The General Lee Sells for $9.9 Million

Back in the days when people talked about horsepower and meant it, General Robert E. Lee rode a trusty steed named Traveller into battle. If the famed Civil War commander could’ve lived to witness the popularity of the Dukes of Hazzard television show, he’d probably beam with pride at the merchandising franchise spawned by his automotive namesake. The 1969 Dodge Charger often stole the show from the human cast members and the latest testament to the show’s legacy came when actor John Schneider, who played Bo Duke on the TV program (and Clark Kent’s dad on Smallville), sold off the car last week on eBay for $9.9 million.

For tuners wondering what could warrant such a high price tag besides the sentimental value, they need only look at the General Lee’s key specs. While Traveller could only muster 1 hp on his best day, the customized orange whirling dervish with the politically incorrect Confederate flag painted on the roof has an 8.3-liter, 725-hp V8 powertrain and only 16,000 miles on the odometer. It looks just as good as I’d always thought it would when I used to carry my diecast toy version to kindergarten for Show and Tell.

In any event, keep in mind that Warner Brothers sacrificed hundreds of other General Lees in various stunts in order to build the current version’s vaunted reputation. The recent big screen adaptation of the show and high-profile sale of the car confirm that the effort paid off. As pop culture goes through its extended retro phase, rest assured that the General Lee will remain in the hearts and minds of Generation X for years to come.

Update: Looks like I spoke too soon. The man who placed the winning bid on eBay now claims his account got hacked and he refuses to pay. As a result, the General Lee is once again up for sale as of 5/13/07.  Good luck to those with a little extra cash on hand. 

– posted by Taeho Lim

Days of Future Past

Duesenberg Torpedo

The Duesenberg marque is synonymous with old-school automotive glamour. Daddy Warbucks rode around in a chauffeur-driven Duesenberg; you’ll see them in black-and-white movies, with Myrna Loy or Jean Harlow relaxing into their leather seats. Have you ever heard someone say “It’s a doozy”? Now you know–the origin of the expression is, indeed, the astonishing Duesenberg luxury car.

So I was a bit surprised to get an email about the Duesenberg Torpedo, a new custom car slated for production this fall. The last Duesie (which was quite a doozy) shipped in 1937. What’s the story?

It turns out that a company called Duesenberg Custom Coach, Inc., is reviving the Duesenberg brand. They’re working with designers to produce retro-glam versions of the original motorcyle and estate car; the Torpedo, though, is a new design that combines the look of a sleek ’30s speedster with some twenty-first-century green engineering.

Designer Jeff Teague was inspired by the Duesies of the 1930s; you can see that in the curve of the front end, and in the grille styling. But the fabrication of this car is all 2007; carbon fiber makes it light and sleek.

The car’s built on the Mercedes CL500 platform, and its first incarnations will be powered by a Mercedes V12 engine. Which makes one wonder, “Why does it need to be so light?”

The answer is that Duesenberg Custom Coach plans to equip future models with high-tech, flexi-fuel engines. Apparently, they’ve been in discussion with Eddie Paul and his E.P. Industries wizards: the idea of something as tasty as this Duesenberg Torpedo coupled with Eddie Paul’s CEM, which is projected to deliver 300 horsepower at 70 miles per gallon, is pretty dazzling.

Not that one would need this level of design excellence and luxury fabrication to make a car popular if it had a CEM under the hood. This new powerplant technology has the potential to transform the marketplace (and the roadways!) if it can be harnessed successfully for automotive production.

Eddie Paul, the visionary behind the CEM, has been a fixture on the Hollywood scene for years, building stunt vehicles for films including The Fast and the Furious. He’s not publicity-shy: in fact, he webcasts his shop at DeadlineTV.net, and you’ll see him as a guest expert on the Learning Channel.

His CEM, though, could make him a household name. He’s been working on the air pump/engine for 20 years; first patented in 1993, the engine’s now used to power firefighting equipment and in the aeronautics industry. Paul’s dream is to create a CEM (Cylindrical Energy Module) designed for mass automotive production. When (or if) he succeeds, the impact can only be imagined. With a projected yield of 2 horsepower per pound, the air-cooled, self-lubricating CEM would deliver the same power as a conventional engine, but at one-sixth the weight and half the cost.

In times like these, when the American automotive industry is in crisis and the Big Three are seemingly flailing for ideas, it’s reassuring to see smaller businesses looking to the past and future for distinctive, innovative ideas. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Duesenberg or the CEM, but it’s awfully good to see people thinking outside the box for a change!

For more about Eddie Paul and the CEM, see this Gizmag.com article. AutoBlogGreen.com looks at the Duesenberg Torpedo here.

Chevy Corvette Gets a Refresh for ’08

After months of rumors and spy shots, Chevy officially unveiled the new 2008 Corvette LS3 this week, which will replace the current LS2 model. The new ‘Vette takes its name from its new 6.2-liter LS3 V8 engine, which produces 430 horsepower, up 36 horsepower from the previous year’s model. And if you opt for the dual-mode exhaust, you get an additional 6 horsepower. Chevy notes that the new engine is 6 percent more efficient than the one it replaces, thanks to a number of engine and structural enhancements. There’s also a new, more efficient six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, which Chevy said shifts 30 percent faster than the previous shifter.

You might notice the differences in the new model when you’re seated behind the steering wheel and tapping the gas pedal, but from the outside you won’t notice much difference between the old and the new ‘Vettes, except for some new colors, like Crystal Red Metallic Tintcoat and Jetstream Blue Metallic Tintcoat. The ‘Vette retains its low-profile, long-hooded, hip-backed look, which doesn’t seem dated. That might change, however, when the new Chevy Camaro hits the showrooms later this year.

The ’08 Vette also gets a number of interior enhancements, including new brushed aluminum accents, a wrapped center trim plate, an MP3 player input jack on all sounds sytems except the navigation system, a new keyless entry key fob, and standard OnStar and XM satellite radio. There’s also a new optional Leather-Wrapped Interior Package for a little extra luxury.