1979 Dodge Lil Red Express Was Faster than a Corvette, Has Rare Red Interior

American performance wasn’t the same in the 1970s, after being hit with regulations and a severe oil crisis. However, there are still amazing cars that are worth adding to your collection. Among them is a two-year wonder, the 1978-1979 Dodge Lil Red Express.

It was dubbed “the last American hot rod” by its creator, Tom Hoover. It looks like a full-sized version of your favorite toy truck and for a short moment in history, it allegedly held the title of the fastest domestic vehicle.

Dodge took advantage of a cool loophole to bring Lil Red to market. For some reason, engines that had already been certified for road vehicles could be modified without requiring recertification. So engineers took one of their better V8s out of the parts bin, the 360 cubic-inch (5.9-liter) that was available on many Chryslers, Dodges, and Plymouths.

While many components came from the 1978 Police-spec 360, the V8 was basically hot-rodded: better valve springs, an aggressive camshaft, an 850-CFM ThermoQuad four-barrel carb, and dual-snorkel air cleaner. At the 11-minute mark in the video below, you can hear the 43-year-old truck firing up its unique exhaust layout.

The truck is for sale with Volo Auto Museum at $43,998. That sounds like a lot of money for an old truck that’s not very practical. But you have to remember these were amazing back in the day. In 1978, Car & Driver magazine named this the fastest American-built vehicle from 0 to 100 mph with a time of 19.9 seconds. It could do 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, and some say she’ll do 160 mph, but that sounds extreme for a brick-like vehicle with a truck chassis.

Officially rated at 225 horsepower at 3,800rpm, Lil Red could allegedly run the quarter-mile in the low 15-second range. The output was obviously way higher, since a base 1978 C3 Corvette needed over 16 seconds to complete the quarter-mile.

Lil Red Express value

The Lil Bed Express option added $1500 on top of the price of a D150 Flareside, which this is obviously based on. Although the color was pretty much set, Dodge offered many options on this $7,400 RWD pickup. This particular example is fitted with a red interior and bucket seats instead of a bench, which is a beautiful, rare combination.

Just over 2,000 units were made for 1978. Due to popular demand, Lil Red received its second and last model year. And while it did return with a performance-hampering catalytic converter and a milder cam, it still managed to sell more than 5,000 units.

Subtle differences set the two model years apart, the most notable of which are the four square headlights used for the second model year, which I actually prefer the look of.

The average of a Lil Red Express has gone over $31,000 in 2022. The all-time high was just set on Bring A Trailer by a 1978 model with 30k miles, which went for $39,000.



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