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...
Along with the complete vehicle restoration, Michael Masters did all the woodworking in his home woodshop.
Doing nearly everything himself in his home garage, Michael admitted that besides the flogging carburetor, his greatest obstacle was chasing the miles of underdash wires trailing a faulty oil-pressure gauge. In addition to that, it was steady, tenacious work that got his truck back together.
He did send the body out for paint, wanting the required professional touch that he knew he couldn't get in a small two-car residential garage. John Murphy of Lewisburg, Kentucky, was brought onto the project to give the rig the final touch.
Leaving one last task for himself, Michael, a woodworking hobbyist, hand-cut, shaped, stained, and polished every piece of wood lining the Utiline's bed. Michael is especially proud of the labor it required, and regrets not a minute of it. Figuring he was on a roll, Michael went ahead and carved himself a one-twelfth scale replica of his Li'L Red to show off. pleased with the outcome of the three-year resto, he sold his first Li'l Red Express in 2000. This icon of Dodge Trucks' "Adult Toys Line" is evidence that lots of determination, will, and elbow grease are enough to bring one of these "Last American Hot Rods" back to life.
|Owner: ||Michael Masters, Flemingsburg, Kentucky|
|Body: ||'79 Li'l Red Express Truck Adventurer 150|
|Engine: ||EH1 High Performance 360, 4-bbl. Holley Dual, snorkel fresh air cleaner, E-58 iron cylinder heads|
|Transmission: ||A-727 Loadflight, 2,500 stall torque converter|
|Rearend: ||3.55:1 posi.|
|Wheels/Tires: ||15x8-inch chrome five-slot disc road wheels, Goodyear LR60x15 |
Since Michael is a purist,...
Since Michael is a purist, the engine was reassembled following a stock path. We gotta admit, it looks good this way.