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Dodge Lil Red Express Seven Moments That Basically Sum Up Your Dodge Lil Red Express Experience

The (deserved) acclaim we and others accept aggregate on the 702-horsepower 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is acceptable to atom some absorption in what has appear afore it. Yes, we apperceive there was the Chevrolet El Camino SS and GMC Syclone, but what about full-sized trucks? I’d abide that manufacturers aboriginal approved to advertise a big barter based on it actuality fast in 1978.

135083 / 1979 Dodge Lil’ Red Express – YouTube – dodge lil red express | dodge lil red express

Yes, of course, there were full-sized auto trucks with big engines, conspicuously my 1973 short-bed Chevrolet with a branch 454-cubic-inch V8 that I badly ambition I had back, admitting blight holes you could put your duke through, which I fixed, poorly, afore demography it to Earl Scheib (“I’ll acrylic any car, any color, for $89!”), the agnate of Maaco aback then. The agent was exhausted out with a compression arrangement of like 2:1. But that 454 brand on the front, and that bankrupt note—well account the $1,200 I got for it in a barter for a 1974 Datsun 260Z that vapor-locked every quarter-mile.

But I digress. For purposes of this story, let’s alpha with the Dodge Little Red Express, the name Little Red Wagon already taken several years beforehand by the wheel-standing Dodge D100 with a 426-cubic-inch Hemi.


The 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express Barter debuted in a apple area Dukes of Hazzard was aloof months away, area Smokey and the Bandit had been appear in 1977, and its sequels and Urban Cowboy were not far behind.  

America was actually in a Acceptable ‘Ol Boy mood, and Dodge absitively good’ ol boys with $8,000 or so would adore the ultimate redneck truck. So they pulled a D100 off the accumulation line, gave it a hot-rodded (225 appliance but it acquainted like more) 5.9-liter V8, a board axle bed floor, some copse on the alfresco of the bed, and best conspicuously accompanying chrome bankrupt endless that stood up angular aloof abaft the cab, like Jerry Reed’s 18-wheeler in “Smokey.” Attractive tires and auto completed the exoteric package. It alone came in rear-wheel-drive.

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And to cap it off, a huge gold decal on the ancillary proclaiming it to be “Lil’ Red Express Truck.”  And it was quick. Car and Driver claimed it was the fastest assembly agent awash in 1978 from 0 to 100 mph, and ran the quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds. That additionally should acquaint you a lot about the achievement car bazaar in 1978.

Dodge had bashful expectations for Lil’ Red, but it exhausted the predictions for the 1978 and ’79 archetypal years. I begin the countrification aloof too abundant to handle, and bought a red stepside Dodge 4×4 with big tires on branch white batten rims. It was the gas crisis period, so I got the 225-cubic inch slant-six. It got 11 mpg aback aggressive a mountain, active in traffic, on the highway, idling. Eleven mpg. There’s a assignment there.


1990-1994 Chevrolet SS 454 pickup: It actually wasn’t that altered from my 1973 454 truck, aloof packaged bigger and with a compression arrangement of 7.9:1. It fabricated 230 horsepower, afresh a bashful measurement, and 385 lb-ft of torque. Far added chaste than the Dodge, the Chevy had one Achilles Heel: It alone came with a three-speed automated transmission, and it was maxed out not continued afterwards you anesthetized 80 mph.

Inside and out, the SS 454 was a solid truck, with a lot of ability that actually wasn’t that adapted – abbreviate bed, regular-cab trucks are not abundant for hauling. “We accept built,” a Chevrolet controlling told me, “the world’s fastest, best abortive tow truck.” Harsh, but true.


1993-1995 Ford Lightning: I had aerial hopes for the Lightning, a abbreviate bed Ford F-150 from the SVT skunkworks, with its 352-cubic-inch Windsor V8, rated at 240 horsepower. They anatomy a little over 5,000 during its activity cycle, about bisected red, bisected of them black.

Under the anatomy was big balance bars, Monroe achievement shocks, stiffer springs, 17-inch aluminum auto and the acceptable ol’ Ford accompanying I-beam abeyance that was accustomed in commercials, but was never fabricated for aerial performance. 

I bethink the columnist barrage for this affair aback in the day. We were accustomed to booty our Lightnings on a continued slalom course, and on the two I drove, the ability council pump cavitated center through and I was larboard with chiral council until the pump and the aqueous bent up. Not fun, and it afflicted my time, but it acicular that the naturally-aspirated Lightning was fabricated to go appealing fast in a beeline band (15.5 abnormal in the quarter-mile), but not abundant else. 

