“Lil Red Express”

A large number of true Mopar enthusiasts will testify that during the late 70’s, Dodge produced what has now become known as the last American Muscle car to roll off the assembly line. While this statement does hold some merit, it is also a bit misleading. Dodge did indeed produce one of the last high performance Dodge branded vehicles in the late 70’s, however, the last American Muscle Car was not a car at all, in fact, the vehicle referenced by these Mopar enthusiasts is a short bed half-ton pickup truck.

Model year changes in 1979 included a new flat hood, and duel rectangular headlights.

In 1979, Dodge produced 5118 of what was then, the most unique truck that Dodge had ever built. The “Lil’ Red Express”, a short bed styleside half-ton pickup, equipped with a modified version of Chrysler’s 360cubic-inch, 230hp, 8.2:1 compression ration police motor under the hood.  A special 727 automatic transmission with a 440 valve body and a 9” 2500RPM stall torque converter coupled to a 3.55 rear gear accounted for quarter mile times of a shade over 14 seconds right off the showroom floor. Not only did the truck perform well, it was pleasing to the eye, this was the first truck a guy could take his girl out for a burger and fries and she would not be embarrassed to be seen in it.

The Lil Red Express was included in what Dodge called the “Adult toys” line of vehicles. This “Adult toys” marketing program was intended to boost the sagging truck sales numbers in the late '70s. This little red truck, as it more commonly became known, can trace its origins back to the Dodge Warlock, originally designed as a concept vehicle intended to appeal to the 4x4 crowd. The Warlock carried most of the features that were passed on to the Lil’ Red Express, the custom wheels and bigger tires, bucket seats, power steering and disc brakes were all passed down to the little red truck. The Warlock came standard with the ever popular slant six. The Warlock also featured the oak wood trim that was a staple of many vehicles of the era. Executives in Detroit planned to launch their new high performance red truck under the name of the “Red Warlock” but somewhere along the way the name was dropped in favor of the Lil’ Red Express.