Classic cars for sale / Dodge /

Spectacular frame-off restoration, multiple show winner, A/C, buckets, tach

360 cubic inch V8 ENGINE

1979 Dodge Other Pickups Description:

The ‘70s were a fun and funky time. If you were there, perhaps you recall that entertainment was easier to find and simpler, if not as sophisticated. Fashion was all about pushing boundaries and as a result, you got things like the Dodge Li'l Red Express truck. Introduced in 1978 as a way to get people into an otherwise bland showroom, it was also Dodge’s way of sneaking some performance back onto the streets. Since pickups weren’t subject to the same strict emissions laws, engineers could slide a police-spec V8 under the hood and deliver traditional rear-wheel-drive performance in an era when it was sorely lacking. Add in the stepside bed, bright red paint, real wood trim, and those outrageous chrome exhaust stacks on the bed, and you had something that was the 1970s on wheels. Today it’s kitchy yet cool, a throwback that makes no apologies for being itself, and a cool piece of Mopar history. 


This gorgeous 1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express was subject to a cost-no-object frame-off restoration in the not-too-distant past, and as a result it’s virtually new in every possible way. The bright Canyon Red paint is so vivid that you almost need protective eyewear to look at it. It does not appear to have been beaten or abused (few were—these were expensive when new and with only 5118 being built, most folks treated them as something special. In their second—and final—year of production the Express trucks got the same updated front end with stacked rectangular headlights as the rest of the Adventurer lineup, but otherwise they remained the same. Paint quality is exceptional, probably better than new, and all the ornate gold decals with their old west motif have been accurately reproduced. It’s difficult to know whether the wood paneling on the bed is original or replacement, but it looks right and is as beautifully finished as the rest of the truck. The chrome has been refinished, including the 6-foot-6 exhaust stacks, and new chains secure the tailgate. They even replicated the little decal by the fuel filler cap describing the finish and maintenance of the wood panels. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a multiple award winner, including an AACA National First Prize in 2017. 


All Express trucks received black vinyl interiors, but buckets with a fold-down center armrest were one of the few available options (along with a tachometer and air conditioning, both of which you’ll find in this truck). Seat covers, door panels, carpets, and even the wood appliques are new and the gauges are so bright and crisp that they must have been rebuilt. Everything works, from the optional tach to the AM/FM radio to the little red switch to the left of the steering column that activates the cargo light. It’s probably worth noting that the paint on the doors and roof of the cab has apparently been wet sanded and buffed to the same high shine as the rest of the truck, suggesting a great deal of attention to detail. I think it’s unlikely you’ll find a nicer one of these trucks. 


Chrysler engineers put together a unique 360 cubic inch V8 for the Li'l Red Express, adding E-58 police-spec cylinder heads, an 850 CFM ThermoQuad 4-barrel carburetor, a dual snorkel air cleaner housing, a hotter camshaft, and genuine 2.5-inch dual exhaust. A catalytic converter was added in 1979 (though it has been deleted on this particular truck) but horsepower was unaffected, and this was still the fastest-accelerating vehicle Car & Driver tested from 0-100 MPH. In fact, at 225 horsepower, it was more powerful than the Mustang, Camaro, Trans-Am, and even the Corvette. For 1979, it was downright quick. Today, the rebuilt small block is torquey and in the lightweight truck still delivers the kind of fun you thought was extinct in 1979. For the most part this one is stock and beautifully detailed, including corporate turquoise paint on the block, chrome valve covers, and the distinctive dual-snorkel air cleaner. Almost everything under the hood was replaced during the restoration and it works like it should: quick starts, a nice idle, and smooth power at almost any speed. This is still a truck that’s as fun to drive as it looks.


Chrysler’s bulletproof TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission was the only choice, and it feeds a set of 3.55 gears that makes the most of the engine’s power while still making it a reasonable highway cruiser. As a frame-off restoration, the chassis is nicely detailed and you’ll note super clean floors, cab corners, and inner fenders. The dual exhaust system uses a crossover and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers to give it a fantastic V8 soundtrack and the suspension was tuned more for fun handling than load hauling. There’s a giant gas tank that seems appropriate for the post-gas crisis world and new shocks give it a smoother ride than you’d expect. Slotted aluminum wheels are the perfect ‘70s accent and carry fat 275/60/15 BFGoodrich T/A radials that fill the fenders perfectly.


If you were there, you get it. This was probably the first muscle truck and an unapologetic child of the ‘70s. They’re well on their way to being legitimate collectables and this is quite likely the finest one in the world. With just 6700 miles on the restoration, it’s sorted and ready to enjoy, while still being ready to drive on to any show field in the world. This is a fantastic truck!

Click here to see the start and run video!


Item location:Macedonia, Ohio, United States
Model:Other Pickups
Color:Canyon Red
Interior color:Black vinyl
Engine:360 cubic inch V8
Vehicle Title:Clean