3,184 Original Miles: 1979 Dodge Li’l Red Express

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Pickups are an iconic part of the classic car scene, and one of the most popular of these is the Dodge Li’l Red Express. Here at Barn Finds, we’ve seen a fair range of these, and the condition of these has ranged from the very nice to the very rough. This particular 1979 model takes it to the next level because buying this would be as close to owning a brand new example as it is possible to get today. Located in Chardon, Ohio, you will find this classic listed for sale here on eBay. With bidding currently sitting at $29,600, it probably isn’t a great surprise to learn that the reserve hasn’t been met.

With only 3,100 miles on the clock, it is no surprise that this 40-year-old Pickup is in immaculate condition. It does have a few minor flaws, but nothing major. Apparently, there is a small ding in one of the front fenders, but it is so small that it doesn’t show up in the photos. The owner feels that this could be fixed by one of those paintless dent removal companies. One of the bolts is also missing out of the bed timber on the driver’s side, but this should be easy to replace. There is also a hardcover on the bed. This isn’t original and could be removed or left in place, depending on the next owner’s tastes. Otherwise, the vehicle is spotless and rust-free. The owner is has a full set of NOS decals and bed timber, and these are being included in the sale.

The immaculate presentation continues inside the Dodge, with not a mark to be seen anywhere. The Pickup was optioned with the bucket seats rather than the bench, and these look immaculate. There have been no modifications or aftermarket components, and when it was last used, the air conditioning blew ice-cold. The owner is including an extra can of refrigerant with the vehicle in case it is needed at some point. There are a couple of small items which will need to be attended to if the new owner is seeking perfection, and who wouldn’t be with a truck like this? The factory clock doesn’t currently work, while the fuel gauge is also a bit stubborn. The owner believes that this is probably due to a faulty sender unit, so once again, this has the potential to be a fairly easy fix. The Li’l Red Express also comes with a nice little stash of original paperwork, including the Owner’s Manual, Warranty Card, the dealer inspection delivery sheet, and the original Build Sheet.

The owner says that the original 360ci V8 runs and sounds great, while the original A-727 automatic transmission shifts smoothly. There is a slight leak from the transmission, but with such low mileage, it is possible that this is nothing more than a seal that has gone hard over the years. The Pickup features power front disc brakes, and these have been given a once-over and are said to work perfectly. The only non-original parts on the Dodge are the battery, which was replaced a few years ago, and the shocks. However, the owner does still have the original shocks, and they will go with the vehicle. The Dodge still rolls on its original 40-year-old tires, and while they appear to be in good condition, the owner does suggest that they should probably be changed before the vehicle is driven any distance.

When Dodge rolled out the original Li’l Red Express in 1978, it probably didn’t envisage just how popular it would be. In 1978 they built 2,188, and these sold like hotcakes. For 1979, they chose to update the vehicle and to increase the build total to 5,118. Once again, buyers were snapping them up as fast as they could roll off the production line. Survival rates have been quite high, and there are still a good number of these plying our roads today. However, there can’t be many around that are this original and have so few miles on the clock. It is a rare opportunity when you have the chance to buy a new Pickup that’s actually 40-years-old.

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  1. Bob McK

    What a beautiful truck. I remember when they were new. Sure would like to bring this one home. Would love to hear the story of why it was never driven.

    Like 4
  2. irocrobb

    There was one of these in my small town in the 1980s that was pretty much mint. The guys brother had passed away and the he kept it a few years after that. Only drove it on perfect days.\
    I would love to have this truck !

    Like 5
    • Destiny

      Did this truck your talking about used to be in Pierre Sd?

      Like 0
  3. Jeff

    Why is the engine, wiper motor and oil pan extremely rusty with only 3K miles, it looks very bad.

    What does a odometer smell like after it turns over once?

    I wonder if it stinks after it turns backwards.

    Like 5
    • Angrymike

      If it’s been a Ohio truck all it’s life, I can believe the rust. In the spring my Mustang gets so wet it can drip from the humidity in my garage. Now imagine 40 years of temp change.

      Like 8
  4. Jeff

    Really 3K miles?

    Like 7
    • GPMember

      After 40 years, This looks pretty darn good. These parts do not have any good primer ( if any) from the factory. And only a light coat of paint. You could clean that up with a little 320 grit in no time.

      Like 0
  5. Scott

    Mileage would need to be backed up with a ton of documentation like state inspections, insurance cards or otherwise. It is a really nice truck however it looks like it was parked in a not so dry garage maybe…..find it hard to believe that humidity caused it to get like this.
    If I was spending that much on a 3k mile vehicle, I would not want components or undercarriage to have any scale. My 83 C10 is cleaner underneath than this and it has 68k miles and is driven so I am in agreement this one may not be as advertised.

    Like 1
  6. Gwood

    Is that really the stock steering wheel?? It’s the same one in my dodge 024. I guess it’s possible I thought the trucks were three spoke?

    Like 1
    • Carl

      It’s original. All 1978 and early 1979 LRE’s came with the 3 spoke “tuff” steering wheel. The later units rolled out with the k car wheel…

      Like 3
  7. Steve S

    These was the fastest truck back when they was built I wonder how much faster they would of been with the 426 hemi or 440 in them instead of the hopped up 360 police interceptor engine and I wish I had the money I have always wanted to own a little red express truck

    Like 2
    • Brian M.

