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In this episode of The MuscleCar Place podcast show I was lucky enough Gary Schneider, who like me shares a huge appreciation for 1980’s era TV and move cars. Gary been built (believe it or not) an honest-to-goodness replica of the “Family Truckster,” the monstrosity station wagon that Clark Griswold bought to take his family ‘cross country in the ever-popular National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movie! While this car in particular may not technically be a muscle car, I simply couldn’t help in indulging my fanboy side with this type of stuff……and it didn’t hurt that Gary has also built (and is now rebuilding) his own personal General Lee!
During the interview Gary shared the details of creating his car, from the eight headlights to the four taillights (and no, they don’t all work). The grille header panel is custom made, and the rear windows of the wagon were made smaller just as they were on the move cars; by covering them up with a piece of aluminum (the full glass panel is still there). The “relocated” gas door to the front of the car is just for show – just as it was on the movie – and the huge luggage racks are just as hideous as they should be. In other words, it’s perfect!
As Gary shared during his interview, the story of his Family Truckster actually began with a Dukes of Hazzard marathon on TNT. Gary was reminded of his childhood fantasies of flying orange cars and thought long and hard about pursuing the purchase of one. After much debate, he bought one and brought it home. In 2000 he was approached about driving his General Lee on a Dukes of Hazzard Reunion Tour with John Schneider and Tom Wopat (Bo and Luke Duke), with the only stipulation being that he be willing to do it for free. Like all good Dukes of Hazzard fans, he said YES!
During the tour Gary had the opportunity to meet Don Schisler, a transportation coordinator during the Dukes of Hazzard days, and the process car driver for the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. In the summer of 2000, he graciously gave Gary the only known remaining crown emblem used on the Family Trucksters. Don actually purchased one of the original Family Trucksters, turning it back into a “normal” car and then using it as daily transportation for many years!
Gary’s Family Truckster is once again on the screen and it is featured in a series of commercials and a mini movie by the Home Away vacation home company. Gary has direct links to the videos on his website MyFamilyTruckster.com. You can also learn more about his General Lee, which is currently undergoing a restoration (after surviving a garage fire) at MyGeneralLee.com.
Thanks for the interview, Gary!
– Rob Kibbe