Monday, April 30, 2018

The Entire Line of Dukes of Hazzard 1/18 Diecast Cars - All 40 - Post 1 of 4: American Muscle

Put your seatbelts on, this is gonna be one heck of a ride.  The most requested topic I've had since starting this blog has been the 1/18 scale General Lees.  Probably the most popular Dukes of Hazzard item of both the silver and modern eras, the 1/18 diecast cars have been a mainstay in the Dukes world since the first one came out in 2000.  I have been planning this post since I first started writing the blog, but I never got to it.  I had several of these cars on display, and many more in their original shipping boxes.  I didn't even know how many there were or if I was missing any (I was) until I started prepping this post.  Recently I gathered all the 1/18s together for a series massive of posts.

Let's take a journey to 1/18 scale Hazzard County and look at every 1/18 scale Dukes of Hazzard diecast produced.  I could not have completed this road trip without the help of your buddy and mine, Dave DeWitt.  Several calls, texts, and emails with Dave went into compiling the list of 1/18s used for this list and this post wouldn't exist without Dave's help.

In the late '90s, the 1/18 scale became the most popular diecast size with collectors, above 1/64 (hotwheel size.)  Once the General Lee entered the fray, it soon became the most popular 1/18 car.  Ever.  The 1/18 General Lee displays well, can be easily played with, and has many features such as steerable wheels and opening hoods.

There are a lot of 1/18s as you can see in the above picture.  (Isn't it a beautiful sight?)  I will cover all 40 of them through a series of 4 blog posts.  Let's begin.

The 1/18 General Lee will be the subject of the majority of these posts.  There are a few other vehicles involved, but most are a take on the above car.  It's simply the best car at the best size.  This series of posts won't feature many pictures of the cars out of the boxes.  Most of the cars in my collection have never been out of the box.  I will highlight the box differences and the noticeable differences in the cars.

Ertl is the name in Dukes of Hazzard diecasts.  The golden era saw Ertl create hugely popular diecasts in 1/64 and 1/25 scale.  The largest metal replica Ertl made was 1/16 scale, but was made of steel and didn't have much detail.  When the Dukes of Hazzard jumped back in to popularity in the late '90s, Ertl was once again called upon to produce diecasts.  After rereleasing the 1/64s and 1/25s, they gave us something new in the first 1/18 General Lee, released under their American Muscle brand.

The first General Lee in 1/18 came in what I call the flag box.  It features the rebel flag prominently, and has a large window to show the car.  The General Lee from the Oxford College jump is shown below the classic Dukes font logo.  The car is referred to as the 1969 Charger General Lee.  The font used on the car label resembles the font used on the roof of the Gen'ral.   The box boasts Die Cast metal and opening doors and hood.  The doors shouldn't open, but they do.  In my mind they don't.

The flag box is the standard box that several of the first 1/18 Dukes cars came in.  It features a large 01 on the back and the following description: "Recreate the action and excitement of 'The Dukes of Hazzard' TV series with the authentic die cast replica of the famous 'General Lee.'  The General Lee is without question the most famous car on television.  The Good Ol' Boys, cousins Bo and Luke Duke, race around Hazzard County avoiding brushes with the law in their indestructible 1969 Dodge Charger.  This bright orange, Southern dirt road express, with the Confederate Flag on it's roof, racing numbers on it's doors, and signature dixie horn steals the show and is always the hero in the end!" 

That's a pretty good description.  

There was no hiding the flag when this car was on shelves.  The whole box is a flag.

The first car was released in 2000.  The bottom features the logo for Ertl Collectibles.  It has the Warner Bros. trademark info on it as well as the Dodge Charge and Chrysler information.  The now defunct website address was also included on the box.

The 2000 release had a couple of issues.  It had black interior and featured a Florida license plate.  The plate might be random or it might be a reference to the Dodge Charger Daytona, which was first tested on July 20, 1969 on the Michigan Chrysler Proving Grounds.  I believe this plate was also used on another Ertl Dodge Charger diecast.  It might be an important date in Dodge Charger history, but it just didn't have anything to do with the Dukes.

