Why Do We Still Applaud the Destruction of 1969 Dodge Chargers?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Onlookers outside Detroit’s Cobo Center took part in a great American pastime yesterday. That is, thrilling at the impending destruction of an airborne 1969 Dodge Charger.

You know the one. Orange, Confederate flag emblazoned on the roof, once the star of a popular TV show that was serviceable in its first season, but then got really stupid. There’s a pull, an irresistible force that compels us to find old B-body Chargers — ideally a ’69, sometimes a ’68 but never a ’70 — and launch those nose-heavy suckers to a frame-twisting death.

It’s the only classic, lusted-after muscle car that we associate with low-altitude flight and, for some reason, we continue to applaud the torture and destruction of the remaining examples. Why?

As we see here, Raymond Kohn of the Northeast Ohio Dukes — a Dukes of Hazzard-themed stunt show — kicked off Motorama with a crunch, launching his ’69 Charger R/T at 55 miles per hour and faceplanting after a flight that measured 134 feet.

“I expected worse, it wasn’t too bad,” Kohn told media following the group’s 20th jump, one that left the Charger in a state of potentially permanent disrepair. Watching the video, the Charger repeats what viewers saw weekly back in the late ’70s and early ’80s — a chassis absorbing the impact like a wet sponge and a body exhibiting more flex than a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. The passenger-side door pops open. The front wheels, from what we can see, now enjoy suspension travel in the negative range. Will it live to die another day? Maybe.

The group’s cars, Kohn told the Detroit Free Press, usually don’t survive more than one or two jumps. The original show, to anyone’s best estimates, destroyed up to 300 — maybe more — ’69 (or altered ’68) Chargers during its six-season run. That pales next to the number of old Coronets, Furys, Monacos and Polaras that met an often watery end in pursuit the General Lee. Frankly, I watched the reruns as much for the old Mopar cop iron as I did for the General Lee. (I certainly didn’t watch it for the plot or dialogue.)

I get the appeal of the show. There’s no way a family-friendly series with a vaguely libertarian theme, non-stop car chases, a beautiful and capable female lead, a healthy nod to family values and stereotypes aplenty will do badly on American airwaves, especially not at the end of a tumultuous decade like the 1970s.

Here’s the thing. This isn’t a stunningly original take, and many of you are likely thinking the same thing, but just I need to say that it pains me to see this. Chrysler only built so many ’69 Chargers. We drop to our knees and tear our hair out when a handful of classic Corvettes are swallowed by the earth, stopping halfway to Hell, but it’s just fine to shrink the dwindling number of finite ’69 Chargers?

It should hurt every red-blooded, car-loving individual to watch this.

Only 89,199 Chargers rolled off the assembly line for the 1969 model year, not counting the handful of 500 and Daytona variants. Age, accidents, and a certain TV show have shrunk that number. Sure, beat the cars to hell and replace broken components as needed — these rigs were meant to tear it up — but do we really need to bring a model closer to extinction to stir nostalgic memories of a cheesy TV show?

Well, maybe we do. Maybe our hearts can’t soar unless we see the General Lee in the air. Maybe this model can’t instill in our souls the spirit of motoring freedom and youthful, gas-fueled 1960s rebellion without invading our airspace. The pull to do it, and for onlookers to line up in anticipation of it, is a strong one.

Where would I have been if I was in Detroit yesterday? No question — front row.

[Image capture: MLive/ YouTube]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Dudebro Dudebro on Feb 27, 2017

    If you scale it down to 1/10 size, it's not so bad... Youtube: "General Lee RC Car Jumps 6 HD"

  • JimZ JimZ on Feb 28, 2017

    and now, as they say, for the rest of the story: http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/entertainment/videos/a32758/autorama-dukes-of-hazzard-general-lee-jump-crash/ "Kohn, an auto repair shop owner from northeast Ohio, put together this jump-ready Charger from a wrecked, unrestorable shell in just one week. While it may look like a convincing replica as it's flying through the air, it's not—the front grille and rear taillight panel are painted fiberglass stand-ins, as is most of the rear bodywork. The "chrome" window trim is aluminum tape, and as the car soars through the air you can appreciate the warped and crumpled bodywork underneath that safety orange paint." but, since TTAC's tagline lately seems to be "Never Admit You're Wrong" I don't expect this to be addressed.

  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?
  • Kelley It's about time! I was so discouraged to see those poor Chevy Bolts stuck at the charging station receiving level 2 speeds after 80%, it was ridiculous. It would be nice if EA would had more level 2 chargers, also, at the same locations for people to top off above 80% on the fast chargers.
  • Tane94 Carmela Harris is supportive of EV adoption, so government incentives will be continuing under her watch.