Bob Osborn's Lil' Red Express is the rarer '78 version, one of just 2,188 built in the spr
Tom Hoover used the EPA's emissions-rules loopholes to help get a hot-rodded 360 into the
Gold door graphics and side/rear striping were included with the YH6 Little Red Express op
Adventurer trim option was mandatory with the Little Red Express, which gave you a choice
You had to do some serious looking for high-performance factory-built Mopars after the early '70s.
Year by year, the factory-built high performance choices diminished: First the 426 Hemi and 440 Six Pack/Six Barrel were gone, then any high-compression V8s, then the 340, then the E-Bodies, then the A-Bodies . . . until you were left with two choices: Cop cars or trucks.
Back then, there were a couple of loopholes in the EPA's vehicle-emission regulations. Light trucks were exempted from the stricter ones that necessitated a catalytic converter if their Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) rating was above 6,000 pounds. Also, once an engine "family" was certified by the EPA as emission-regs-compliant, a small number of modifications (from 6 to 9) were permitted without having to do the 50,000-mile certification testing all over again.
Tom Hoover, legendary Mopar powertrain engineer, saw that these loopholes were big enough to drive a truck through. Specifically, Dodge's smallest and lightest D-Series pickup, the short-wheelbase D-150 Utiline step-sider, whose GVW rating was--surprise--6,050 pounds.
Hoover came up with the idea of adding a hot-rodded 360 to the D-150, one with Ma Mopar's W-2 cylinder heads, straight from the Direct Connection parts catalog. He also added goodies like the cam from the 727-equipped '68 340, cold-air induction, a beefed-up 727, plus chrome exhaust stacks behind the cab.
Though the W-2 heads didn't make it into production, most everything that Hoover and The Dodge Boys spec'd for it did--and the Lil Red Express package (option code YH6) joined Dodge Trucks' lineup of "Adult Toys"--which also included the Warlock and Macho Power Wagon pickups and B-Series "Street Van"--in April of '78.
It sold well--2,118 for the partial model year of 1978. For 1979, the GVW loophole was closed and catalytic converters were mandated, but the beefed-up 360 and the other good stuff stayed. That included oak bed and tailgate trim and an oak bed floor, gold striping and door graphics, Bright Canyon Red Sunfire Metallic paint--all of which boosted a fully-loaded Little Red Express sticker price to the $8,300-plus range back then.
Then . . . it was all over. Thanks to the oil shock that hit in the spring and summer of 1979 that doubled gas prices (sending them over $1.00/gallon for the first time), light-truck sales fell off a cliff. 5,118 '79 Little Red Express trucks were made by Dodge for 1979, with the later-production examples sitting on dealers unsold for months.
As a result of that sales slump, the Little Red Express, and all of Dodge Trucks' "Adult Toys," were gone after 1979.
But not forgotten.
Bob Osborn remembered it very well. So well that, when he saw an ad in a local paper for a '78 while on vacation in Florida, he checked it out--then bought it and drove it home to Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.
Cold-air hoses lead from radiator yoke to dual-snorkel air cleaner. On prototype, they wer
Oak bed floor, side panels and tailgate trim, with chrome fasteners, were standard with th
Hot-rodded-at-factory 360 could light up huge (for then) 60-series radials and create maxi
All Bob Osborn had to do was buff out the original paint, replace the bumpers and door han
All it needed was a replacement set of chrome bumpers and door handles, new Legendary seat covers and carpets, and some buffing-out of the original paint. That's it.
Bob's truck had just 64,000 original miles on it when we photographed it, but it looked like it had just rolled off a Dodge dealer's lot.
Eventually, folks recognized the Little Red Express as one of Ma Mopar's highlights, and you see them in quantity at the big events like Chryslers at Carlisle and the Mopar Nationals. Places where you may see the guy (Tom Hoover) who saw the loophole big enough to drive this truck through!
'78 Dodge D-150 "Little Red Express" pickup truck
Owned by Bob Osborn, Ft. Thomas, Kentucky
|'78 Little Red Express production:||2,188|
|'79 Little Red Express production:||5,118|
|Total (both years):||7,306|
Mopar Power Engine: Modified 360-inch V-8 with the following good stuff added on: 850 cfm Carter Thermo-Quad four-barrel carburetor and E58 cop-car 360 intake; windage tray; roller timing chain and sprockets; OEM '68 340 automatic cam with red stripe valvesprings and OEM '68 340 damper, plus standard valve retainers that replaced the regular-production-for-'78 valve rotators; cold air intake at the radiator yoke ahead of a dual-snorkel air cleaner, chrome air cleaner lid and valve covers, 2 1/2-inch exhaust stacks with Street Hemi mufflers and heat shields. Transmission: Modified production 727 Torqueflite, with production 440 TF valvebody and 2,500 stall converter Rear end: Production 9 1/4-inch rear end with Sure-Grip differential and 3.55:1 rear gears.
Sure Grip Suspension: Production D-150 with rear stabilizer bar (included in YH6 option) Brakes: Power front disc/rear drums Wheels: Chrome slotted wheels, 15x7-inch (front)/15x8-inch (rear) wearing 60-series RWL radial-ply tires
High Impact Cab/Bed: Production 1978 D-Series Standard Cab and short (6-foot long) Utiline bed on 115-inch-wheelbase D-150 chassis. Bed has original oak floor and tailgate/side trim with chrome bolts. Only parts replaced were bumpers and door handles--all other exterior pieces are original. Paint: Original Bright Canyon Red Sunfire Metallic, with original gold stripes and door graphics. Interior: Reproduction Legendary seat covers and carpets, otherwise original.