Speedy Survivor: 1979 Dodge Li’l Red Express

1979-dodge-lil-red-express

Josh MortensenBy Josh Mortensen

Even with high fuel prices, trucks are still some of the best-selling vehicles here in the States. We love our trucks here in America and the only thing that makes a truck better is to make it more powerful, faster, and louder. High performance trucks have been around for a while. When Dodge introduced the Li’l Red Express in 1978, it was the fastest American production vehicle built that year. The seller of this 1979 Li’l Red Truck claims it’s a survivor. Check it out for yourself here on eBay, where it is being offered with a BIN of $15,000.

1979-dodge-lil-red-express-engine

The high performance 360 cui V8 was a modified version of Dodge’s 360 Police engine and was rated at 225 hp and 295 lbs. of torque. For ’79 Dodge had to detune the engine slightly to make it easier to assemble and to meet emission regulations. The most noticeable difference was the addition of a catalytic converter, which Dodge was able to leave off in ’78. A previous owner removed the catalytic converter and switched the original mufflers out for a pair of glass packs. They claim it runs and drives great and is ready to be driven as is.

1979-dodge-lil-red-express-rear-corner

While the seller claims this truck is a survivor, it isn’t entirely original. Besides the exhaust modifications, the truck bed has all new wood and paint. If these things were done correctly it shouldn’t hurt the value of this rare truck. Dodge only built 5,118 in ’79 and there aren’t many left on the road. This little performance truck will definitely turn heads and you won’t likely come across another one at your local events. Based on the condition and the current market, what do you think of the seller’s asking price? Are they right on target or slightly off in their valuation?

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Comments

  1. braktrcr

    I never cared much for them, especially when new. I kind of grouped them mentally with the Trans Am and the giant decals on those. However, as I get older, I soften to different vehicles. In 68 (or was it 69?) the Superbird was an attrocity to myself and others, now I think they are cool as heck, not because they are worth a gazillion dollars, they look like a blast to drive. So, all of that to say, put this Pick Up away for 10 to 15 more years, and not only will I likely appreciate it more, it could end up being worth at least a half a gazillion.




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    • DusterDave

      So funny you say the huge decaled T/As i agree..But look what theyre getting for the 77-78s w/a 4spd freaken scarey money.Id love to have one but….




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    • DusterDave

      The ROAD RUNNER SUPERBIRD was a 70..the CHARGER DAYTONA was a 69. The dealers couldnt give them away. I saw a S/BIRD marked down to 2900.00 back in 72 brand new. If i was only 5 yrs older then..UGGG!




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    • Al Neri

      The other Dodge Macho Power Wagons from that era had even wilder decal schemes. I like them know for a different reason (campy) than I did when they were new.




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  2. Jeff

    Looks in good shape, a 79′ though isnt a real classic in my book and 15K, politely no-way unless I was rich and lost my virginity in one.




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  3. DusterDave

    If you were ever lucky enough to drive one of these you would jump all over it. Worked at a dodge dealer when the first one came off the truck (a 78) bought it on the spot.FAST and cool as hell! got 22k for it 6 yrs ago. Down payment on my 06 SRT-10 RAM Quad Cab. MOPAR OR NOCAR!




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  4. erikj

    ya i remember those running around.The classic muscle truck. I dont know if many of you ever heard of the gm version? there was chevs sport coupe and gmc called theres a street coupe. It was a option package you could order that gave you the 454/t400 and 12 bolt pozi and other performance stuff ofered from 1977-81. these are very rare since it doubled the price and better be close to a gas station very few of these were sold. I own a 1973 gmc that is factory built like a street coupe,but the option was not availble. the guy i got it from said he thought gm was testing the waters with this combo,sopose tohave been a show truck for gm. Anyway ive always wondered about this truck,Is it rare or just well optioned as some have said. If any one out there has some input that would be great to hear. Here is the options ,73 stepside 2wd 454/t400 12 bolt rear 4:11 pozi, large front sway bar front,factory tach, tilt steering kustom bench/bucket seat and the headliner is a plastic unit with speakers and cb. Any body know about the street coupe or the sport coupe. Thanks




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  5. Blindmarc

    There was also a black version called “The Warlock”. 12k is the most I’d go on this one. And I’m a diehard mopar guy.




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    • Dolphin Dolphin Staff

      @Blindmarc
      I had the same reaction as you on price, but with the big jump in interest in vintage pickups I’ll bet that we’ll be wrong on the price this will bring, sooner or later….probably sooner.




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    • Lemble

      The Warlock was a 4×4 Truck . A friend had one for years .




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  6. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    I didn’t know anything about the details of these, so it’s pretty amazing that they would have been the fastest production vehicle that year. I guess that reflects the strangulation of everything else that was happening back then. But I would guess you would need to exclude the police versions of the Dodges that used this 360 engine from the speed comparison, because they would have had less aero drag and should have gone faster. Maybe the police cars weren’t considered ‘production’ for the purposes of the comparison.




