1 of 38? 1990 Dodge Dakota Lil Red Express

Who remembers the Dodge Lil Red Express trucks of 1978-79? They were a limited production run of the D-Series trucks that had unique graphics and a police version of the 360 V8 without a catalytic converter (at least in ’78). That made them the fastest products out of Detroit until the emissions loophole that allowed them to be built was closed. More than a decade later, the Lil Red Express returned as a dealer-installed option on the Dakota mid-size pickup, but without the same muscle of its predecessors. This 1990 edition, found in Lynnwood, Washington, is one of maybe 38 built and is available here on craigslist for $28,000. Thanks, Kevin, for bringing this rare pickup to our attention!

Kits for the 1990-92 Dodge Dakota Lil Red Express were made by LER Industries of Edwardsburg, Michigan, a company that seems to no longer be with us. To help differentiate from the earlier trucks, the graphics had the word “Dakota” added. Occasionally a clone of these transports will turn up today with shortened graphics from the 1978-79 run that doesn’t have Dakota in them. The Dakota “Reds” look a lot like the originals, but without the wood paneling on the sides and rear.

One of the unique features of the ‘70s versions was that the exterior-mounted smokestack exhaust pipes were functional. For the later reincarnations, they were present but not operational. On the seller’s 1990 edition, we’re told they’re connected, but does that mean they’re functional, too? The interior on this limited run truck is standard Dakota stuff, a mid-size truck that Dodge assembled from 1987-2011. For more reading on these rarely seen pickups, please check out Article #1 (by our own Scotty Gilbertson), Article #2, or Article #3.

While many of these trucks came with a small-block V8, the seller says his Dakota has a V6 motor, which would make it the 239 cubic-inch “LA” V6 that produced 125 hp with an automatic transmission, not nearly as peppy as 1978-79. The seller says this truck has under 16,000 miles, so whoever bought it new intended to keep it in time capsule condition as long as possible. Of late, all the fluids have been changed and new tires and wheels added. The truck appears to be in like-new condition and the seller would consider a trade for a newer 4-door, 4X4 pickup with low miles, too.

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Comments

  1. Mikefromthehammer

    I think the exits of the smokestack exhaust pipes would look better facing the rear of the truck instead of the sides.

    Like 2
    • Geo

      True, but they are probably turned so that any black crap is not spewed out on to the fenders. My ’79 Lil Red did just that until it was converted to propane. The stacks are too long too.

      • Mikefromthehammer

        From Russ’ article above:

        “One of the unique features of the ‘70s versions was that the exterior-mounted smokestack exhaust pipes were functional. For the later reincarnations, they were present but not operational. On the seller’s 1990 edition, we’re told they’re connected, but does that mean they’re functional, too?”

        If the stacks aren’t functional there would be no issue with black crap. I agree with you about them being too long. I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it. I had fixated on the direction of the exhaust. If the stacks aren’t functional (or even if they are) would it be possible to turn them so the exhaust faces the rear of the truck?

  2. Bunky

    Close- but no banana. As previously mentioned, the first thing I noticed is that the stacks are too long-and turned the wrong direction. That could be remedied- but the V6 is a buzzkill. They run forever, but are not powerful or economical. Springing for the V8 would’ve made all the difference.

    Like 2
  3. Howie Mueler

    Posted 13 days ago, and only 4 photos?

  4. Troy

    $28k is $18k more than I would be willing to pay than I would turn the top of the stacks to face backwards otherwise looks like a fun truck

    Like 4
  5. Stanley Holton

    Without ever seeing one,i cant think that dodge would ever put those run of the mill diamond plate running boards ,and those GM rear fender look alike
    just odd

    Like 1
  6. Stanley Holton

    I stated GM fenders,,,now i look i think 1980 ford fenders

  7. Steve S

    There wouldn’t be any kind of black smoke coming out of the smoke stacks as the trucks was powered by a police interceptor 360 gas engine. A diesel engine would produce black smoke not a gas engine.

    • Steve S

      What I said is for geo.

      • Geo

        Guess you never had a 4 BBL Mopar…….rarely do they ever run properly. They do easily gunk up with city driving. Switched most of mine over to BBD’s. My Lil Red continually spewed crap out of those pipes, until it burned propane.

  8. Steve S

    What I said is for geo.

  9. Geo

    If you want to see Lil Reds with the tips turned to the side, look up Skip Gibbs’ Lil Red reunion photos.

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