayne was escorted down a side street. As he turned the corner, Wayne realized he was standing on the main street of downtown Hazzard. Spread before him were the buildings he had come to be so familiar with watching the show. Wayne was ecstatic!
The transportation boss convinced Wayne to stay an extra day by promising to show him a television program being filmed about fifty miles north of the city. This was, in reality, a ploy to get Wayne to stay an extra day so they could surprise him with something very unexpected. Wayne agreed, having never seen a television show in the works before.
the next day he was surprised when he was taken to the rural farm where most of the Dukes of Hazzard series was filmed! Wayne was shown Jesse's house, the Boar's Nest, and a bunch of very familiar bridges and small dirt roads - Wayne was having the time of his life.
The Warner Brothers boys had a bigger surprise for Wayne however. As they rounded a bend and came to "Cooter's Garage" - Wayne's eves nearly popped out of his head - he had been set up! There before him, parked end to end all around the garage, was a small army of General Lee Charger! Wayne quickly hopped out and went around recording all their VIN numbers and giving them a good once over. There was even one of the cars in the garage on jackstands with its wheels off - left there when filming ended in 1985, it hadn't moved since. Fascinating at the sceen, they soon left for town and the offices of the transportation chief.
As Wayne sat in the office preparing to depart for home, the man inquired, "Aren't you eve going to ask?" The man was curious to know why Wayne hadn't asked if one of the cars could be bought. Certainly Wayne wanted to ask, but figure he couldn'tafford one even if they were for sale. Again the man laughed. He asked if Wayne had a lawyer back home, to which Wayne replied yes. "Well then, don't you worry about that, just have you lawyer contact us when you get home and we'll handle everything for you." A bit confused, Wayne left for home.
Warner Brothers' plan was to place the leftover General Lees in the hands of people who genuinely wanted them - not fly-by-night investors who viewed them only as commodities to be bought and sold. They instructed Wayne's lawyer to organize a nonprofit organization to act as broker for the cars and find them good homes. Individuals in the Charger registry were contacted and asked if they were interested. If so, they were asked how much they could afford to pay and their name was added to the list. No profit motive was involved, an affordable price was arranged and the legalities began. Wayne organized the sale, then waited patiently as the lawyers sorted out the complex paperwork.
Finally, in March of 1991, the studio called and said the deal was done, come and get the cars! Wayne was soon back in California to oversee the loading and delivering of the cars to their new homes. When Wayne arrived, 17 General Lee Chargers had been neatly lined up, ready for shipment, looking much better than the first time he saw them.
The car Wayne picked fr himself was one of the rougher ones to be found, the only R/T Charger in the lot. It was a sad sight though - it had one '68 fender, numerous dents and battle scars, and the underside was scrunched by a jump it had apparently done. The transportation boss showed up just as the loading began and asked Wayne if he had seen his car yet. Wayne said yes, pointing to the wrecked R/T. "No way! That's not your car Wayne, that's your car over there" he said, pointing to another much nicer car. To keep it short, Wayne ended up with one of the original Chargers used for close-up filming, which is itself a whole other story.
The 17 General Lees were shipped to new owners in Washington, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. With each car, Warner Brothers Studios issued a plethora of documentation, and a Certificate of Authenticity stating the car was actually used in the show. The studio asked for only one thing in return - that the buyers never charger for the display of their vehicles at shows and such - a stipulation all readily agreed upon.
There you have it, the 17 surviving Chargers from the Dukes of Hazzard are now in the hands of true Moparites who untiring efforts of Wayne Wooten and the Dodge Charger Registry, for once the little guys have prevailed. Though the studio had countles offers from big-wheel investors, they decided that was not the right thing to do with the aging Chargers. Instead, 17 General Lee Chargers went to the working stiffs who scrape and save and never seem to get a break. Well they finally got one! Hooray for the little guy! Thanks much to the good folks at Warner Brothers transportation department for renewig our faith in the way things ought to be.
Will any of these General Lee owners ever sell their pieces of broadcast history? Sure, when Boss Hogg starts doing Slim Fast commercials!
A special thanks to Wayne Wooten and The Dodge Charger Registry, 109 Carver Place, Grafton, VA 23692, 804-898-1775.