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Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The Dodge Warlock and Li’l Red Express

Jim Brennan September 6, 2013 Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage 49 Comments

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Welcome to the Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. We are going to step this up just a notch, and expand the definition of a Muscle Car to include trucks. Dodge was one of the first to flirt with the idea of producing a performance truck, and produced two of the best: the Dodge Warlock and the Li’l Red Express.

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The Dodge boys put out appearance packages (on both cars and trucks) several times through their history. An example of this came on the 1970 Adventurer Pickup with the DUDE package on the Sweptline body style. As the 1970′s progressed, the U.S. Government passed new emission legislation that was choking the performance out of the American Automakers and Dodge was no exception. For all intents and purposes, vehicles produced during this time were unexciting at best. During the 1950′s and 1960′s, we were used to the Automotive Industry producing distinctive vehicles that each manufacturer’s supporters would proudly purchase. After the oil embargo of 1973, the Big Four were scrambling to make anything the American public would buy. The American buying public still needed trucks so the manufacturers kept on pumping them out. But at that time they were work vehicles and with rare exceptions, not very interesting.

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In order to change this perception, Dodge decided to spruce up their truck line by putting something interesting out for public consumption with their Adult Toy Program. Beginning in 1976, Dodge put out the Warlock featuring fancy wheels, fat tires, bucket seats, authentic oak sideboards and unique customizing of both the interior and exterior. It was originally a show vehicle idea, and stirred up such interest that Dodge moved quickly to introduce it late in the 1976 model year as a limited production vehicle. Its popularity made it a regular production model in 1977. They offered four color choices, black, red, orange, or green. Black was the most common choice. The Warlock had gold pinstripe scrolling that outlined the wheel wells and body lines, along with the inside of the doors, the dash and around the instrument cluster.

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Most engine choices were available, from the leaning tower of power (the 225 cid slant six), the 318 cid 2bbl or 4 bbl, the 360 cid 4 bbl, and the 400 cid (the replacement for the aging 383 cid). There has been discussion as to the availability of the 440 as an option. It was available in a 220hp version. Most likely a 2bbl and de-tuned from the factory, but I can’t confirm it was ever offered. Many people have transplanted the 440 in and it fits like a glove. The 426 Street Hemi never did make it to actual production trucks. You could have the A833 four speed manual or the A727 automatic transmission. The Warlock was available with either conventional two-wheel or four­-wheel drive. The D100 came with H70 x 15 raised white letter tires and the W100 (four-wheel Power Wagon) was equipped with sporty but rugged looking 10 x 15 tires. Chrome plated running boards enhanced both models. Other optional equipment on Warlock models included five-spoke wheels, bucket seats, tinted glass, bright rear bumper, and power steering. All had black interiors accented by gold tape on the dash and the doors, and a “tuff” steering wheel.

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The Warlock was equipped with an oak lined stepside bed that Dodge had available on all pickups from 1958 to 1981. The actual body panels and mechanicals were all standard D/W 100/150 production. The Dodge Warlock was produced from 1976 to 1979, even though the 1979 model received Warlock II decals on the doors and tailgate. Of the two trucks covered here, the Warlock was no where near as popular as the Li’l Red Express.

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Most everyone who knows anything about trucks has either heard of, seen one or owned one of the more famous Li’l Red Express Pickups. Released to limited production, it came in any color as long as it was RED! You had your choice of engines, provided it was the 360 Hi Performance V-8. The Li’l Red Express, with it’s name emblazoned across the doors and tailgate and it’s trademark vertical exhaust stacks behind the cab, it was a sharp looking truck. It was also the fastest production vehicle made in America at that time!

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A little History; With the great success of Dodge Trucks Adult Toys well underway, Dodge marketing was giving consideration to produce another all new concept. Based on the Dodge Warlock this new truck would be designed as a high performance pickup, an all factory muscle truck aimed at pleasing the performance enthusiast. At its beginning the project was know as the “Red Warlock Project” but by the time Dodge Truck announced its release to the automotive press it had been labeled “The Last American Hot Rod”, the hottest muscle truck to ever come out of Detroit.

