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Project Truck: 1979 Dodge Lil’ Red Express

If an old muscle truck is what you seek, you could do far worse than a classic Dodge Lil’ Red Express pickup. To me, this was one of the coolest marketing exercises ever attempted by a major manufacturer, with Dodge effectively building a show truck for mass production. Today, truly special examples still fetch very solid money, but you can buy a project on a modest budget. Check out this 1979 Lil’ Red Express here on Facebook Marketplace for $5,800.

While we may have entered the golden era of high-performance pickups (and may be slowly exiting it as more vehicles enter their final production years), the 1970s were special in their own way as manufacturers were swinging for the fences in terms of building vehicles loaded with attitude and big personalities. It seems like we continued on this path until the late 90s wherein cars like the original Dodge Viper could still go from cocktail napkin drawing to production in the blink of an eye; nowadays, manufacturers seem much more measured in terms of what they produce. When you see vertical exhaust pipes and wooden bedsides, you know you have a vehicle that defies convention.

The seller notes that this Lil’ Red Express has been through the ringer, with an accident in the early 80s giving this truck the incorrect front end. On top of that, there’s rust in the floorpans, with the listing noting that the worst of it is on the passenger side, which indicates to me there are other areas of concern. Finally, the icing on the proverbial cake is a seized engine, so even the somewhat un-killable feature of an old Dodge truck is no good in this instance. There’s a lot of work needed here, but fortunately, it’s all fixable over the course of a few months (or weekends for the truly ambitious).

The Dodge, fortunately, hasn’t lost all the details that make it recognizable as a limited-production, high-performance rig, and with those details in place, you can see a future where this desirable Mopar comes back to life. The seller curiously adds that the truck was “…left in Mississippi,” which says to me he either left it behind after a relocation or a previous owner abandoned it at a local shop. Either way, there’s likely some room for negotiation on the price, and some decent upside potential if you can do the labor yourself. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Hans Hauschild for the find.


  1. Darren Dover

    Seems like alot of cash for something that needs so much. Just my opinion

    Like 21
  2. Tim

    The police department that I retired from had a Little Red Express in their fleet. It was a confiscated vehicle that was kept. A white camper shell was on it, and it was converted for use by the Arson Squad Detectives. Replacing an unmarked car. I am pretty sure it was used to within an inch of its life before being replaced by a new van. The department also confiscated a Pontiac Gran Prix aero coupe as well, which was used for undercover work. Hard to believe not just one, but two limited production models were used for police work.

    Like 20

      to serve and protect or harass and collect? seems like a lot of collecting going on .

      Like 8
      • Tim

        Don’t break the law if you don’t want your freedom or your vehicle taken away from you. Plain and simple. No harassment there.

        Like 2
    • Shotglass1

      MPD had a Pontiac Gran Prix aero coupe inthe mid 90’s Saw that car at the PAB and most people didn’t know it was unique.

      Like 0
  3. Davey Boy

    Absolutely my most favorite truck ever made. There was a 440 version of this truck at a dealership when I was younger (and dumber) being that I found out years later only two 440 versions of this truck were made from the factory and they were both from Canada. and were not available to the public. The 78 model was the one to have due to special heads, cam, no cats and other performance enhancing parts and was faster than a corvette of the same year. I know the 78 model ran on “REGULAR GAS” (remember that stuff?). It also had staggered size tires and rims in 78 which went away in 79. One real good thing about this one is you can build it any way you want. Just wonder if because of the way the seller etates it was “left”, Is there a title or are you dealing with an abandoned vehicle? To bad its so far away. Sure hope it gets the treatment it deserves and gets a better than stock rebuild. Great memories.

    Like 11
  4. Davey Boy

    And to Darren. Absolutely no disrespect intended but if this is something you have been looking for, this truck is kinda like the holy grail. Not to bad of shape and near impossible to find. If I had the means I would be all over this one with absolutely no regrets.These trucks don’t come up very often without being ridiculously priced. And missing EVERYTHING! Don’t get me wrong. This one definately needs A LOT of work but it looks like most of the important stuff is here and its a “Lil Red Express Truck” which is very cool and pretty unique these days. It’s been my dream to own one of these for a very long time now and like I said earlier in this post, If I only had the means…..

    Like 14
    • Once bitten

      I’m with you on that. These are rare beasts that deserve the respect they have earned. In the Era of dwindling prospects the were a unique opportunity for proformance. Nothing looked or sounded like them. Before or since.. I might try for this.it may take a year or so to rebuild her but I think this one is worth looking in to

      Like 9
  5. fd18piper Member

    79′ had the square headlights and a different grille. I wish it was closer to go and look at. Concerned about the engine as there are no pictures of what’s
    under the hood. And there are no pictures of the rusted floor pan or the frame.

    Like 0
    • RoadDog

      This one has a ’76 front clip. I had a ’76 ex-Army D100 in my younger days. Slant-six, three-speed manual. Ran like a champ. Got me through an economically precarious time in my life. GLWTS.

      Like 0
  6. TomP

    One of these appeared at a house in my neighborhood last week and I thought it was the other one that I saw at another house a week earlier. It turns out that there are two of these in my town, both in similar condition as the one in this story.

    Like 8
  7. John Irwin

    These were cool trucks! I remember one of these in my small town back in 79 and the guy bought it new. I live in a very small town and we don’t have car theft here but that truck was stolen right off the street. It was months they couldn’t find it and I actually found it up on the power line up on the mountain burned to a crisp. Burned to a frame and engine. I was riding dirt bike and noticed what was left of it in a big brush pile. I called police and sure enough that was it! As I remember the guy must have gotten insurance money and he bought one of those Jeep CJ models with the blue jeans seats. I think it was the Wrangler Jeep?

    Like 4
    • RoadDog

      Levi’s, not Wrangler. 😁

      Like 0
  8. JB@1025

    Not a 79 unless it has a 78 Grille 79 has dual headlight’s i paid 6K for mine and it was damn near mint but it was only a few year’s old @ the time . I got more thumbs up with my 79 Little Red Express other then my 03 Indian Chief then any thing else i have owned.

    Like 1
    • RoadDog

      It’s a ’76 grille. The ’78 grilles had the running lights next to the headlights.

      Like 1
  9. CrazyDave

    Facebook add says it was wrecked in front in 80s and has wrong grill and headlight assembly.

    Like 3
  10. Big C

    $6,000 gets you the carcass. Then you can repair or replace everything on the truck. Sounds like a great deal.

    Like 1
  11. JB@1025

    Those are the wrong wheels also there were fewer 78’s made then 79’s but i like the Quad light’s on my 79 over the single 78 style but we all have are own preference’s. I would bet the ram air is missing also but hard to tell with no underhood shot’s.

    Like 0

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