Both Hot Rod and Car and Driver magazines were given the keys to the "Little Red Truck" for evaluation purposes in their Nov. '77 issues. With the air induction duct work routed to the parking light lens cavities (lenses were positioned below the headlights), Hot Rod averaged 14.70 seconds at 93-plus mph in several quarter-mile passes. The quoted power figure was 225 hp at 4,000 rpm. Hot Rod stated a production version was virtually a done deal, but in case it wasn't, they gave the mailing address for Vehicle Product Planning Manager Dick Maxwell, who was an integral member of the "Warlock Project" development team. When Car and Driver had the "Little Red Truck," the duct work was routed to the relocated parking lamp lens location below the headlights and the production lamp lenses were reinstalled in the grille. C&D gathered together several vehicles that they felt could "double the double nickel" and go through some additional types of performance testing. The LRT was quickest from 0 to 100 mph in 19.9 seconds and fourth fastest at 118.8 mph. It tied for second best in the braking test and was the worst interior noise offender at an ear-splitting 94 decibels. The prototype was a smash success.
Next, several decisions were made concerning the finalized production version. First, the Product Planning Division wanted the truck to be more distinctive and more saleable. The decals and exterior wood accents were added and the name changed to Li'l Red (Express) Truck. The regular-production taillights, which incorporated back-up lights, were positioned high enough to allow for the installation of the rear bumper. The flip-top gas cap was retained (early-build trucks only), as were the 15x7 (RA3) and 15x8 (RA6) wheel sizes, but the front tires were changed from LR60s (WMH) to GR60x15 (WMG) in order to further accentuate the lowered front profile. The spare tire was deleted (Wx6) on the '78 Li'l Reds.
The engine received some radical revisions (no) thanks to the engineering department. Because the W-2 cylinder head wasn't a production piece, engineering felt it wouldn't pass emissions certification and durability reviews-even though covert testing proved the chief engineer wrong-so the standard 360 heads with 1.88-inch-diameter (intake) and 1.60-inch-diameter (exhaust) valves were bolted on. Leakproof valve-cover gaskets were used under the chrome-plated valve covers. A cast-iron intake replaced the aluminum piece and a Carter ThermoQuad with an 850-cfm rating was placed on top (regular E58 360 TQs were rated at 650 cfm). The viscous drive fan was retained and bolted to an E58 water pump. The camshaft was a 268-276-44 bumpstick and was '68 340 hardware (as were the H/D valvesprings, dampers, and pushrods). Compression was pegged at 8.4:1, while the E58 360 had an 8.0:1 squeeze. All LRTs used the 1974-early '75 360hp pistons (PN 3780071). Under a chrome air-cleaner lid, the ductwork led from the base to factory openings in the pan below the grille. Rated at 225 hp and 340 lbs.-ft. of torque, the special 360 was coded EH1. (Note: The '78 LRT W45 was unavailable for sale in California.*)
Standard equipment included the GH3 Utiline body style (115-inch wheelbase), front and rear chrome bumpers, and the YA1 Adventurer Package (Note: on the fender, the chrome-plated script bade said "Adventurer", while it said "Custom" on the prototype). There were also extra-cost-required options, such as ST1 power steering, LM2 AM/FM MX stereo radio, YF1 Convenience Package, LB2 oil pressure gauge, LF4 Tuff steering wheel, SW1 front antisway bar and YW4 6,100 pound gross vehicle weight package. The color was PY3442 Bright Canyon Red. Extra-cost optional equipment included air conditioning, tinted glass, Sure Grip rear, sliding back glass, cruise control, OSRV oversize mirrors, tachometer or clock, and a gauge package (battery charge and vacuum). The interiors consisted of either red bucket seats with center storage compartment or black or red bench seats.