In the South, the best hot rodders were usually moonshiners or those that built their cars and engines. The history of NASCAR is a testament to that. I found it very interesting that there were so many Chrysler products on the show, along with a few AMC models.
A good military, UFO, or action series will usually have me captive for an hour.
Today, even with all the available channels, I realize that there is nothing to watch. It is akin to standing in front of a refrigerator full of food but seeing nothing that catches your fancy to satisfy your craving.
To this cause, about ten years ago, my wife Charlotte gave me a birthday present of Seasons 1 and 2 of The Dukes of Hazard – the quintessential, red-blooded American car guy TV series. Sadly, I did not watch them until recently, though. Now I have to admit in 1979 when the Dukes premiered on TV, I enjoyed it… but I was more enthralled with Daisy and her gams than the escapades of General Lee. I do not believe that has changed much for me in the past forty years!
But I must admit that I have a newfound respect for that series. I enjoyed all the episodes in the first two seasons. Being a country boy, I long for the old days when the roads were empty as is in the TV show. Even though the Duke Boys were a little too aggressive in their driving style for my liking. But give me a dirt road and some good old American horsepower under the hood, and I would be known to make more than a bit of dust myself!
And the ruralness of the filming locations (first in Georgia and then in California) will forever pull at my heartstrings. Many would critique the acting and script as being at best simplistic – but it resonated with me today since I am older.
Now I beg to ask why does life need to be so complicated in 2022? Why do so many today claim the paint scheme on the Duke’s Dodge Charger is offensive? Why is it wrong for me to have a picture on my desk of my wife that I love sporting a golden tan, cut-offs, high-heels, and a halter top?
Yet the series mimicked reality with Boss Hogg’s greed, Sheriff Roscoe’s change of persona after losing his pension, and the Duke Family’s rock-solid core values even though they were retired (thanks to the U.S. Government) moonshiners.
Many of the local constabulary jump scenes began using a Chrysler product. Still, the actual jump was accomplished with an AMC Matador sedan. Usually of 1974 vintage with its huge crash bumpers.
One episode featured the “bad guys” that the Dukes were tangling with driving a 1971 AMC Matador four-door sedan with stamped steel wheels and hubcaps. In that scene, the AMC takes off down a two-lane paved road. Low and behold, you have to listen, but it chirped the tires pretty good on the 1-2 shift! I could not believe my ears, so I rewound and played it over again a few times to confirm what I thought I heard above the shucking and jiving of Bo and Luke.
I tried like anything to see if the Matador had dual exhausts, that would make it a 401 car, but I could not tell. Regardless, it was tuned to perfection, based on how it ripped the tires on that first shift.
Having never worked in the movies, I was very impressed. It took a great deal of talent to have the police cruisers shed their body parts on queue. We may take that for granted as we sit in an armchair and laugh at the ridiculousness, but that was not easy to make happen. There was a lot more talent on that set than first meets the eye, both in mechanical aptitude and driving prowess.
What struck a chord with me was how in 1979, all the wrecked cars were considered consumables. So commonplace they could readily be destroyed.
Though most were not legitimate muscle cars, who would not want the nice two-door 1971 Plymouth Satellite that Daisy had in a few episodes before moving up to a 1974-version, then later to a new at the time Jeep CJ? The same can be said about Uncle Jesse’s 1970s Ford F-100 short-bed, the Matador that ripped the tires, or even Boss Hogg’s Caddy, albeit sans the steer horns on the hood.
How times have changed – those cars would be way too precious today to be destroyed as they were.
But what I enjoyed most was the purity of the underlying theme. No one got hurt or killed, there was no sex or suggestion of it, and as Waylon Jennings sang in the theme, the Duke Boys were just modern-day Robin Hoods – misunderstood and incorruptible backwoods car guys.
Some of you may disagree, but I think the world would be a better place today if we had a good deal more people like Bo and Luke, and a few Daisy Dukes wouldn’t hurt either!