450 Original Miles! 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

We’ve featured several Li’l Red Express trucks here on Barn Finds over the years, but none quite like this one. Said to have 450 original miles, this truck may be the lowest mile example on the planet. Found here on Craigslist, the truck is located in western Iowa and even though the ad doesn’t have a realistic asking price, you can bet the price is high.

As someone would expect with 450 miles, the interior looks amazing. The bucket/bench seats in these trucks look really comfortable. The styling of these trucks was ahead of their time. The gauges and steering wheel look like they are out of a racecar.

Under the hood could certainly be correct for 450 miles. Nothing is too shiny or dull. The hoses appear to be vintage and everything looks original. If you are familiar with the details of these trucks, let us know if you spot anything that is not factory-correct.

So what do you make of this truck? Do you really think this truck has been driven an average of eleven miles per year? There is a photo in the ad which appears to be a magazine article about this truck when it only had 232 original miles. I wish the seller would have included a bit more information in the ad. Hopefully, this is the real deal and the new owner treats it well.


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  1. Steve R

    No air conditioning? How does he expect someone to drive it during Iowa summers without it?

    No listed price = fishing expedition. Serious sellers do their research and pick a price, they are quick to turn down offers which means they know what they are willing to accept.

    Steve R

    Like 11
    • Gnrdude

      Dude You don’t drive a Car with 450 Original miles on it that hasn’t been driven more than around the driveway since the 70’s

      Like 4
      • Steve R

        Dude, no kidding.

        Steve R

        Like 8
      • Classic Steel

        The low miles maybe due to extremely hot spell in weather after purchase and then let it sit.

        Anyone have the farmers almanac for that timeframe 👍

        Wants a chevelle or half value trade .
        Hmm Omaha steaks? Truck load of swine?
        Allis chalmer tractor?
        It’s cool for sure err as in neat 👀😆

        Like 5
  2. Michael A Groves

    While you have had a few 1978, and 1979 Lil Red’s on here. None of the 200 or so with the 390 4 Barrel has shown up. Are they all gone, or people just keeping them?

    • Dean

      I don’t recall anything but 360’s in true Lil Red Express trucks

      Like 14
    • Austin Crowder

      I don’t think Dodge made a 390. I know they made a 400 from 72 to 78 and it took the place of the 383. Chrysler made a 392 back in the 50s.

      Like 1
      • Col Patrick Montgomery

        I think they meant a 360, which was stock in these trucks. People don’t know how to spell, or type, maybe quit using a smartphone and try using a keyboard and a computer

        Like 2
    • Zach

      The Little Red Truck only came with a High performance 360 4bbl carb. Every Truck had the 5th digit in the VIN as an “S” which stood for the 360 HP.

      Like 4
      • Rob

        So right you are.

        The correct carb is Carter Thermoquad. It has a black plastic body, with a cast metal top and bottom plate. I read that the plastic was used to prevent heat transfer from the intake manifold, helping to keep the fuel cool.

        And the “S” digit in the VIN number is Lil Red. The Warlock model DID NOT have a special VIN digit, as it was an appearance group, ie, paint and trim, not engine, trans, rear end which were all specific to all Lil Reds. Now that I think of it, that makes so much sense. Chrysler had to make sure that the Lil Red drive train passed emission standards, so by making them all identical, they were able to pass them. Hence, no Lil Red’s that were standard transmission, or different engine/rear ends..

        Like 3
  3. LAB3

    We’ve all seen the price fishing expeditions over the years but from reading the ad it looks like the owner is looking for a trade more than a sale.

    Like 5
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      EXACTLY what I’m thinking.
      He’s not interested in selling it for $$, so he didn’t list a price.
      He is specific on what he is looking for.

      Like 1
  4. Jimmy

    Wow only about a hour and a half from me. Too bad I don’t have anything to trade he would except. If he would low miles or not it would get driven to every car show we attend. Ya gotta drive em !!!

    Like 3
  5. Blueprint

    Isn’t that a Dodge Omni steering wheel?

    Like 8
    • Mike H. Mike H.

      That was my thought also. . .

      Like 2
    • Rob

      Don’t know what wheel it is, but the Lil Red’s came with a “Tuff” steering wheel. That is the wrong steering wheel.
      Correct wheel pic shown.

      Like 8
      • Tricky

        Totally correct Rob, for both years!!

        Like 3
      • John Roberts

        The steering wheel is correct, Dodge changed the steering wheel to the Sport wheel during late production of Li’l Reds. Please get your facts right before commenting.
        John Roberts
        Senior Concours Judge
        National Association of Li’l Red Express Truck Owners

        Like 4
    • boxdin

      Rampage too.

      Like 1
  6. Jimmy

    I found this little article while googling Lil Express truck.

    Like 2
  7. George

    Agree, that ain’t the right wheel, the right one is pictured below. They also did not come with painted wood in the box, it was the same finish as the side wood.

    I Saw several 1980s in Toronto in the early eighties, but no sightings since.

    • Rob

      I am not so sure about the painted wood?

      I thought the factory did painted wood, but many people including us, have changed the original red painted pine out for oak, to match the side wood on the box. I have seen a number of trucks with painted pine, including ours, before we replaced it. I may have pictures ( non digital ) of the box before we replaced the wood.

      The 3 prototypes that I read about, when Dodge introduced them, had red oak box floors that were clear varnished. Those prototypes also had non factory engines, including Holley carbs and different ( Dodge ) cylinder heads that were not rated for street use.

      What I have read, and, our unrestored truck that we bought nearly 20 years ago had red painted pine. Who knows? We bought it 19 years old, anything could have happened before we bought it..

