Ready To Roll: 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express

express-truck

In the late 1970’s, car manufacturers were wrestling with technology to reduce emissions and improve gas mileage. Horsepower was on the decline across the board, and as a result, performance was generally less than stellar. But because emissions regulations did not then apply to light duty trucks, Dodge was able to build a very special performance truck they called the Lil’ Red Express. This truck featured a 360 cid engine and no catalytic converters.

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According to the Dodge Connection website, the Lil’ Red Express was the fastest American made vehicle going from zero to 100 mph that year. It featured a 4-barrel carburetor on a modified version of Dodge’s police engine (E58), producing 225 net horsepower @ 3800 rpm. The performance package included a special 727 automatic transmission and 3.55:1 differential gearing, exhausting through hemi style mufflers and a crossover pipe, exiting through two chrome stacks mounted upright behind the cab.

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Photo from Allpar.com of Chuck Alaniz’s 1979 Lil’ Red Express

All 1978 Lil’ Red Express trucks rode on GR60x15 raised white letter tires on special seven inch wide chrome wheels in front and eight inch wheels with LR60x15 tires in the rear. These trucks were built only in 1978 and 1979 and in relatively small numbers (2188 units in 1978) and because most of them were driven hard and put away wet, there are not many survivors in decent condition, so this original looking example for sale¬†here on craigslist in Tucson, Arizona for a very reasonable $7,500 should be an attractive buy for someone.

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Unfortunately, the seller only provides one picture of his truck, and while it is a good photo, and suggests this truck has its original paint, there are many questions to be answered for any prospective buyer. The seller says the truck sports new tires, exhaust, new wood in the truck bed along with a new radio and speakers. I’d want to know how many miles are on the truck, what’s the condition of the interior, is there any rust not showing, was it repainted, and how many miles are on this vehicle. And I’d certainly want to take it for a ride – but that would be for fun whether I bought it or not.

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Comments

  1. Mitch

    I doubt it was repainted as the original logos on the doors are there & worn. They were quick ones I can attest-a fellow we knew had one & got myself & my friends into drag racing at a local strip. I think it would be worth the investment once it was checked out thoroughly. Once you hear the exhaust through those stacks, you’ll say “OH yeah!”

  2. boxdin

    In 1978 these were faster than a Corvette. 78s had zero emissions equip while the 79 had all emissions equip, not just cats, air injection pump and all else, so the 78 is the way to go. This was because in 79 the law changed to full emissions under 6100 gvw.
    I could go on w useless trivia………..

    • Walter Joy

      They also were illegal in certain states due to the exhaust. My dream is to get a 1978 model (IMO they look better) and drop a 426 Hemi with a Shaker and a pistol grip 4 speed

  3. van

    Dodge was ahead of its time with its trucks
    Remember the Rampage
    Back then we didn’t have SUVs or a truck in every garage

  4. JW

    Yes the 70’s was a time to own a truck over a car, faster and easier to work on, I owned 3 back then. I like this truck as you don’t see these at car shows often.

  5. David Frank David Member

    In 1978 they had several custom trucks, like this Warlock. They were promoted as “Trick Trucks” thanks to a bit of badge engineering. http://barnfinds.com/?s=1978+Dodge+Warlock

    • skloon

      I like the line to cut the rust out already applied

  6. AMC STEVE
  7. Telly

    The ’78 had two round headlight and the ’79 had four rectangular shaped headlight. The ’78 was faster than the ’79, after the government caught on to what Dodge did, using a loophole in the emission laws.

  8. Rob

    A Damn good ‘classic’ for the $$’s, but I’d still have it checked out locally; if only ’twas a 4-wheel drive, *sigh.. see this comparable ’78, tho cleaned up, it’s double the price. http://classiccars.com/listings/view/743268/1978-dodge-little-red-express-for-sale-in-hendersonville-tennessee-37075

  9. DREW V.

    The much rarer Mid-Nite express was also available in ’78. Unlike the Lil Red Express, most all of Chrysler’s then current production motors were available, including the same E58 engine the Lil Red used, but Chrysler didn’t taut the performance of this much more limited edition truck…

  10. HeadMaster1

    I had a 78 for a few years (early 2000’s), fun truck. I’m hoping to buy a single cab Ram SRT-10 one of these days and make a “newer version”……..I had “Cherry-Bomb” glass packs on mine…..so loud it made you laugh…..FYI- You WILL be replacing mufflers often on these as the rain get into the open stacks when parked outside….The bed floor is wood, very cool. ALL the wood and decals are available today for restoration….Fun trucks

  11. erikj

    These are very cool and gm did it also. Starting in 76 chev. offered a package called the soprt coupe. 454/t-400 big rear end with tall gears. gmc made the same but the package was called streetcoupe. same drivetrain though. And no emission’s.I have a 73 2wd stepside with all that stuff factory,even the opt.#2 which is 4:11 posi. Factory tach. dash and more all orig. drivetrain. Its for sale !!! no job need money. This truck is neat if you know what it is. Used to be a factory show truck I,m told . It has a tag on the door jam from gm coach works. They did semis and special order stuff, so it was there when new. I would love this to go to someone that understands it, very special. e-bay soon. Erik skagit340@gmail.com

  12. moosie Craig Member

    Back in the good old daze I was the proud and glad owner of a ’78 440′ C.I.D. Warlock,,,,,,,,, talk about fast, Too bad that the only thing holding the bed (non existing floor) was gravity. It was loaded, A/C, cruise control, tinted glass, P.S. P.D.B. Turns out it was an excellent tow vehicle for my best buddies ’66 Hemi Belevedere II, We had the trailer flying down RTE. 80 in Jersey hitting only the high spots on the way to Island Drag strip
    .

    • dave

      Oh yea Island dragway….raised in Hackettstown preatty muchl lived at that track…snowmobile racing included.

  13. Rotag999

    Double stacked headlights is a 79 single is a 78 i had a 79 for a while fun, quick ,lousy on gas !

  14. Mike

    Big Brother…

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