Finish It Off: 1979 Dodge Li’l Red Express

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The Li’l Red Express was an attempt by Dodge to build a factory custom pickup, and as a sales and marketing exercise, it was a huge success. After dipping a toe in the water in 1978 and selling 2,188 vehicles, the 1979 model was highly anticipated, and 5,118 were sold. This ’79 model Li’l Red Express will need restoration work, but this has been started for you. With the ongoing popularity of the Li’l Red Express, this is a chance to grab a solid project vehicle for $8,000. The Dodge is located in West Jefferson, Ohio, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist.

Judging by the first photo, it appears that restoration work may already have been carried out on the vehicle’s frame, but it has stalled part-way through work on the cab. As you can see from this photo, the work has been completed on the bed, rear fenders, and the tailgate. The majority of the standard timberwork has also been restored, but the bed itself will need new wood. Judging by the photos, it appears that the restoration work has been completed to a fairly high standard. The original chrome wheels are also present, although it does look like they would benefit from a trip to the plater.

We don’t get much of a look at the engine, but if it is original then it should be a 360ci V8, which sends its power to an A-727 automatic transmission, while power steering and power brakes were also part of the package. The owner gives us little beyond the fact that the vehicle runs and moves, so there may be some work to do there. It’s a bit hard to tell for sure, but I think that this vehicle is fitted with air conditioning, which was a $624 option. One thing that is present is the pair of fantastic 2½” chrome exhaust stacks.

The interior of the Express is going to require some work, and in spite of what the photos show, I believe that it is complete. This vehicle is fitted with the black bench seat and the 4-spoke wheel. While the seat looks quite good, it is hard to tell the condition of the rest of the trim, although there are certainly some dash components that will need to either be restored or replaced.

There is some work to be done to bring this Li’l Red Express back to life, but the price suggests that it will be worth the effort. While the ’79 model doesn’t command quite the value of the rarer ’78 model, market performance is still quite strong. Good examples are currently selling for prices in excess of $25,000, while an immaculate example can sell for close to twice that figure. At the asking price, that certainly leaves a lot of margin for undertaking a complete restoration.

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  1. Capriest

    That’s an omni/horizon/charger/turismo steering wheel. I’m pretty sure these all came with the tuff wheel which was probably pilfered for some other mopar as it’s the best looking mopar wheel by far. It may have come with a regular truck steering wheel, but I’ve never seen one without the tuff. Looks like a solid project for someone. Price isn’t bad. I always loved these, but I much prefer the 78 round headlight grille. That style is my favorite classic pickup by far……though I prefer the fleetside bed.

    Like 4
    • R.K. Jones

      Late 79 used this “Omni” (called “Sport”) wheel. 78 and early 79 had the “Tuff” wheel.

      Like 0
  2. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Sellers grammar and punctuation suck in his ad. Back in the day I actually looked at a 78 (IIRC) LI’l Red Wagon new. Thing was I’d bought a new 76 Power Wagon a couple of years before and was offered crap for it as a trade-in, so I didn’t do the deal. IIRC it was one of the fastest vehicles for it’s day with the looks to go with it.

    Like 1
  3. moosie moosie

    It cracks me up how these were always touted as the fastest trucks of the day, my ’78 Warlock with a 440″ always ran circles around these.

    Like 0
  4. Tony T

    The unaware can get really “good” burns from those exhausting stacks

    Like 0

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