      Like 2
  8. Col Patrick Montgomery

    It could also be a clone. I saw one in Burley Idaho a few years back, checked the VIN, it was not the correct VIN for the Little Red Express. To those looking for other colors. In the day, Dodge made a 4×4 Black with gold lettering, it was called the Warlock.

    Like 1
    • boxdin

      Warlocks came in green black or red. Some had 6 cyl engines.

      Like 1
    • Rob

      What is really nuts, I met a guy once who told me he bought a Lil Red new, drove it home and disassembled it. He was going to reassemble it and sell it, to make money on it. That was about 10 years ago. He lives in S Ontario. I have never seen it surface.
      What are the chances it is still sitting somewhere? His boss told me it was true, its not just talk.

  9. Wayne Member

    Steering wheel is correct, along with the wood box floor being painted red.

    If you saw one in black it was called the midnight express.

    No 390 in these trucks, all little red express had an “s” in serial #

    Like 1
  10. bill

    They also made a “top hand” edition.
    Yellow in color with red stripes and a fleet bed.

    • Del

      Regardless of what he will take in trades , he is not serious.

      Serious would have a price.

      He is looking for fishes.

  11. Woody

    Looks original,and a nice find! These trucks were Hot Rods with the “360”and great sounding dual exhaust stacks.

    Like 3
  12. Michael55

    There were no 390’s, but it according to the Allpar site there were two 440 powered trucks. “There were two 440-powered 1978 Li’l Red Express Trucks, too, created for Canadian show purposes”

  13. George

    OK, so there are other opinions on the floors. I bought mine (a ’79) in ’88 from the original owner, with the “Tuff” wheel and varished red oak floor boards. There was an optional wheel installed but it wasn’t the one shown. Anyone have Gibb’s Lil Red history book? He is the founder of the Lil Red Club. He has all the answers. Cannot put my hands on my copy right now.

    This one….http://www.lilredexpress.org/

  14. DartMan

    Steering wheel, It’s a “Tuff II” wheell not as cool as the original Tuff wheel but it is correct. My 79 LRT has one and I’ve seen many with that wheel installed.
    Ma Mopar must have had a surplus of them as they used them in the 80’s front wheel drive cars too ;)

  15. Rob

    Mr John Roberts, ( I would have replied to your comment directly, but there is no Reply button? )
    Sorry if I offended! In my experience and that of others, none were sold without the Tuff Wheel.
    I just did some more digging, and the Dodge Connections website says that all 1978 and some 1979 Lil Reds used the Tuff wheel.
    Is this steering wheel the alternate wheel used in 1979?
    Having owned one, and been members of the Lil Red club for years, you constantly see and hear errors concerning these trucks. Sadly, I have seen a number of fake Lil Reds over the years as well.

  16. John Roberts

    Hi Rob,
    The 4 spoke “Sport” wheel, or sometimes called the “Omni” wheel was used on the Li’l Red starting in late February or early March of ’79. All the early ’79’s and all ’78’s used the 3 spoke “Tuff” wheel. I’m not offended at all, it just gets aggravating having so many people put posts about things they really don’t know, without checking them out first. I saw one guy called it a “Tuff ll” wheel. I don’t know where they come up with all their information, but it just gets crazy at times. I guess I should just keep my mouth shut and go on, but sometimes I just have to correct them before it goes any further. Thanks for the reply!!!

    • Rob

      Hey, I am in the same boat as you.
      I have met so many “car guys”, who tell me that they came with Hemi’s, 318’s, 4 speed manuals, etc etc etc. They “saw one”…
      I am glad to be set straight!.
      Our Lil Red goes to a new home on Friday, after 20 years of ownership. We dusted it more than drove it, ie, last year it was driven 4 times, less than 100 miles total. 79,000 km in total on the odometer, ie about 40,000 miles.
      I think you and I will continue to comment and educate, as there are too many people out there who have not done their homework and don’t know what they are buying.
      Attached is a pic of ours.

      Like 1
  17. Gary

    I built a 1979 Little red express, started by sand blasting the frame and worked it from there. The pictures of the very low mile 1978 shows a problem, as there should be on 1978 seperate rear marker lights. The truck looked good otherwise. When I was at Chryslers at Carlisle I saw a number of them with dual fan belts but have not confirmed that this was the way they should be.

    • John C. Roberts

      Yes Gary, All ’78 Li’l Red beds had the separate rear marker light on the bedside. The ’79’s were incorporated into the tail light.
      As far as dual belts, all A/C trucks had dual belts and any with the 60 Amp or 100 Amp alternator, had dual belts. The standard 41 Amp alternator only came with a single belt.

  18. Mike

    Hey everyone
    I just picked up a Lil’ Red. The engine needs to be rebuilt and it has an Aluminum intake and a few other NonStock items.
    I want to put it back original.
    Can any one tell me what The Correct HEAD casting Number is for that engine?

  19. Bill C

    The only casting choices would be the 596 or the 051 heads. The 051 heads have bigger combustion chambers and lower compression. I believe the little red is rated at 8.25:1 while regular 360’s were rated at 8.4:1 and the police E58 that used 051’s were rated at 8:1 compression ratio. My bet without actually seeing the engine in front of me is they used the 596 head with the higher quality E58 valves that will increase the cc’s a few and thats how they got 8.25:1 ratio. ,As for steering wheel comments above, John R is close to being right, Lil Reds produced in July and up in 79 were given the Omni wheel, as the Tuft wheel was also used in Chrysler Cordoba 300s, certain Lebaron coupe versions, and Dodge Miradas, to put it simply the supply contract ran out, and Chrysler did not renew it, so they finished off production with the Omni Sport wheel.

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