I remember the day I got my first 1/18 diecast General Lee.  I was following the release of these cars on the early internet.  Long before twitter and blogs it was a little hard to nail down a release date.  I traveled to Hershey, PA for my first ever Dukes of Hazzard event when John Schneider and Tom Wopat, along with Sonny Shroyer, brought the Dukes of Hazzard reunion tour to my neck of Hazzard County.  My life changed that day and I bought my first 1/18 General Lee.

John and Tom autographed it and it's the only autographed 1/18 I own.  I've been involved in getting hundreds of other 1/18s autographed by all the cast members since that day in 2000, but I only wanted this one for myself.  It is very special to me.

As the 1/18 General Lee quickly became the most popular car in the scale, Ertl wanted to get different versions to the fans.  2001 saw the release of the standard 1/18 with the correct tan interior.  This time there was no mention of the opening doors on the box.  The tan interior made this the diecast General Lee to get.

The back of the box has the same description.

The box is pretty much the same as the earlier version.

It was released in 2001

The correct CNH 320 license plate is on the tan interior General Lee.

Another different version was in the American Muscle Body Shop line.  The Body Shop line was the same car disassembled and repackaged.   A 1/64 and 1/25 Body Shop General Lee were also released along with 1/64 Rosco and Boss Hogg cars.

The General Lee description was omitted from the box this time.  Along with all the parts to assemble your Gen'ral, you also get glue and a screwdriver.

Some of the parts, including the wheels and engine are on a blister package behind the body of the car.  This package was aimed at the model building Dukes fans.

Driving through Hazzard County, the General Lee got dirty.  Ertl knew this and released several dirty General Lees throughout the years.  The first one was similar to the first release that had the black interior.  The box is nearly identical, but they took off the "opening doors and hood" feature.  Ertl realized that the General Lee doors are welded shut.  The diecast's doors might open, but they shouldn't.  

The back has the same description as before.

The window lets you see just how much mud is splattered all over the car.

This version came out in 2001.  Different versions like this are called "chase cars" and Ertl released them without notice and included them within cases of standard cars.  Fans who found them on shelves, back when cars like these were sold in stores as opposed to mainly online these days, excpet Cooter's, were treated to rarer versions.  There are many chase cars included within the 40 different Dukes of Hazzard 1/18 diecast cars.

The next release was a package deal.  This time the General Lee had the correct tan interior and included a bonus 1/64 General Lee in the box.  Erlt/American Muscle also fixed their "opening door" mistake by proclaiming on the box that the 1/18 has an opening hood.  A large sticker on the window announced the inclusion of the 1/64.  

The box is very similar to the previous release.  It is dated 2001.

The 1/64 that is included is the standard car that has been released in several different packages since 1981.  It is attached to the back of the box in a blister package.

2001 also saw the first non-General Lee 1/18 Dukes diecast.  In 1997, the Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! aired on CBS to huge success, well huge enough to warrant a sequel in 2000.  In the first reunion movie, the Duke Boys race against "the only car to ever beat the General Lee in an overland race."  That line in the reunion movie has since caused confusion among fans because it references a race that we never saw on the show.  I wrote about this car in detail on this post.  For the first time in the history of Dukes toys, the General Lee had a "bad guy car" to race against that didn't belong to Boss Hogg or Rosco.  Just like the previous General Lee, the 1968 Mustang GT came with a 1/64 version.  This box features the first time "Ertl Collectibles" is added to the American Muscle logo.  

The box didn't feature the big 01 this time.  The description doesn't go into much detail about the car.  It doesn't mention that it only appeared in the reunion movie or that Buzz owned it.  The description reads: "Relive the action and excitement of 'The Dukes of Hazzard' TV series with these authentic die cast replicas of the 1968 Ford Mustang GT.  The Good Ol' Boys, cousins Bo and Luke Duke, chase around the hills of Hazzard County avoiding close brushes with the law while racing one of the fastest cars in all of Hazzard."  I get the feeling the copy writer at Ertl didn't know any history of this car.

The flames on the front of the Double Zero are visible from the top of the box.

This car was released in 2001.

The 1/64 version of the car was also released as a single car.  It is a detailed car and quite heavy.

