Bids near $3 million for Dukes' 'General Lee'
Orange 1969 Charger owned by actor John Schneider for sale on eBay.
By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A modified 1969 Dodge Charger, painted to look like the General Lee from the TV Show "The Dukes of Hazzard," is for sale on eBayMotors. So far, the bidding is up to more than $2.7 million.
The car was used in the show, which typically went through several cars per episode during its 6-year production run in the early 1980s. But this one is owned by John Schneider, who played Bo Duke in the series, a role that was only slightly less central than that of the car.
The car was also used in the 2000 TV Movie "The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood," a Dukes reunion film. It also had a central role in the movie "Collier & Co., Hot Pursuit," a limited-release film produced by, directed by and starring Schneider. Schneider owned the car even before its use in Dukes. He leased it to Warner Bros. for its original on-screen appearances.
The car has been extensively modified since then.
"I do something nice for the General about once a year," said Schneider.
The car now has 725 horsepower 511 Hemi motor, Dodge Viper brakes and a roll cage, all of which allow it to race at over 200 miles per hour.
Unlike the those on the TV character General Lee, this car's doors do open. There is a scratch near the driver's side window from Schneider, as Bo Duke, jumped into the car. Schneider left the scratch, figuring it only increases the car's value.
"On a scale of coolness of 1 to 10," said Schneider, "this has got to be a 12.
At one point, said Schneider, he watched as bidding on eBayMotors.com went up to $6.7 million before eBay officials removed what turned out to be bogus bids placed by pranksters.
The Dukes of Hazzard centered around Bo Duke and his cousin Luke, played by Tom Wopat, working to undo the evil plans of the powerful and corrupt J.D. "Boss" Hogg, played by the late Sorrell Brooke.
Every episode included at least one spectacular car chase over the dirt roads of the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia.
Except for its relationship to Schneider, the car's value would probably be a small fraction of what is being bid.
"It speaks to the passion around the show and how iconic the General Lee is," said Andy Holeman, vice president of consumer marketing for Country Music Television.
CMT airs nightly reruns of the show and sponsors the annual DukesFest in Nashville Tenn., an event that last year attracted 70,000 people and about 150 cars painted to look like the General Lee.
This year about 200 General Lees are expected at the June 2-3 event.
"The show, the car, is a phenomenal thing that is embedded in the American consciousness," said Ben Jones, the actor who played the mechanic Cooter Davenport on the show.
Still, $2.7 million - which isn't even the final sale price - is stratospherically high compared to the $150,000 to $200,000 that any other original General Lee would be worth.
"There is no basis in my experience in the collector car world to justify that kind value," said McKeel Hagerty, president of the collector car insurance company Hagerty Insurance.
By way of comparison, the auction house Christie's will be selling a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, a car once owned by Steve McQueen, at an August 16 auction. Christie's estimates the value of that car at $800,000 to $1.2 million.
Of course it could go higher. Christie's estimate, said Christopher Sanger, head of Christie's car sales, is based primarily on the inherent value of the object itself and only slightly on its association with McQueen.
"There's an awful lot of people in this generation who don't know who Steve McQueen is who do know who Bo Duke is," said Jones.
Plus, McQueen's car was never featured on a TV show.
In a 2004 survey conducted by Hagerty Insurance, a collector car insurer, the General Lee was named the most popular TV or movie car. The second most popular was the 1968 Mustang driven by McQueen in the movie "Bullitt."
Objects that have been owned and personalized by celebrities or that are associated with beloved movies or TV shows can touch a unique purchasing drive that's hard to predict, said Cathy Elkies who directs Christie's sales of "special collections."
She oversaw auctions of Star Trek memorabilia and items belonging to Marlon Brando. A collection of 200 otherwise unremarkable books owned and written in by Brando sold for $50,000.
"That's what makes for really exciting auctions," she said.
Bidding on Schneider's General Lee closes at about 1:00 pm eastern time on Friday.
Schneider hopes to use the proceeds to finance a sequel to "Collier & Co," which, he said, opens Friday at 25 theaters in Alabama.
When production on that movie gets rolling, he'll have to start gathering all the pieces.
"My first call has got to be to the people who own the car," he said.
He'll need to rent it back from them.