      1978 models were heralded as fastest domestic car or truck that year 0-100, including the corvette… but that was partially because the 78’s had no catalytic converters and pretty much anything else it was up against did. I believe the 1979 models did have the smog equipment and were a bit slower. Still very cool vehicles, I’d love to have one- or even better, a warlock with a hopped-up 440!

      Like 1

    Fake News

    This thing is cool but no way 3000 miles. Look for overspray.

    Like 3
  9. Jeff

    Here is a little tell tale sign that has me wondering, why is the right front tire marked RF in red crayon?

    Where the original tires removed and stored and then put back on after many miles where accumulated on the truck or belong to another vehicle?
    What are the date codes on these tires?

    Why is the motor mount so crusty?

    Why does the front of the so called original muffler galvanizing appear almost brand new but many of the other galvanized parts of this truck look like 100K parts?

    See attached image:

    Like 5
    • GPMember

      You do make some very good points Jeff. I am thinking a little different about the truck myself. Thanks.

      Like 3
    • JimmyinTEXAS

      The ebay ad says the tires are original. If so they should have a 40-year-old date code.

      Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      Jeff – Great catches. Unfortunately, back in that era, Mopar quality was not very good. I could easily see some of the overspray items you’re pointing out happening at the factory. If defects were found on the line they would pull the trucks aside to a separate area to fix them, and they wanted to fix them fast. So some of the overspray could be attributed to that, especially since the overspray areas are on the same door.

      The tire markings don’t bother me. They probably just pulled the tires off at some point to store them and wanted to remember where they went. In fact, I would expect that on a car driven 3,000 miles over 40 years.

      I definitely, however, think the krusty underside is a concern. I realize these parts were not treated at the factory beyond a thin coat of paint at best, but the underside is way out of whack for the mint condition of the shiny side and interior. Not only is paint missing and rust present, but rubber components are cracked with dry rot.

      I’d expect that to be in better shape. About all I can think of is the truck was driven in the winter time during its first year and they just never cleaned the salt from the bottom? But why are the mufflers so clean?

      Cool truck but lots of questions as you point out.

      Like 1
  10. Jeff

    Why does the rubber gasket of the door handle appear to have paint on it?

    Look at the orange peel on the door, did the factory apply the paint that way?

    Like 3
  11. Jeff

    Did the factory apply paint to the internal door latch parts?

    Maybe I am just nitpicking…

    Like 5
  12. JimmyinTEXAS

    I am conflicted by this truck. I like them and would like to have one but not in the claimed condition of t his truck. What I want to do to one shouldn’t be done to one in this claimed condition nor even spoken of in mixed company, not for the faint of heart.
    For what it may be worth it looks like the tailgate has been removed at some point. In 3K miles? the inside of the door frames don’t really look like 3K miles either and the bottom of the doors look to me like they have been painted over stuff that should have been removed before painting. The drip rail over the passenger’s door looks like it has been sprayed without being cleaned out good. Look at the driver’s side wheel well photo(re20) and look at the edge of the plastic shield bolted in there. There seems like a lot of rust underneath the whole truck but I buy the condensation comment and it would certainly be much worse if, in fact, it is 103K. That is why I’m conflicted. Because of the asking price, I started not to even comment, but after closely examining the photos I couldn’t keep from it.

    Like 3
  13. allen e anderson

    know a former neighbor of mine that I think still has one never taken a close look at it but looks nice at least from what I have seen do not know if he still drives it or not

    Like 0
  14. rosco

    Repaint with a lot of orange peel. Over spray everywhere underneath, on bolts holding front inner fenders (look at both sides behind front tires). Drivers door poorly aligned for so few miles.

    Like 2
    • Adam

      My father-in-law has a 79. The doors don’t line up well, never did. We are in PA, not that far really from this seller. Believe me when I tell you, humidity IS the likely culprit for the rust scale. I’m actually suprised it’s not worse. In just a few years, paint cans rust completely through here, leaking whatever they hold. William Penn should have traded for a southern plot. Overspray is common as well. I agree that the QC department was lacking. Production numbers always win. I can tell you this also, matching that paint is an expensive, trial and error process. I highly doubt anything was touched up. Orange peel… hard to say with a digital photo, looks like artifacts of compression to me. If you think 1 panel was painted, you could bet the farm the entire truck would have been so it matched.

      Like 0
      • Rosco

        I’ve owned 2, one original and one restored so I have a pretty good idea of what factory / unrestored looks like. This one is not original.

        Like 2
  15. Jeff

    This is NOT the TRUE millage, nor was the floor boards or chrome trim painted red. We live in a lying age. This truck does still look nice, but with 103,184 miles, NOT 3184k. I had 1 and so did my brother, and mine could be in shows. Had no chips, dents, scratches, rips tears, leaks or a spec of rust, and i live in Ontario, Canada. I didnt have a/c which would have been nice but did have the dealer installed double tint sunroof. If cared for, these older trucks can look as new as the day it left the dealer. Mine still had the leather smell inside. Just saying to watch out for make believers. I sold mine 21yrs past at 101k km, NOT 101. As New Condition and not for its age. I do miss the old girl.

    Like 2
  16. Ron

    Bed Floor Boards were all painted Red at factory. you dont know what you are talking about!

    Like 1

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