1-Of-200? 1990 Dodge Dakota Lil Red Express

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Who remembers what the fastest production vehicle was in 1978? It was the Dodge Lil Red Express – a factory pickup with a police engine that got around emissions controls (for a year). It returned, at least in spirit, in 1990-92 in the guise of the Lil Red Express Dakota using the latter’s mid-size platform. The performance was gone, but some of the looks weren’t. Perhaps only 200 were built, including this 1990 example from Waukau, Wisconsin. It’s available here on Facebook Marketplace for $10,000. Another interesting tip brought to us by “Lothar… of the Hill People”!

Dodge produced the Lil Red Express pickup in 1978-79, with the earlier editions not fitted with a catalytic converter. They had found an EPA loophole that was closed the following year. Fast forward more than a decade and the look of the truck would return as the Lil Red Express Dakota, a dealer-installed option. The kit was outsourced to a now-defunct company called LER Industries. The graphics had the word “Dakota” built in to help differentiate the trucks from their predecessors. The wood paneling on the sides of the original was not included, and the side exhaust stacks were merely for effect.

The Dakota was in production from 1987 to 2011, so a ton of them were on the road back in the day. But the estimated number was from 40 to 200 as to how many of them wore the LRE kits. The interiors were stock Dakota, as was the drivetrain which included V6 engines and small V8s. The seller does not tell us what lies under the hood of this truck and photos are limited. If you want to know more about the seldom-seen Lil Red Express Dakota, click here and here.

What we do know is that the seller describes the condition of this truck as “fair,” yet it looks fine in the one full exterior photo offered. The mileage is 104,000, typical for the age, and we’re told it’s “really fun” and the seller loves it (so why sell it?). We’re also told it’s a “hobby truck” which indicates it’s used mainly for car shows these days. While it’s not as beefy as the 1978 Lil Red Express, would this dealer tribute of sorts have an appeal to you?

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  1. alphasudMember

    The fender badge says V6. Would have been cool if it had the 318 Magnum with a manual.

    Like 7
    • Harvey HarveyMember


      Like 12
    • Troy

      Have another drink 😁

      Like 11
    • Johnmloghry john loghry

      Nice story George. I like your use of descriptive language. Keep up the good work my friend.

      God Bless America

      Like 2
  2. Connecticut mark

    I do not like it, looks cheap but that v6 magnum engine is great, knew 2 people with over 350,000 miles each, same engine . Not rebuilt

    Like 1
    • Rumpledoorskin

      Can confirm that. A friend’s dad drove one as a candy salesman. Had 400K on it when he retired and traded it in. The dealer put it in the front row, “ONE OWNER” across the windshield. His wasn’t a red express, but it was red.

      Like 4
  3. Big C

    A stripper Dakota with fake exhaust stacks, that made the stepside useless. Nope.

    Like 7
    • Herbert

      Exactly, couldn’t have said it better myself. A fool and his money are soon seperated.

      Like 4
    • Anthony H. Tellier

      Knee-Burn Special!

      Like 1
  4. Troy

    I like it but I think $10k in this condition is high, if I did manage to acquire it those stacks would be functional in short order

    Like 7
  5. stillrunners stillrunnersMember

    What Troy and most said….not too much in demand and not one I really like ….although I like my Dakota’s………

    Like 0
  6. Rex Angeli

    I too had one back in the day with the 318. I had my local muffler shop hook up the stacks to it. Maybe not the fastest, but holy wow, was it loud!!

    Like 0
  7. Brett Lee Lundy

    I bought a new club cab with the 318 and manual trans, and ordered it with the factory 3.90 rearend, it came in and had the 3.23, the dealer agreed to swap it out as it was not what was ordered, and the parts guy told me i could order any gear ration as they were all the same cost. I went with a 4.10 and that truck shocked many a Mustang and Camaro at stop lights.

    Like 1

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