AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011) – Most young men have a fondness for cars. But Nathan Kissee, from Branson, Mo., is no ordinary young man and The General Lee is not just another car.
Kissee, now 21, started watching the Dukes of Hazzard television show when he was just four years old. Soon thereafter, he became spellbound by the star of the show, an acrobatic 1969 Dodge Charger nicknamed The General Lee.
Nathan Kissee was born with hydrocephalus (commonly known as water on the brain) and cerebral palsy. He had seven brain surgeries from the time he was five weeks old to age four. Kissee was spellbound by the orange car with the black No. 01 painted on each door, especially when it would soar through the air on one of its many high jumps.
“He loved watching that car jump,” said Priscilla Kissee, his mother. “He was so fascinated with that show because of The General Lee and he would jump up and yell ‘Yee-Haw!’ every time that car jumped. That’s what he looked forward to every day was watching that show.”
At age 12, Kissee underwent 18 brain surgeries in 18 months, forcing him to live at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He was plagued by constant migraine-type headaches daily. Halfway between his surgeries Nathan lost his desire to live because of his constant pain. Doctors told Priscilla that it was important for Nathan to find something to motivate him.
“He said you’ve got to find something that’s going to give him the will to go on,” said Priscilla.
They found it with the restoration of a rustic ’69 Charger.
“When he was 11, we found a Dodge Charger,” Priscilla said. “I found it out in the country. I was going to a wedding and I saw a Charger sitting at a station that was a ’70. I stopped and asked about it and they told me this old man had four 1969 models in his barn. I went down there and bought the car.”
Dukes of Hazzard actors Ben Jones and John Schneider plus several other acquaintances from the show helped her to obtain parts and pieces to bring the Charger to life. Six years after the restoration began the project was completed and the car was Nathan’s to keep. Since then, Nathan has attended numerous car shows plus numerous functions to benefit handicapped and underprivileged children.
“I had this whole Dukes of Hazzard team helping me get this car done for my son, which was incredible,” Priscilla said. “Everybody did the best for my son. It was unbelievable.”
But the story doesn’t end there. In October 2010, Pricilla wrote a letter to the Chrysler Group in appreciation for manufacturing the car that had made such a difference in her son’s life.
“It’s his recreation, it’s his joy,” Priscilla said. “This car has taken someone who would not have had a very full life and has literally made my son’s life complete. This car has made a huge difference.”
Impressed with her son’s story, representatives from the Chrysler Group contacted Priscilla with a promise to assist with updates on the car along with t-shirts, hats and replica Dodge Challengers for Nathan. On a trip to Michigan this past July, Nathan and his family toured various Chrysler facilities.
A few days after they returned home, the family was contacted by Dodge Motorsports and offered a trip to the Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races.
“I was flipping and so was Nathan,” Priscilla said. “This is like a dream for us. You have no idea.”
Nathan and his family will be the guests of Dodge and have the opportunity to meet the two Dodge drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup from Penske Racing – Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski. The General Lee will also be transported from Missouri and can be seen at the Dodge Motorsports display on the midway at Kansas Speedway.