The license plate on the Mustang is kind of generic and doesn't match the style of Hazzard plates.  At least it wasn't basically random like the black interior General Lee.

The next chase car came out in 2002.  In the season 7 premiere we are told the story of how the General Lee came to live with the Dukes.  The episode is called Happy Birthday General Lee, and tells us that two robbers had the Charger first and it was painted all black.  This black General Lee diecast is commonly refereed to as the Happy Birthday General Lee.  It has the same wheels and features a push bar, additions that weren't added until after Cooter and the Dukes "Generalized" him.  It came in a similar box as previous releases.  It has both English and French descriptions on the box.  This is one of the only chase cars I found in stores.  I bought it at the Family Toy Warehouse in Uniontown, PA.  That was a good toy store.  It still features the Family Toy Warehouse price tag and I can't believe I only paid $25 for it.

The description is also in both English and French on this one.

The American Muscle logo again also includes Ertl Collectibles.

It is dated 2002.

The next chase car is an odd one.  Commonly referred to as the "Race Day General Lee," this car is a General Lee without a completed paint job.  It's also in a bilingual box.  The most prominent incomplete item is the 0 of the 01 isn't painted.  Because this came out as a chase car, and not a release on its own, at first people thought it was a production mistake.  I don't really know where the Race Day name came from.  It is not episode specific; we never saw the Gen'ral like this on the show.  I imagine someone at Ertl designed it and gave it the name.  The box does mention that it's a limited edition.

The box is similar to the black General Lee.

Other incomplete details include the hood not being painted, the flag missing a section of red, and both General Lee texts being at different stages of completion.  I've never taken mine out of the box to see if the CNH 320 plate is included.

It came out in 2002.

2002 also saw very special editions of the General Lee.  George Barris is known as the King of Kustomizers.  He created such legendary cars as the 1966 Batmobile, the Munster Koach, and KITT.  Although he had nothing to do with the creation of the most legendary and best Hollywood car ever, the General Lee, that didn't stop him from taking credit for it.  I once asked Ben Jones why so many products and information credit George Barris as creating the General.  Ben told me that George is a legend and we let him do what he wants.  That's good enough for me.  If George didn't take credit for the General, these cars wouldn't exist.  In 2002, Ertl celebrated George Barris with a line of diecasts that featured his crest on the box.  Besides the Gen'ral, other cars in the line included the Munsters Koach, the Monkee Mobile, and the Starsky and Hutch Torino.  Each car also featured the crest printed on the car.

The back of the box celebrates George.  It's interesting the the box says "The General Lee" where it only said "General Lee" on the previous releases.

The top of the box has "Hobby Edition" and "Serialized Chassis" printed in silver.  I have never opened mine to see the numbers.

The bottom features WB, Ertl, and Barris' trademarks.  This is a very rare version of the diecast General Lee.  Ertl took one step further with the Barris line and made super rare versions of each car in the line.  What came out of this line has become one of the most sought after pieces in all of Dukes of Hazzard collecting... (drum roll please)

The Gold General Lee.  The crème de la crème.  The pièce de résistance.  The one true holy grail.  The Gold General Lee is a part of the George Barris line and was limited to 100 pieces.  On the rare occasion that one shows up on ebay, they go for huge prices.  I was lucky enough to get two at retail price when they first came out.  One is in my collection, and one is at Cooter's Place.  The foundation of my relationship with Ben and Alma is based on me contacting them about my extra Gold General Lee all those years ago.  I'm so happy I did.  I have never opened mine to check the number.  The Gold General Lee is the center of any Dukes collection that includes one.  This is a special piece.  

The box is the same as the standard Barris edition.  It is dated 2002.  I seem to remember this car coming out later than 2002 though.  I think it just bears that date.

I'll end this blog post here.  This is post 1 of 4 in the series.  In the next post we'll finish up the silver era and jump into the modern era.  We'll find chrome cars and white cars and yellow and green cars.  As the great Waylon Jennings would say, stick around, you don't want to miss this.  

The Entire Line of Dukes of Hazzard 1/18 Diecast Cars - All 40 - Post 2 of 4: The Joyride Cars

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