Breanna Lee, 14, stands next to her four-cylinder Hornet that she races at the Upper Iowa Speedway in Decorah. Craig Moorhead/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS
Breanna Lee, 14, stands next to her four-cylinder Hornet that she races at the Upper Iowa Speedway in Decorah. Craig Moorhead/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS
Like many kids her age, 14 year-old Breanna Lee is signed up to take Driver's Ed. But unlike her classmates, she is also getting a little added time behind the wheel this summer, racing a four-cylinder Hornet at Upper Iowa Speedway (UIS) in Decorah, Iowa.

"Last year, I went to just about every single race," she said recently, "I finally decided, 'I really want to do this (race).' It just looked like it would be really fun, and it is."

Breanna said she's proud of her Hornet with the "General Lee" burnt orange paint job and #01 emblazoned on the door. She hand washes and cleans her bright orange car before every trip to the track.

The car was originally a 1996 Dodge Neon. It now sports a Confederate naval jack on the roof, just like the Dodge Charger on the long-running television series. Her name is painted over the driver's side door, just where "General Lee" appeared on the big car.

The General Lee car of the "Dukes of Hazard" fame was actually an astonishing 250-320 cars, according to those involved with the show. That's because approximately one auto was destroyed doing stunts per episode.

All of the cars used in long jumps were immediately retired "due to structural damage," the Wikipedia online encyclopedia states. One take, one car.

That's where all similarity with the Lees of Mabel ends. Breanna is a careful, consistent driver and has managed to keep her Hornet virtually pristine while many of the boys she competes with have reduced their rides to a happy series of scratches and dents.

Currently, she's in sixth place in the UIS Hornets points standings.

Breanna is the daughter of Amy Lee and Jeremy Lee of Mabel. Jeremy owns a Spring Grove car lot in town and a body shop located between Mabel and Spring Grove.

Her parents and brother (18-year-old Kyle) have all helped out on the family project of preparing the "Breanna Lee" for the track.

"We actually are restoring a '69 Charger right now," Jeremy confided last week. "That's kind of where the idea came from to paint this car to look like the 'General Lee.'

"We're rebuilding the Charger as an exact replica of the car in the show. We put the body on a rotisserie, and we're going through every nut and bolt. It will be a show car."

"The Hornet is a Dodge, just like the Charger. The Lee name was just another reason to paint it up this way."

"Breanna actually found the Hornet on Craigslist and made the deal on it herself... then she told me about it," Jeremy chuckled. "So we went up to Menominee, Wis., to look at it. I took a trailer and brought the cash, and we found that it was actually a very nice car.

"The guy who had it had already prepared it for racing at a local track as a four-cylinder Hornet, drove it a couple of times, and then decided he wanted to get into stock cars."

"We bought it and went through it, put on new brakes, new ball joints and tie rod ends, new tires. We kind of went overboard on it, but I figured I wanted it safe for her. We worked on it for about a month before last winter set in, and then put another month into it this spring.

"Breanna really did a majority of the work on the car herself. There were different rules at the track in Wisconsin and the one in Decorah, so we had to install a different gas tank and a different seat.

"It actually was a lot of fun just working with her, too. We got to spend a lot of nights and weekends together working on that car. She did all the sanding and helped me tape it up for the paint job. Actually, it was kind of all of us who worked together on the whole project.

"The car is amazingly efficient on gas. Every week, when we top off the tank, we find that it takes just one gallon of gas per race."

There's no word yet if the "Breanna Lee" plays Dixie when you toot the horn.