TMCP Podcast #125 – Jim Shine on Restoring “Lee 1!”

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Lee 1, in his “as found” condition in an old Georgia junk yard. Image: Travis Bell

In this week’s podcast show I decided to do a follow up interview with Jim Shine, one of the major players in the restoration of the very first Dukes of Hazzard General Lee, “Lee 1.” I met Jim at the Scottsdale Barrett Jackson auction in January of this year, and while there we created a fantastic video interview about Lee 1’s restoration, though the audio left a little something to be desired. As such I decided to bring Jim on the show to go a little more in-depth……plus it gave me the excuse to talk one more time about my favorite car in the world, the General Lee. (Side note: For those of you wondering if my obsession with the Duke Boys car is a little on the obsessive side, I’ll save you from wondering any further; it is.)

During the interview Jim shared even more details than in the interview about the finding of, and the restoration of, Lee 1. He discussed the fact that Lee 1 changed hands a few times before being purchased by the man who restore it, and also revealed that he himself re-located to Indianapolis just to be a part of the restoration (and I thought that I had it bad). In short, Jim described the restoration of not only the most famous car in the world itself, but the restoration of the car that would create the template for hundreds to come.

The restoration project was like a dinosaur dig site at time, but careful attention found the old General Lee letters intact and well. Image: Travis Bell

As is well documented in many articles (including my favorite over at Edmunds), the restoration of Lee 1 itself was nothing short of a miracle. The Georgia junk yard that the car sat in had a heavy clay base, and the clay itself is what saved the unibody and main structure of the General.

While all of the external sheet-metal has since been replaced, the original frame rails, engine, transmission, dash, and even rear-end gears still remain as do the original cracked windshield, complete with the community college parking sticker that was there before the Charger ever made it’s General Lee transformation.

A donor Charger was melded together with what was left of the General, and nearly everyone was shocked when the original “landing damage” from the General’s famous jump pulled out straight on the frame machine. The frame rails in the car were left crushed for history’s sake, and the unibody under the hood was cut, sectioned, and repaired, but in the end the General had enough structure to drive another day.

Lee 1, undergoing transformation. And I thought my Chevelle was bad…. Image: Travis Bell

The original General Lee roof letters, confederate flag, and “01” number outlines were still present once they did a little removal of the old green paint that had been applied when the General Lee (after landing) was converted into what was supposed to be the “old Richard Petty” race car that was used in a later episode of the show. Painstaking detail was made to re-create them just as they were in the beginning, painted by hand just as they had been done back in 1978.

The finished product! Image: Travis Bell

Jim mentioned that he’s happy to help anyone with their General Lee restorations, and he’s also staying in contact with pro-golfer Bubba Watson, the person who bought the General at the Barrett Jackson auction a few months back. While his General Lee knowledge is plentiful, it turns out that he’s also an expert on other star cars as well. He and pal Travis Bell have a business called Celebrity Machines that sells replica license plates to the General Lee, the Bluemobile, ECTO-1 (from the Ghostbusters), and many others!

Thanks for the interview, Jim, and once again, thanks for saving my childhood hero! I can only hope that one day I’ll wrestle him away from Bubba Watson…..

-Robert Kibbe

Lee 1’s first – and last – flight. This is likely the most known jump of the General ever made and is the one shown at the end of the theme song in every episode except those featuring Coy and Vance. Image: Warner Brothers

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3 Responses

  1. Dear Robert. I hame building a General Lee and hi got some question on the paint. Well more on the rocker panel, the door’s every thing you dont see when the door is close. Since LEE 1 was originaly GOLD, did they juste close the door’s and paint or the door filling are painted. Thank’s Ben

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