Say goodbye to the General Lee as you’ve always known it.
In the wake of the deadly South Carolina shooting and the decision by several major retailers to stop selling merchandise featuring the Confederate battle flag, the toy spawned by the hit TV series “Dukes of Hazzard” that became a Southern icon wearing those colors will no longer be produced.
While the car hasn’t been in front of a camera since 2007 — a direct-to-video sequel of the 2005 movie starring Johnny Knoxville — the General Lee remains a popular die-cast and model toy, widely available online. (One of the original cars used in the series sold for $110,000 at auction in 2012 to PGA golfer Bubba Watson.)
Following the move by Walmart, Amazon, eBay and others, and the steps by political leaders in South Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere to remove the flag from state capitols and license plates, Yahoo Autos reached out to Warner Bros. Consumer Products, the branch of the movie studio that licenses toys from the series, asking about the General Lee’s status. This was the official reply:
Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof–as it was seen in the TV series. We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.
At the time the “Dukes of Hazzard” premiered in 1979 on CBS-TV, the placement of the Confederate flag and the naming of the 1969 Dodge Charger driven — and often flown — by Bo and Luke Duke after the South’s most famous general drew few if any protests, a state that persisted through the end of its original run in 1985. The show was based in part on the real-life exploits of bootlegger Jerry Rushing, who had named his old Chrysler “Traveler” (with one “L”) after Lee’s horse.
Only in recent years has General Lee’s Confederate flag, and its associations with the defense of slavery and white supremacy in America, drawn more backlash. In 2012, Warner Bros. shot down rumors that it was removing the flag from the car, and fan clubs where replicas gather remain adamant in their display of the original.
But with the closing of most commercial outlets to Confederate-emblazoned merchandise, it was somewhat inevitable that the General Lee would meet a hurdle it couldn’t clear. Warner Bros. added that it would not license a General Lee product sans the stars and bars, but the lost sales will likely be minimal; while the show continues in reruns, there’s not been much movement toward another movie or TV series out of the “Dukes of Hazzard” universe. Much like that flag on its roof, the original General Lee has jumped into history.
Additional reporting by John Pearley Huffman