What Is the Lil’ Red Express?

What Is the Lil’ Red Express?

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

The Lil’ Red Express is an emblem of a time long passed. Billed as the “Last American Hotrod," this Dodge truck was released on a limited scale from 1978 to 1979. Its flashy red design with prominent exhaust stacks signalled that this truck was loud, fun, and rowdy. While most manufacturers were learning how to adhere to the strict standards caused by the oil embargo, this little truck stood out.

The environmental regulations at the time dictated that every car produced had to come equipped with a catalytic converter. That’s where the Lil’ Red Express came in. Since it was a truck, it wasn't required to have a catalytic converter. From there, Dodge designed a whole truck that was essentially a muscle car with a bed.

The Lil’ Red Express ran on a modified eight-cylinder 360 police engine that produced 225 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. More so than anything else, this truck is boisterous. At the time of its release, the Lil’ Red Express was the fastest American made production vehicle, which is part and parcel responsible for its enduring legacy.

A Mean Lil’ Machine

The Dodge Lil’ Red Express

This truck was produced in rather limited numbers. It had two editions: The original 1978 edition and the updated 1979 edition which, unlike its predecessor, was outfitted with a catalytic converter. There were only 2,188 Lil’ Red Express trucks produced in 1978 and 5,118 produced in 1979, so, all in all, less than 10,000 Lil’ Red Express trucks have ever been made. Though this is considerably more than many other special editions, it still makes it challenging to find one in good shape today.

There are still a fair number of surviving Lil’ Red Express trucks out on the market today, however, usually being sold for around 20,000 to 30,000 dollars. Additionally, there are even Lil’ Red Express specific fan clubs and competitions that are running around today, and it is consequently a popular restoration target. Even though there still are muscle-y pickups on the market today like the Shelby Baja Raptor, the Dodge Lil’ Red Express captures both the fun of a fast car with the charm of a classic vehicle.

Sources: The Dodge Li'l Red Express Truck: Two-Year Wonder, AllPar | About-Lil Red Express Trucks, Dodge Connection | Image Credit: Creative Commons 2.0 | Creative Commons 3.0

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