First-gen Lightning resale amount charcoal college than you’d anticipate because it was a fun barter to drive, aloof not the hot rod it was declared to be.


1999-2004 Ford Lightning: Now we’re talking. This SVT Lightning actually blew me away, and as controlling editor of Car and Driver at the time of its addition in 1999, I affected the Lightning assimilate the cover, the aboriginal barter that had anytime been featured as the capital agent (Thus triggering a box abounding of “If I capital to apprehend Barter and Driver, I’d buy that magazine” letters.) Fortunately, the affair awash well, appropriately removing my close from the chopping block.

The Lightning adapted a cover. The aqueous curve of the afresh restyled abbreviate bed stepside barter lent itself altogether to the Lightning’s big 18-inch tires and wheels. And the supercharged 5.4-liter V8 fabricated every bit of the advertised 360 horsepower, and the four-speed automated was accurately akin to it. Handling was aloof excellent, it had a acceptable burden rating, and you could drive it circadian with no drama.

I collection it from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, appropriately agreement me in the shithouse with Ford, because while they admired the story, I allegedly agreed to not broadcast analysis numbers. Oops.

Anyway, the red, white, or atramentous Lightning was a aloft hit, and retains abundant resale amount today for apple-pie specimens. And it accepted you could accept it all with a full-sized truck.


2004-2006 Dodge SRT-10: It was inevitable, aloof like Fiat Chrysler is award new places to put the Hellcat motor, that Dodge in the 2004 archetypal year capital addition abode to put an almost-Viper-V10, and begin that it fit beneath the awning of a Dodge Ram. 

It was the best over-the-top barter congenital (well, until the TRX, and we’ll get to that in a moment). The 8.3-liter V10 had 500 appliance and was akin to an automated transmission. The abbreviate bed adaptation could do 0 to 60 mph in a still absolute admirable 4.9 seconds, and the Quad Cab adaptation was a little slower. 

Suspension acclimated some pieces from the able Ram, but were mostly near-aftermarket genitalia from Bilstein and added achievement companies. It all worked: The barter was abundant as a brick, but was lighter on its anxiety than you’d think.

One quick adventure about the SRT 10: At the columnist preview, we were presented with an autocross advance aboriginal on, and I never left. Dirt-tracking the big barter after hitting cones was so abundant fun.

Too much, in fact. I noticed that aloft the windshield, there was a readout of burning ammunition mileage, as able-bodied as boilerplate ammunition mileage. I austere it every run, and a Chrysler PR adumbrative and I took turns seeing who could get the everyman ammunition mileage. Which we did until a Dodge architect about yanked us from the truck. I anticipate I won with a run of 2.8 mpg. This was not that far off the absolute EPA breadth for the Quad Cab: 9 mpg city, 12 mpg highway.

The resale amount is absolute high. We’re acquainted of a excellent abbreviate bed SRT 10 that awash for $49,000.


2010-2020 Ford Raptor: Added affidavit that Ford knows the achievement barter market. The Raptor is in its additional generation, starting in 2017, and is powered by the 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, which has 450 horsepower, delivered through a 10-speed automatic. 

Plenty of power, but it isn’t a V8, which the aboriginal bearing of the Raptor was, originally a 5.4-liter, and afresh a 6.2. The V6 works aloof as well, but Raptor owners are the blazon who like loud exhausts, and the 3.5-liter doesn’t absolutely accommodate itself to that. 

Still, both ancestors of Raptors are a blast, on-road or off. Evil administration and a nice autogenous accomplish this a 18-carat success, as apparent by connected above-retail pricing.


2021 Ram TRX: While personally, I anticipate the administration is a little bourgeois compared to the Raptor, the TRX, which we’ve tested, is the best achievement barter anytime built. Abundant as an anvil, it is so overbuilt that if you collection it like a affable person, it should aftermost forever.

But it begs you to be an idiot, and booty it on ambagious paved roads, and appropriate off the end into to dupe or beach or rocks. The 702-horsepower supercharged Hellcat V8 is admirable in every application, including here.

This is the ultimate achievement truck. Until a added ultimate one comes along.  

Dodge Lil Red Express Seven Moments That Basically Sum Up Your Dodge Lil Red Express Experience – dodge lil red express
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