If Cooter Davenport had the budget and parts, this is the General Lee he would have built for the Duke boys. He would have started with an old wreck and pieced the car together until he had a romping, stomping, ‘shine runner that no one could catch. The Hack Job General Lee was saved by a band of modern day Cooter Davenports with an owner who had the patience of Uncle Jesse and the initial luck of Roscoe P. Coltrane. The Hack Job General Lee is so named due to the discovery that the otherwise good looking car was a complete disaster in virtually every aspect of construction. Read on for the whole story.
The first mention of the Hack Job General Lee on BangShift (actually it was FreiburgersJunkyard.com back then) came on December 15, 2008, exactly one month after the owner of the car, Jeff had begun to post his tale of horror over on DodgeCharger.com. When we started reading the story (after being tipped off about the car by the guy working on it) we were sick for Jeff. He and the car were local to our East Coast HQ, so we asked to follow the story. Jeff agreed, and away we went.
The Back Story – Part 1
Having wanted a General Lee for some time, Jeff found what looked to be a prime example for sale. He spoke to the seller, asked the questions he wanted to ask, and excitedly jumped in his truck, hauling ass with a pile of money to get the car. The transaction went down without incident, the car was loaded on the trailer and one fine looking General Lee clone was flying back to Massachusetts.
Upon returning home, Jeff got about one day’s worth of driving enjoyment out of the Charger before dropping it off at Jon Sandahl’s Tube Chassis Designz shop in Hanson, Massachusetts for the installation of sub-frame connectors and the replacement of a crappy looking, exhaust pipe “roll bar.” While trying to tie the down tubes of the real four-point bar to the rear frame rails, Sandahl discovered something interesting. There really were no rear frame rails, only bondo sculpted frame rails that started falling apart when he tapped them with a hammer. It was at this exact moment that the race to the bottom began and Jeff’s dream car turned into an epic nightmare. Few people on planet Earth have started a complete restoration project with a better looking car.
The discoveries of horrendous work began to mount quicker than anyone could have imagined. The tail lights were grounded to the gas tank. The rear end was about to fall out of the car. The faux front down bars under the hood were welded directly to the firewall, no plates, nothing. The original dome light was simply covered over when a new headliner was installed, holes in the firewall were “closed” with pieces of Dynamat painted black, none of the gauges worked, the headlights were aligned by wedging old packs of Marlboros behind them, the entire braking system was botched and had to be removed and replaced, the front end was a disaster from the wheel bearings to the ball joints. The car was a bright orange horror show. Pulling a car from a river would have given the equivalent starting point.
In the course of deciding to completely rebuild the rear half of the car, another discovery was made. Chargers are supposed to have a nice crease accentuating the big rear haunches of the car as part of the stock body line. This car didn’t have one. Why? The rear quarters were mostly made of body filler. Yes, they were then cut out and replaced. Shockingly, it still got worse.
It seemed to us that after hanging the rear quarters and remedying lots of other schlock, the car was on the way to completion at the end of December 2008. We were so very wrong.
As the work raged on at Jon’s shop and it got closer to the time that the car would head to the body shop, owner Jeff decided that he was already in it this deep so why not really see what the rest of the car looked like. He made the fateful decision to have the body sand blasted. It was a decision that he now believes was the best thing he did, but at the time he made the call, it nearly broke him. There was shoddy patching everywhere, massive rust holes were in important structural pieces of the car, the doors were so rotted they had to be replaced, and the window channels so destroyed they had to be cut out and custom made. This whole thing had just escalated another 100 notches. Yet Jeff maintained a positive outlook. He would have his car, not for a while, but he was not going to be denied.
The next chapter in the car’s story is where things finally started to turn positive and the road to completion actually began. Roughly two months after the car left Jon’s shop and went to the “Bat Cave Body Shop” of our clandestine pals Chuck and Blair, it was really starting to take shape. The two talented body men went right at the car, filling, sanding, welding, and tweaking anything that needed it. There was plenty of that stuff to do. Jeff became a weekly visitor to the shop and remains great friends with both men whose talents in the black art of body work are virtually unmatched. Both of the men at the shop accept nothing less than perfection, which is just what Jeff needed.
It was four months later that we updated the story again. The car now painted, was having final detailing done at the infamous “bat cave” body shop by Chuck and Blair. It would then head back to Tube Chassis Designz for some final work and after that, the car was set to be released to the world. Jeff would be cruising in style for the spring of 2010! Not so freakin’ fast.
Almost one month to the day from our final update, Jeff drove the car to a show and that seemed like the end of the story. He was excited the the long trip had seemingly come to and end, his dream car was finally in his grasp, and it had been executed to such a high level, even he couldn’t believe it. From the depths of despair, he was now on the pinnacle of win mountain. He drove the car through the fall of 2009 to shows and just for the sheer pleasure of driving it. He had DMC racing convert the roll bar into a roll cage in December of 2009 and the car settled in for a winter rest, coming out in the Spring to get tuned up at Tube Chassis Designz. Jon couldn’t get the car to idle lower than 1500RPM, investigated further and discovered the 472ci Hemi was in need of a top to bottom rebuild. This was one of the ealry Mopar crate engines which suffered something like an 80% failure rate. Jeff’s was not one of the 20% that made it. Reid’s automotive reconstructed the engine and the car has been running (now equipped with drag radials and Cal Tracs) ever since.
Simply put, this car is epic. The best example of how transcendent the General Lee is came while we were driving from one photo location to another on the morning that we photographed the car. Along the way a local high school group was having a charity car wash. Now, these were mostly high school aged girls. They were holding signs and trying to drum up business for their fund raiser. When the General rolled by, the signs dropped, the fingers pointed, and the girls freaked. That’s saying something. It is nearly impossible to hate on the General Lee, especially one packing a 500 hp Hemi, that is getting a ProCharger hung on it over the winter. This car will run bottom 10s with the push bar on it!
Hit the link below to see our photo gallery of the car and to learn more details of a machine that, by all rights, should be languishing in project car purgatory for the rest of time. In the hands of anyone beside Jeff, Jon, Chuck and Blair, and all the rest who helped bring it back, it may well have. Instead it is stopping traffic and dropping jaws on the streets of Southeastern Massachusetts.