In the middle to late 1970’s, the Dodge division of Chrysler made waves through the automotive industry with the introduction of vehicles the company termed “adult toys”. While that term might have an entirely different connotation today, these were limited-production vehicles inspired by the work of professional and amateur customizers in California whose work with vans and trucks caught the eye of corporate executives.
Beginning in the 1976 model year Dodge introduced the Warlock, a vehicle based on their half-ton short wheelbase pickup. The truck featured special paint, a unique interior and oak trim including the bed floor. The Warlock began available as a production vehicle in 1977 and continued through the 1979 model year.
Probably the most recognizable of these “adult toys” was the Dodge Lil’ Red Express Truck introduced for the 1978 model year. The vehicle enjoyed a two model year run with just under 7,500 trucks (2,188 in 1978 and 5,188 in 1979) produced in that timeframe, making them a popular item among collectors today.
Like the Warlock, the Express was based on the Dodge half ton Utiline chassis and body. One color—Bright Canyon Red in 1978 and Medium Canyon Red in 1979—was available. The vehicle was only available in two-wheel drive and the only engine available was a modified version of the company’s 360 cubic inch police package powerplant. A manual transmission was not available, the only transmission being a 727 three-speed automatic with a 2500 RPM stall converter. The rear axle was also mandated as a part of the package—a Sure Grip differential spinning 3:55 to 1 gearing.
The truck borrowed oak accent trim and bed floor from the Warlock as well as gold striping. What really set the Lil’ Red Express Truck visually apart from the pack was the functional twin chrome semi-style exhaust stacks rising from behind the cab and the wide stance created by the 60-series tires wrapping chrome slotted rims. The exhaust stacks, with the help of hemi-style mufflers, gave the truck a unique, deep rumble suggesting an enhanced level of performance.
Dodge executives found a loophole in the government’s relatively new regulations on emissions and the 1978 model year trucks were produced without catalytic converters and used leaded fuel. By the 1979 model year the vehicle was equipped with catalytic converters and used unleaded fuel but the performance level remained virtually unchanged from the previous year. Despite the emissions loophole, the first model year trucks could not be sold in California, Florida, Maryland, Oregon and Washington as it did not meet state noise requirements.
Aside from the catalytic converters, the most distinguishable features between the model years are the front grill and headlights. The 1978 model uses two round headlights while the 1979 features four square headlights, The 100 MPH speedometer in the 1978 was replaced by a federally-mandated 85 MPH speedometer in the last model year.
While flashy and eye-catching, the truck was definitely pricey. There were several required options (the Adventurer package being one) when the Lil’ Red Express package was checked on the order sheet. When combined with a gasoline crisis in 1979, the death knell was sounded for the vehicle. A number of the 1979 models languished on dealer lots across the country into the 1980 model year and were sold at deep discounts from the factory window sticker.
This 1979 Dodge Lil’ Red Express Truck appears to be a very solid example and has survived over four decades well. The truck has been treated to a respray in the original Medium Canyon Red color and has the correct chrome top dual snorkel air cleaner and chrome valve covers. The factory red bench seat with armrest is in very good condition with the carpet and door panels showing slight signs of wear expected of a vehicle of this age. The original AM/FM/CB radio in the dash has been replaced with a later model stereo unit and under the hood an Edelbrock four barrel replaces the original Carter Thermo Quad unit. All of the oak trim presents nicely and the oak bed floor is in very good condition. In accordance with Missouri statutes governing licensed car dealers, this vehicle will be sold “mileage exempt” due to age but the odometer reading of just over 92,000 miles is consistent with and believable for a truck that has been enjoyed for 40-plus years.
Evergreen Digital Showroom offers this exceptional example of Mopar history for the price of $26,900. For additional questions or to make an offer on this vehicle, contact sales manager Steve Russell at 417-532-8000.
Because of the number of vehicles we represent we cannot drive every vehicle for long distances. These vehicles have been part of static displays for long periods of time, in some cases for decades, and are subject to the flaws and imperfections consistent with that. While we do our best to disclose all issues we known about a vehicle in our advertising, these are old cars and something that has always worked in the past might not function properly today. Please check the requirements of your state regarding the licensing and registration of classic vehicles and make sure the vehicle you are looking at meets those if applicable. Unless otherwise noted, all vehicles represented by Evergreen Digital Showroom possess a clean (non-branded) title which will be provided the new buyer when purchase funds clear our financial institution. Virtually all our vehicles are sold as mileage exempt due to their age. We do not warranty any vehicle, nor any part of the vehicle including air conditioning systems, brake systems, electrical systems and gauges, fuel systems, accessories or powertrain components.
These are old vehicles and it is very common for them to require certain maintenance and upkeep for them to be operational. In many cases issues with leaks may develop when being driven after a long period of not being used. This is common, as classic cars at some point will leak fluids. For this reason, we do not encourage buyers to attempt driving their purchase home as we cannot guarantee functional reliability of these vehicles. We strongly encourage prospective buyers to be sure they are comfortable with these issues before purchasing a classic car.
Descriptions of vehicles represented by Evergreen Digital Showroom are intended to be informational in nature and do not in any way constitute any sort of warranty, expressed or implied. Again, these vehicles are presented “as-is, where-is” without guarantee or warranty. Vehicles manufactured prior to 1981 will likely not be included in the databases of companies such as CarFax and AutoCheck that provide vehicle history information to consumers. If you have specific questions regarding a vehicle we urge you to contact us at 417-532-8000.