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    • scot c

      ~ ‘fastest American production vehicle built that year’
      . that sorta jogged my feeble old thinker, too. i’m wondering how the ’79 with catalytic converter compared to this emission-control free ’78. i also question if the Li’l Red Express and Warlock were actually as fast as the ’78 ElCamino SS 350 4speed. i imagine the final drive ratio is the deciding factor. i remember seeing many more Red Wagons than Warlocks. they both had terrible rust proofing and paint finish.




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      • Mark W

        I actually recall reading the Car & Driver issue from 78 that discussed the truck. It did 120+something if I recall, the malaise era Vette of that year with its feeble 350 was slower yet. POsted 1/4 mile times were 14.70, which considering it was running a GVW of 6,000 lbs plus, through a 3 speed auto and a 3.55 rear, that aint too shabby.




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  7. Jesse

    There is another one on Phoenix’s craigslist for $10k. It has undergone a cosmetic restoration so we would want to verify that it is not just a clone. Even though they didn’t make many of these, there sure seems to be quite a few on the market at all times.




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  8. Jesse
  9. Rancho Bella

    These were goofy looking when the came out……….and nothing has changed. Just more bad taste from the 70’s………….




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  10. JP

    I was 2 years from getting my license when this truck came out in ’78. I wanted one so bad I could taste it. But that dish washing gig in the local restaurant left me just a little short on the necessary funds! I’d still like to have one, but these days I would take my ’49 Chevy (which will finally be on the road this Spring) over Li’l Red any day…




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  11. David Deerberg

    WOW! I remember seeing those on the roads when I was just 19! Memories of thinking those were cool looking trucks.




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  12. AMCFAN

    If thinking about one of these trucks a few things to consider. 78’s and 79’s all came with the Roadrunner style Tuff wheel steering wheel…..almost. In 79 they ran out and started installing the Dodge Omni steering wheel. The truck listed for sale has the Omni wheel. The cabs are small and the seat does not go far enough back to enjoy driving if you are older better plan to loose that stomach. The Tach option is a very desireable option not factory installed on this truck . The air cleaner and associated ram air parts as well as the exhaust stacks are exclusive and hard to find. As mentioned earlier these are prone to rust in the rockers and floor. So beware. This looks like a very standard truck. Nice would be the bucket seats with the buddy in the middle. The better choice would be the 78. As many know but not mentioned is in 78 our government was putting the hammer on performance. Passenger vehicles had to have cats. Someone from Dodge figured out that rule didn’t apply to trucks and thus the 1978 ‘Lil Red came in under the radar. Different story for ’79. Big brother obviously didn’t like being made a fool and changed the rule. The 79 was watered down but sold twice as much. If I wanted a performance truck a ‘Lil Red would be my choice. Sure beats what?…an SS454




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  13. FRED

    I ALWAYS WANTED ONE JUST BECAUSE OF THE STACKS . I’VE HEARD OF THE WARLOCK BUT DID NOT KNOW IT WAS A 4X4 .THAT IS MORE TO MY LIKING PLUS IT IS THE SAME COLOR OF ALL MY TOYS …BLACK




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  14. Curtis

    These things are not fast at all. But they are historically significant in my opinion. Muscle cars had been completely legislated out of existence. My Wife’s new Toyota Camry has way more power than a Corvette or TransAm had at that time. Every American performance car was a joke at that time. This Truck was Chryslers attempt to get around pollution and fuel rules which were less stringent for trucks than for cars and was intended as a “Muscle Car” built under truck rules. Interesting point in Automotive history IMHO…..and would also have perfect for towing the General Lee home LOL




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  15. Joe Bonnette

    These trucks a a part of history. They diserve the respect. That was the way it was back in 79. Dodge was Just trying to get the last word in before the bottom fell out of performance in Detroit. I think they hit a home run. That was the way it was back in 79 and there is no turning back.




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  16. Matt Maloney

    My dad and i restored a 79 lil red about 14 years ago. It had its numbers matching engine and transmission, Frame off nut n bolt full resto. Added factory cruise control, factory A/C from a 79 ramcharger. Both the optional clock and tachometer were found as new old stock parts, and added, and the chrysler AM/FM radio with built in 40 channel CB radio found used in a different dodge truck in a salvage yard, and cleaned up and rebuilt. Truck was a show winner everywhere he went with it. Never drove it in the rain after its restoration. It sold for $38,000 4 years ago. Only non stock items we added during its rebuild that are for the most part bolt on, bolt in was a mopar orange spark box, a 68 340 hi performance cam, higher stall torque converter, a shift improver kit, edelbrock AFB 750 carb, hi flow catalytec converters. flowmaster 40 series mufflers, Stock gearing was 3.55 to 1. Truck was pretty damn quick. It would lay rubber in first, and “bark” the hides in second. Bad ass truck. Dad got old truck needed to go. I got my own 67 barracuda project, and no room to properly store it out of the weather.




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