When one simply isn't enough, two must be better. Michael Masters purchased his first Li'l Red Express in 1985, determined to make it a show-worthy restoration. one evening in 1995, he was approached at a car cruise near his home in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, and told about another Express truck nearby. What he found was a '79 Li'l Red working on a farm as a hay hauler and in dire need of a restoration. Counting his first experience as a steep learning curve, he resolved to start over on this Express.
Moving his first Li'l Red over in the garage, Michael wheeled his newest purchase inside. What parts he didn't already have from years of collecting from swap meets to Carlisle's Mopar Mecca, Michael had to hunt for between delivering the mail in his neighborhood. Only 5,118 Li'l Reds were produced in 1979, 2,930 more than in the introductory year before. Michael was up to the challenge, but found that his luck in some areas ran out in others.
The previous owner had spent a fair portion of effort in rebuilding the EH1 High Performance 360. Adding his own special touch to the final cosmetics, Michael found the four-barrel ThermoQuad consistently ran way too rich. Fearing a damaging carbon build-up, Michael pulled the carburetor on several occasions, rebuilding it, tuning it, and reinstalling it, only to meet with the same outcome. Frustrated and tired, Michael boxed the carb and bolted-on a Holley, since he always had great results with it in the past. Michael shrugged off the slight modification, since the '78 models came with a 4160 Holley 4-bbl.
Michael's attention to authenticity is seen in the details. Michael disassembled the Express by hand, ultimately pulling the body off to meticulously finish the chassis. On one occasion, much to her horror, Michael's wife found the fully disassembled Red Express scattered across the garage floor, and exclaimed to him, "he'd never be able put that thing back together!" Rising to the challenge, Michael shifted into high gear.
Along with the complete vehicle restoration, Michael Masters did all the woodworking in hi