Muscle Truck: 1979 Dodge Li’l Red Express

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Dodge ventured into the muscle truck market in 1978, creating the Li’l Red Express which was all about performance and looks. Due to a loophole in the emissions laws, the 1978 editions came without catalytic converters and a 360 V8 tuned like a cop car. They were the fastest domestic vehicles up to 100 mph at the time. The truck lost some of its steam going into 1979, but they were still capable performers, like the seller’s pickup in Lakewood, California. With an older repaint, it looks and runs good and is available both here on Barn Finds Classifieds and on eBay. The current bid is $9,300.

The Li’l Red Express could beat the Chevy Corvette in the quarter-mile in the 15-second range. That’s because its 360 cubic inch engine produced 225 net hp, a stout figure in those pre-fuel injection days. Based on a D-150 step-side pickup, the truck had tall exhaust stacks which rose behind the passenger cab. Finished in Canyon Red paint with woodgrain inserts, a little more than 2,000 copies of the then-$7,400 pickup were sold. Sadly for 1979, the catalytic converter was a must in the truck and the camshaft was milder, so the Dodges weren’t quite neck-breakers in the speed department. Sales perked up to north of 5,000 units, but the rise in gas prices for the second time in the decade led Chrysler to pull the plug.

We’re told this ’79 Li’l Red is a California truck and has the requisite blue and yellow license plates. The original owner had it for a long time and it was sold by his sister after he eventually passed away. At some point, the paint was redone and looks good, but it’s far from perfect, prompting the seller to describe it as being in “driver condition”. The appearance of the truck shouldn’t disappoint unless you’re a perfectionist.  The interior is not original in terms of the seats having been replaced at some point.

Mechanically, we’re told the Express is sound and should have a lot of life left in it. New tires will be in order as the current ones are showing weather cracking due to age and the truck not being driven much of late. The factory air conditioning compressor has been disconnected and will come in a box with some assorted odds and ends. The carpeting is new but the dash pad is old and has some cracks of its own. This should be a cool truck to show off, although likely not quite as potent as the ’78 edition.

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  1. Tim

    The police department that I retired from years ago had confiscated a Little Red Express. The city garage put a camper cap on it and it was used by the arson detectives to carry their equipment. Not sure if a siren was installed, but plug in revolving lights were used. That would certainly have to be a one off use!

    Like 5
    • Derek Trieglaff

      Lol… You said but plug.

      Like 0
  2. CCFisher

    Chrysler called it “Li’l Red Truck” in marketing materials.

    Like 1
  3. Howie

    This is a no reserve auction, best looking one that i have seen on here.

    Like 2
  4. Denny N.Member

    There was a ’78 LRT on here a few days ago. This one looks better; too bad about the replacement seats and the A/C in a box.

    Like 2
  5. Kelly Looysen

    Please get your info correct before doing a write up like this!

    Like 1

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