By 1977, sport trucks built for more than basic utilitarian tasks began to emerge from Detroit. For Chrysler, the entry was the new Dodge Warlock, the immediate predecessor to the 'Lil Red Express. These trucks were marketed from the beginning as adult toys rather than work machinery, built to impress onlookers as they cruised the boulevards of downtown America. They were offered in such hues as Sunfire Metallic, Black Sunfire Metallic, Bright Red, and Medium Green; although the standard engine was the 225 Slant Six, the displacement could also be 318, 360, 400, or even the 440 cubic inches based on an "X" in the appropriate order form box.
The Warlock seen here is owned by Terry Schmeltzle of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and is a second-year production version. A couple years ago, while looking for a 'Lil Red Truck to serve as a tow vehicle for his Pro Street '79 pickup, Terry found out about this '78 Warlock. He admits it was a far cry from its current appearance, painted Burgundy with the doors badly rusted and the wooden bed floor rotting away. When he opened the hood and saw the 440 engine, he asked who had installed it, not realizing it was a factory-available.
The owner replied, "Dodge did," and then showed Terry the buildsheet. At the time, Terry also had no idea that Dodge only produced 74 D-150 pickups with a 440 under the bonnet that year. While Warlocks were painted black, this one was Bright Canyon Red. As these things came to light, the plans for this one becoming just a tow vehicle were replaced by a program to restore the rare machine.
Ron Delanski of Boyertown, Pennsylvania, whipped the body back into shape and a wood kit by Bruce Horkey's Wood Products was installed in the bed. The interior came from Legendary Auto Interiors and was installed by Terry with the help of Chuck Sago of the Body Ranch in Emmaus. Another seldom-seen feature in his truck is the original AM/FM/CB radio, which was an above-cost option.
When Terry bought the truck, it had a nervous condition-it didn't run on all eight cylinders. He took the engine to Bud Friend's NAPA, also in Emmaus, where it was disassembled. The problem was found: a crack in the intake created a lean condition, which in turn cracked the head at the cylinder fed by that intake runner. The still-safe block was opened up .030-inches and filled with TRW replacement pistons on the stock crankshaft and rods, while another pair of heads were given the requisite reconditioning. A Mopar Performance camshaft was slid into the center, while an Edelbrock Performer supports the 650 Holley Spreadbore carburetor. Behind this, the factory-installed 727 still sends the ponies to the 3.55-gear-filled Dana rear.
The Warlock truck got special gold wheels measuring 15x7 inches, which Terry has shod with BFGoodrich rubber. So, today, even if Terry doesn't tow his other truck with this Warlock as often as he planned to, you can bet it's still working a spell on its cruise night subjects. Like the ads used to say-it's voodoo, baby.