Volume IX, Number 5

General Confusion, or
Just how many orange Dodges with stars are there?
story and images by Stephen Bresnehan, with additional images from Doug Breithaupt



Ertl- the official car

1981, and Ertl releases the official, licensed and sanctioned General Lee Dodge Charger from the popular TV show 'The Dukes of Hazzard'. Ertl produced a very good and quite accurate model of the Charger, with buckets of play value- particularly if you got the three- or four-car playsets with some police cars to chase that "durnded orange clown-car". I was ten years old as these came on the market, and they were prize pieces in my collection.

The real McCoy and the package (right) it came in.

This is what most of them look like now- just like the back lot of Warner Bros. must have looked!

Hot Wheels- Rodger that!

Hot Wheels' response to the popularity of Ertl's licensed car was very quick, also appearing in 1981. Hot Wheels revamped their Rodger Dodger casting by removing the engine and smoothing over the bonnet- and then they painted it orange, covered it in blue stripes and white stars and called it the Dixie Challenger. It was released in the 1981 and 1982 ranges. Going by the fact it is fairly common in the secondary markets today, it must have sold well.

Early version, Dixie Challenger

This long-nosed Dodge-like car started life back in 1971 in the heady days of Hot Wheel's spectraflame era, as the twin engined and clear-bonnetted Bye-Focal. Despite the altered proportions with a long nose and very short cabin, there were enough cues to spot its Dodge Challenger heritage. The casting was re-released in 1973 without the bonnet as the Show-Off. During 1974, the start of the Flying Colours era, the new swoopier Rodger Dodger body casting was fitted to the old baseplate, apparently lifting styling cues from the '71-'74 Charger. Rodger Dodger, with silly engine and all, still makes an occasional appearance in the Hot Wheels line-up.

Early Dixie Challengers had a Confederate flag on the roof (like Doug's car, above), while later ones had simple blue striping- one wonders if Warner Bros. had a gentle word in Mattel's ear about trademarks.

Later Dixie Challenger

Rodger Dodger- '76-'77 gold chrome version and 2001 mainline release

Matchbox answers with a Challenge(r).

Similar to the Hot Wheels Dixie Challenger, the 1982 release Dodge Challenger 'Revin' Rebel' (Lesney Superfast 1D) was created from an existing casting, in this case the Dodge Challenger (1C), first seen in 1975. The baseplate was modified to carry large rear wheels and side pipes, and the body was given a number of small design tweaks- air intake, rear spoiler lip and flared wheel arches.

Lesney's take on the general theme of orange Dodge.

The modified Challenger casting went on to a long life after its orange phase, appearing in blue, yellow and several other gaudier combinations through the eighties and nineties.

Original 1C Challenger and later versions of the 1D casting.

Zylmex opts in

Zee Toys (Zylmex) wanted their piece of pie too, it seems. I've not seen one of these before, but looking at Doug's example it's sailing as close to the shoals of trademark infringement as it can without courting disaster. Sorry about the pun.

Nice wheels! Zee Toys/Zylmex Charger

Ertl General reborn. Twice.

On the wave of renewed popularity for the Dukes, 1997 saw a re-release of the Ertl General Lee. The newer release is identifiable by its tan interior- original versions have black. It is a new casting with the most distinctive change in the area of the trunk lip and rear tail-lights, but it retains the delightful appearance of the original. Earlier versions of this re-casting are painted much like the original but later versions have silver detailed window trim and red tail-lights. The re-issued General Lee has come in single blisters and multi-packs with other re-issued castings of the original 'Duke's' vehicles as well as new additions, sourced from other RC castings.

1997 re-issue of the Ertl casting from Racing Champions wit the re-issued 3-pack (right).
Following the release of a new movie, RC released another 3-pack (far right) under their Joy Ride label. Note the silver window trim in the later releases.

Racing Champion's General Lee from a Mint Edition casting

RC/Ertl also did a new premium quality 'General Lee' Charger in 2000 using an earlier Racing Champions casting. I've not seen one close up, but clearly there are differences between the Ertl and RC castings. Compare the rear window and buttress area- the RC casting has a flush rear window. The RC casting is much more detailed than the Ertl version with an opening hood and view of the famous Hemi. This Dodge Charger casting was originally part of the 'Mint Edition' series.

Hot Wheels' retro treasure

Hot Wheels launched a marvelous new '69 Dodge Charger casting in 2004. Sadly, it was marred by Greg flames down its otherwise blameless black flanks. Since then, several colour combinations have been released in both the regular line and in premium versions and some have been actually quite nice. In 2006, the casting was one of the 12 limited-run 'Treasure Hunt' cars and, looky-that, its orange with blue and white tampos and a big black 06 on the door. Well I never'

Got a touch of déjà vu?

More small-scale orange Chargers

There are other little Dodge Chargers in orange that clearly wish to take advantage of the popularity of the 'Duke boys' ride. A plastic wind-up was produced with with a huge black winder sticking out the side, It is actually licensed and was done by. Yat Ming could not resist orange paint for their 1969 Dodge Charger although they refrained from adding a Confederate flag on the roof. Welly produced a Dodge Charger as well and it is very close to the Yat Ming casting. It was offered in orange but my example is green. It is very likely that there are more General Lee wannabees out there in small-scale.

Wind-up General Lee

Yat Ming's orange Charger

Welly's Charger came in green as shown here and orange.