Rides from the Readers: 1979 Dodge Li’l Red Express

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Christopher Barry

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to us at the above email. 

Today’s featured car is a 1979 Dodge Lil’ Red Express. In 1978, these trucks rumbled onto roads free of catalytic converters, thanks to a loophole in emissions regulations. The hotted-up 360-cubic-inch V-8 made 225 hp and, at the time, was the fastest American vehicle to the 100-mph mark. The next (and final) year, Li’l Red Express trucks were forced to adopt catalytic converters, but apart from minor cosmetic tweaks to the front fascia, the trucks kept their swagger—and, of course, the exhaust stacks. Before gas prices spiked, ultimately killing the truck, Dodge sold nearly 5000.

This particular Li’l Red Express belongs to Christopher Barry, who had one of these potent haulers on his wish list ever since childhood. He discovered this one up on blocks in an iron worker’s back yard and, thanks to his persistence, eventually bought it and towed it home. After a tune-up for the engine, a repaint, and a fresh dose of chrome for the factory wheels, this Li’l Red Express was looking fine indeed. Finally, Barry and his wife both worked to stain new wood to spruce up the bed. “Our 19-year-old daughter is dying to drive it,” writes Barry. He’ll wait a little longer before handing over the keys, though. Maybe he knows the Li’l Red Express fever is catching …  

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