I've loved the Dukes of Hazzard ever since the very first episode premiered when I was in 1st grade. As a kid, I would manage to amass quite a respectable collection of Dukes toys and whatnot (backpacks, lunch boxes, etc.) but one of the toys that sticks out in my memory the most from back then is a toy that I never actually even owned. It was a toy General Lee knock-off that my cousin had. I distinctly recall playing "cars" out in my backyard when they were visiting (we had a small "garden" that was basically a patch of dirt that my folks let me make roads and ramps and stuff for my bigger plastic cars to drive around on), when he busted out his cherished General Lee toy car from his backpack.
First off, I was hella annoyed because we already had a General Lee, my beloved Mego version, complete with Bo and Luke action figures sitting inside. But my cousin was determined to drive his General Lee around, too, and I eventually gave in. It took me about 3.8 seconds to note that his General Lee didn't look quite right. For one thing, it was some sort of stumpy hatchback, and for another, the number on the side was 10, not 01.
I pointed this out to him but he wasn't buying it. I tried to compare my car to his, showing him the differences, but he wasn't phased. That's when it hit me; I wanted his toy car. I don't know what it was that fascinated me so deeply about this not-quite-General-Lee. All I know is that I wanted it. But no matter what I offered up for trade (and to be fair, I didn't really offer up anything amazing), my cousin wouldn't budge. Oh well.
I would later learn that it was actually a rehashed toy Ford Pinto, molded in orange with a couple of cheap stickers slapped on by a low-end toy company from the 1970s known as Gay Toys (yes, that was their name). I've since seen it pop up on eBay a few times, but have always gotten outbid. It seems that I wasn't the only one who caught a glimpse of this elusive General Lee knock-off and is still trying to aquire it.
But even though I never got my hands on the Gay Toys version, I have collected a pretty solid selection of other General Lee knock-offs and wannabes, and I thought I'd show off my top five favorites right here. So, without further ado...
1. The 07 Rebel
This is one, much like the aforementioned Gay Toys version, that was probably quickly produced out of existing molds, simply re-cast in orange with a few stickers added. These kinds of toys were often found is cheaper toy departments such as the ones found in drug or grocery stores or perhaps Woolworth. I love how the makers skirt right up to the line of copyright infringement yet feel that they are protected legally if they just change the number on the doors to 07 or whatever. And as long as the flag on the top doesn't actually say General Lee down the sides, they're all good. in fact, this car, like the rest on this list, isn't even a '69 Dodge Charger, but has a very Chevy Nova vibe to it.
2. The Orange Power 09
This one is actually my newest eBay score and it happens to be one that I've never seen before. The copyright info on the bottom says it's made by Fleetwood Toys and give a date of 1978, which, since the show didn't even premiere until 1979, I'm guess is an artifact from the original molding of whatever this car was meant to be in the first place. Again, no 01, but an 09 instead and the Orange Power sticker just kills me. This toy has the added feature of being a friction toy, meaning that you give it a few swipes along the carpet to get the wheels going and then set it down and watch it go.
3. Matchbox's Revin' Rebel
By the time Dukes of Hazzard was in its second season, it was a massive hit and everybody and their brother was trying to cash in on the sudden popularity of orange muscle cars with some formation of stars and bars on it. Even respectable companies like Matchbox got in on the action with their repainted Dodge Challenger. Surprisingly, this car was a little hard to find for a decent price. Those Matchbox collectors don't screw around and they keep their values of vintage cars pretty high. Luckily, I scored this one at a toy show for more than I would normally pay for a Matchbox car, but I needed it for the Dukes shelf, so what are you gonna do?
4. The Dixie Challenger
And if Matchbox wasn't immune to Dukes Fever, you know that Hot Wheels wasn't either. Hot Wheels put out their very own General Lee wannabe in the form of this Dodge Challenger (I guess they all figured that Challenger sounded enough like Charger) sporting the rebel flag on top. They, like Matchbox, opted to muster some self-respect and choose to go without a number on the doors.
5. The Midget Toy Mess
This one probably has to be the cheapest, most broke-down knock-off General lee in my collection. Midget Toy put out a ton of cheaply produced, one-color toy cars back int he day, very much along the same lines as the Tootsie Toys cars you would find in cheaper five and dimes. This was another eBay find and a version i had never seen before. I've managed to find one more version of this car since, and that one is still in the package labelled "The Dixie Chargers" and came with and equally cheap white Jeep and police car. The funny thing is that the one still in the package has a small, black 09 on the doors. And yes, it's hard to tell in the pic below, but this monstrosity does have wheels, they're just that tiny and crappy.
Honorable Mention: The Buddy L "Rebel"
This one would have officially made the list, but the other entries one out by at least trying to look somewhat like a Dodge Charger. But Buddy L's foray into General Lee knock-offs was made out of a mold of some sort of Z28 or whatever this is. This bad boy originally came in a set of four different orange vehicles with rebel flags on them (a couple of trucks and a van or something), so it's pretty clear that they weren't messing around when it came time for them to cash in on a hot new TV show. Anyway, sorry orange Z28, you almost made it.
So that's it for this week's list! Hope you all enjoyed it, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for next week's list, as well as that old Roscoe waitin' to catch you speedin' by the Boar's Nest. Y'all come back now.