One Owner: 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express

The Dodge ‘Lil Red Express was one of those rare times a “special edition” trim came along that offered actual performance gains and was a hit with the general public. So often those limited production models are nothing but lipstick on a pig; well, the Express trucks like this one here on craigslist for $12K actually packed some desirable features into the final package and this rust-free project is claimed to be a one-owner rig. (Be sure to go here if the ad disappears.) 

Although the seller claims this truck is “completely original,” I see a non-standard rear bumper. A minor detail, but important for assessing value if you want one that was never modified. The wood trim on the bed and tailgate looks surprisingly good considering how faded the paint is, and it’s hard to deny the truck’s imposing stance from this angle. Depending on how it’s titled, the next caretaker could be the actual second owner if the seller never registered it in his name – if that even matters to potential buyers.

The interior also shows very well, with dust and dirt the biggest offenses. The seats look decent as do the dash and carpets. Performance-wise, the Express offered “…a special High Performance 360 C.I.  4-barrel small block engine code (EH1) which was a modified version of the 360 police engine (E58) producing 225 net horsepower @ 3800 RPM. The package also included Hemi style mufflers with a crossover pipe breathing through 2 chrome stacks located behind the cab, a special 727 transmission and 3.55:1 rear gearing,” according to

The faded graphics on the door: preserve or replace? The truck is sporting such good vibes thanks to its evenly faded paint and dry condition that I’d be tempted not to spiff it up and just drive as-is. Assuming that 360 fires back up without too much work or expense, this could be the type of project you simply get in and drive, and worry about small details like body graphics later on (or never!) Of course, the graphics were somewhat iconic as it relates to the Lil’ Red Express package, and I’m sure reproductions are available. Would you restore or preserve this “one-owner” truck?


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    78 is the one to have, but in its condition maybe $1200

  2. dan

    so well cared for,lol

  3. Miguel

    If there is somebody in the Yuma area, will you please send a message to this seller through Craigslist and ask him to post the pictures of the truck he has for sale, and not just the parts truck that goes with it?

  4. Snotty

    78 is a much better than the 79 engine performance and such. Seen a few 79’s but not many 8’s. Asking for too many dead prezident’s. Been my experience the longer it’s on c-list the more negotiable the seller becomes,but his asking price is at least 6k too hi. Colorado #.

  5. JimmyinTEXAS
    • Miguel

      That is interesting in as much as you can see what people are asking for their trucks, not what people are paying for them.

      • JimmyinTEXAS

        That is true, but when someone is asking 16K or even 20K for a driver that looks good why pay 12 for a pile?

      • Miguel

        I don’t think anybody would pay that, especially because after you pay that you have a 1978 Dodge truck.

  6. Rob

    There were fewer 78’s made, but overall production was in the 7800 range for the 2 years. About 2200 78’s and the rest as 79’s.
    I wonder if the dash vents for the AC mean it was really ordered with AC, or is this a reproduction? Again, my memory tells me that only about 18 of them ordered with AC. I have seen so many AC equipped Lil Reds…
    The serial number has to have a special digit in it, to be the real deal, that was unique to Lil Reds.

  7. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    Yes a little high on price….but as one that been looking a long time for one in my price range….this one hasn’t been rode to hard.

  8. Mark

    I bought this Little Red one year ago. According to the DMV, I am the second owner. I read these comments before purchasing. The interior is great with no tears or rips and cleaned up nicely. The engine started up in two weeks and the AC needed to be converted to the new stuff, but blows cold. Tires, water pump, coolant hoses and the radiator were replaced.
    The original sales slip was with it and the rear bumper was not stock but was added at the dealership. I actually prefer it. I got it for about half of what was originally asked and have gotten offers for it nearly everywhere I go, even when it overheated on the side of the freeway (hence the cooling system was replaced).
    I took it to an auto detailer who brought the paint back to amazing life. I am keeping it as a survivor and the stickers look awesome how they are.
    The truck is amazing and I was lucky to find it. Some of the comments almost changed my mind, but it was mostly a dirty truck, not as wrecked as it seemed. The sound of those stacks is worth it!

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