Modified Police V8: 1979 Dodge Lil’ Red Express

Dodge has always been the performance division of Chrysler, so when interest in muscle cars waned through the 1970s, Dodge went a different direction. They built a limited-edition pick-up truck that was unlike anything else in their portfolio and called it the Lil’ Red Express, available in just one color. This ’79 Dodge has but 18,000 miles and was a one-owner truck until the original purchaser died last year. The second owner began a restoration but lost interest early in the project. So, this largely original and intact truck just needs someone to keep the ball rolling. Located in Cuero, Texas, this Lil’ Red Express is available here on eBay and through a dealer where the bidding has reached $10,600. But the reserve has not.

When Dodge rolled out the Lil’ Red Express in 1978, they found a loophole for trucks in the emissions regulations, so the truck was able to be built in its first year without a catalytic converter. The Hi-Perf 360 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor was a modified police engine, so it turned out to be a real barn burner at 225 net horsepower. This muscle was assisted by the use of Hemi-style mufflers with a crossover breathing pipe through two chrome stacks behind the cab. Car and Driver tested one and declared it the fastest American-made vehicle from 0 to 100 mph at the time.

The Feds must have caught up with the emissions booboo and ‘79 editions of the truck wore catalytic converters after all. Besides switching to stacked headlights instead of round ones in ’78, the ’79s were otherwise little changed. Total production across the two model years was 7,306 units, with 5,188 from the second run. Arguably the ’78 is more valuable because of the deleted converter and lower production, but finding any of these trucks is considered a score more than 40 years later.

As the story goes, a doctor bought this truck new in Victoria, Texas, and held on to it for more than four decades until his passing. He left it to a friend who began working on it since the Dodge had sat for several years. That work included removing all gasoline, rebuilding the carburetor, and installing a new radiator. He also pulled off all the wood to begin restoring the body and put the brakes on after that. The seller got hold of it then plus all the paperwork from Day 1 which indicated the doctor had put just 24 miles on it during his time.

The seller says he’s gone through every nook and cranny and the only rust he can find is some spots on the hood. The paint is original, but the graphics that were specific to the Lil’ Red Express have faded out. Should the buyer want these items, the seller has kept the original wood and even the old radiator. It’s a well-equipped truck with power steering and brakes and factory air conditioning. The tires are new on the original chrome wheels and new exhaust pipes have been installed.

We’re told the Dodge drives well and everything is tight, so it could be used just the way it is, or the restoration picked up again where it left off. Either way, you’d have a truck that should impress collectors of both cars and pickups. According to Hagerty, one of these haulers in good condition is worth $16,000 and should be worth twice that when work is completed.

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Comments

  1. Mikefromthehammer

    No longer available. : < (

    Like 1
  2. nlpnt

    Just one *exterior* color but the press ones had the black bucket-seat interior and this one has a red bench. I’d suppose beige was likely also available.

    Like 1
  3. Michael Streuly

    Has been relisted high bid is $5000.00 reserve not met.

    Like 2
    • Mikefromthehammer

      Do you have a link for the new listing? The only one I can find is marked “This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available.” and it is the original listing.

      Like 1
      • Kelly Looysen

        Mikefromthehammer. If you are interested in buying one fire me an email at looysen@sasktel.net and I can help you find one to your liking. I’m not a saleman, I’m heavily involved with the owners group.

        Like 1
  4. Evan

    Just like the Chevy Big 10 a few entries down, idiotic lawmakers left open loopholes that were a mile wide, and smart manufacturers took advantage.

    Like 4
  5. Terrry

    In ’79, the Feds expanded to catatonic converter requirement to half-ton trucks. All half-tons got the cat that year.

    Like 1
  6. Sam Shive
    • Kelly Looysen

      Sam Shive no the warlock was not even close to being the same truck. The warlock was only a trim package. The lil red was a model of truck.

      Like 4
  7. Barry Johnson
  8. Howie Mueler

    Must have sold it offline.

    Like 1

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