Classic muscle car show & cruise at Old Town Kissimmee Florida Saturday
Classic muscle car show & cruise at Old Town Kissimmee Florida Friday

 

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mazda classic orlando florida

Li’l Red Express

Ford Protect Extended Service Plan
Bay Area Insurance Shop Florida
Ford Warranty Service Protection Plan
Bay Area Insurance Shop Florida
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Contributed by Russ Muller Photography


I’m not sure where I first saw the ad. Hot Rod? Car Craft? As a 10-year-old in 1977, I had subscriptions to both. Dodge was advertising the latest in their series of ‘Adult Toys by Dodge’ products. It was the Li’l Red Truck, a step side D-150 pickup unlike anything I had ever seen. Not only did it have cool graphics, big tires, and a wood bed, it had exhaust stacks like a semi-truck did. It was a factory hot rod pickup truck, released at a dismal time in the automotive world. Thanks to a loophole in emissions laws, it was offered without a catalytic converter in 1978, and it was the fastest 0-100mph production vehicle that year. Yep, faster than a Corvette.  I looked at those magazine ads and dreamed of having one. Sadly, the Li’l Red Express was a short-lived package, only offered in 1978 and 1979.

Li’l Red Express TruckFast forward to 2023. As I was thinking about getting rid of my ’71 Pontiac, there were two possible replacement vehicles on my bucket list: A ’69 AMX or a Li’l Red truck. One day I was talking with someone about Li’l Red trucks when he told me “I know a guy that’s got two of them up in New Jersey.” He called his friend, and found out that his friend had sold one about two years ago to a gentleman who had recently passed away. The widow was interested in selling the Li’l Red Express Trucktruck. A few phone calls and a few digital pictures later, I bought my bucket list truck sight unseen. That leap of faith netted me a truck that turned out to be even better than expected.

This is a 1979, one of 5,118 made. As I learned when I joined the National Association of Li’l Red Express Truck Owners (NALRETO), it was built on February 20, 1979 at the Warren, MI truck plant. It’s one of approximately 512 built with the red bench seat interior and air conditioning. It now has just over 90,000 miles on the original 360 Police Interceptor engine. The dual snorkel air cleaner and chrome valve covers dress up an engine that Dodge tweaked with a 1968 340 4-barrel camshaft, double roller timing chain, and 800-cfm Thermo-Quad carburetor. The modest (by today’s standards) 225 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque were respectable numbers for smog-choked 1979 engines. With a 727 Torqueflite transmission and factory 3.55:1 gears, 0-60 times were in the 6.5 second range and ¼ mile times were in the mid 15 second range.

My truck is largely unmolested, but it has headers and an aluminum Edelbrock intake. It was repainted, and is a little brighter than the original Medium CanyonLi’l Red Express Truck Red color. The last owner replaced the wood in the bed and added some wood trim on the door panels. The truck had Ziebart rustproofing done early in its life, which likely explains why it is rust-free. It came to me from NJ, and I found several years of service receipts from Vermont in with the truck’s paperwork. This northern truck will now get to enjoy a little fun in the sun, and I get to enjoy something I’ve wanted since I was a kid…

Li’l Red Express Truck Li’l Red Express Truck Li’l Red Express Truck Li’l Red Express Truck

Author: Tara

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