The General Lee
Warner Bros.
Interest in the 1969 Dodge Charger, the “General Lee” in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “The Dukes of Hazzard,” has taken off this year.
By Roland Jones Business news editor
msnbc.com
updated 8/15/2005 4:00:59 PM ET 2005-08-15T20:00:59

A much sought-after American television icon with sexy curves and a fiery personality returns to our screens this weekend, sending many an American heart a-flutter with nostalgia.

No, we’re not talking about Daisy Duke.

The 1969 Dodge Charger, also known as the “General Lee,” will burst onto the silver screen after a 20-year hiatus, as Warner Brothers releases the movie version of the cult television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” originally created by CBS in 1979.

The show went off the air in 1985, but its popularity has lingered. And for those die-hard enthusiasts who own a 1969 Dodge Charger — the famous car belonging to southern “good old boy” cousins Bo and Luke Duke — its return won’t come a moment too soon.

Interest in the new movie has driven the value of their famed 1969 orange Dodge Chargers up significantly over the past six months, according to data from Kelley Blue Book, which tracks the auto industry.

The price of a basic Charger SE 500 in mint condition has seen a 29-percent increase from $43,900 six months ago to $61,600 today, while a mint condition 1969 Dodge Charger R/T’s price is up 64 percent so far this year, jumping from $28,200 in January to $43,900 in July.

Dodge, which is owned by Daimler Chrysler, is also likely to capitalize on the nostalgia associated with the new movie. The automaker is releasing a 2006 version of the Dodge Charger — a model it discontinued in 1975.

With 250 horsepower and a standard 3.5-liter high-output V6 engine, today’s Charger packs quite a punch, but any comparison with its 1969 ancestor is like comparing “apples and kumquats” said Dan Kahn, Road Test Editor at automotive research firm Edmunds.com.

Back in 1969, the muscle car wars were raging and the Charger was at the back of the pack, said Kahn. It was bigger and heavier than its rival the Ford Mustang and it didn’t stop or handle very well, he said. The 2006 Charger, on the other hand, is a more balanced car, Kahn added.

“The new car has more power than the original Hemi engine; it’s based on Mercedes architecture, it has better gas mileage, a leather interior, a great stereo and it handles much better,” he said. “I think Dodge will sell a lot of these cars because the Baby Boomer generation that grew up with these cars will want to say they drive a Charger with a Hemi, but also can put the kids on the back seat.”

While Charger enthusiasts are likely happy to see the resurgence of the muscle car, others are upset with its styling and four-door configuration says Mark Brueggemann, senior market analyst Kelly Blue Book.

“The purists who loved these cars resent that the 2006 Charger is four-door when all the Chargers before it were two-door cars,” Brueggemann said.

“But that’s the evolution of the car. Back then, these cars were really seen as NASCAR-type cars, and you could really buy cars that were nuts and bolts away from what you’d drive on a NASCAR racetrack. Today, there’s no correlation,” he said.

That’s certainly that’s true when it comes to the 2006 Charger’s doors — unlike those on the “General Lee,” they’re not welded shut.

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