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Tom Hoover, Dick Maxwell and Dave Koffel, three of Chrysler’s top engineers working with the recently reorganized Product, Planning and Performance Group, began combining their efforts in developing the new truck. Starting with a basic short wheelbase step side pickup the team installed a performance prepared 360 cubic inch V8 and a modified A-727 transmission with a 2500 stall converter. Driving it’s power to the ground through LR-60X15 Good Year tires hooked to a 3.55:1 Sure Grip rear end and breathing through twin 2-1/2″ vertical stacks, the Red Express proved to be the fastest American production vehicle built in 1978.

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.The Li’l Red, which was produced in 1978 and 1979, made a good impression on the buying public and has become a very popular truck even today. So, once again I offer up the opportunity for you to comment on the latest additions to the Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage. Can a Performance Truck be defined as a Muscle Car, or should it be left out in the cold? Debate, and leave your comments. I look forward to reading every one.

Do you think the Dodge Warlock and the Dodge L'il Red Express Trucks be granted membership into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

View Results

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • acarr260

    I've seen a few of the Lil Red Expresses at car shows and auctions as of late, and none of them are selling. My ex's step father had one with 26k miles (meticulously maintained with no blemishes), and he took it everywhere trying to sell it after he bought a '31 Ford coupe. People would stop and talk about it, but nobody ever seemed serious about buying it. I did get to drive it to a car show once, and I have to admit that it was pretty fun, and it would roast those tires.

    • OA5599

      Some people are asking ridiculous prices for them. I just looked on ebay and saw one asking $27K with aftermarket running boards and a sunroof.

      This isn't a 60's musclecar and shouldn't be priced like one. Its closest contemporary is a similar-vintage Corvette. Those seem to be $6k-10K on ebay. I can't remember the last time I saw a driver-quality LRE that had a reserve set below $14K. That kind of money can buy you a faster, more modern truck or car. I'd love to own the quickest vehicle of 1978, but by the same token. I'm well aware that this isn't 1978 anymore and other options are available and fighting for my limited funds.

  • JayP2112

    Ram offers an Express package for the base 1500 with a 395hp/410lbft 5.7 Hemi.
    MSRP is $26k but I've seen them as low as $18k.
    Not a Warlock, but still a lot of truck.

  • I love the Lil Red to death, but I blame it completely for this trend:

    <img src="; width=550>

    • It could be worse. I saw a diesel HD pickup with stacks like this once doing 85 or so on the highway:

      <img src=";

      • MVEilenstein

        There's a blue one driven by an Audi mechanic at the dealership next door. He's every bit the kind of driver you think he is.

      • Kris_01

        Those stacks are more for rollin' coal than making noise.

      • Serow

        There's someone at my high school that loves rollin' coal from his single stack. In the middle. I don't understand.

      • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

        Something like that passed me very unsafely coming out of a toll booth onto the onramp last evening.

  • OA5599

    Sidestepping the issue of having a truck as a musclecar, the LRE is extremely notorious and legendary, and therefore fails to be included in the obscure musclecar garage. It should be quite content with the company it has over in the factory hotrod garage.

    The Warlock is a tougher call. I think it does have the requisite level of obscurity. But an oak bed does not a muscle truck make, and the slant 6 base engine under the hood of some of them blackballs the entire fleet.

  • Around this time my local Dodge dealer was also selling tricked out long-wheelbase street vans with tandem rear axles. For a couple of years they could be viewed at the leading edge of the forecourt. I still wonder if that was a national program, or a local aftermarket conversion. Unfortunately, the Internet has failed to yield any photos.

    • Do you hate that? In '78 or '79, the local Toyota dealers got together on a "Mid-Am" optioned-out edition Celica that was white with blue stripes on the side. I have searched the interwebs in vain for a photo of one for years now. I did find exactly one reference to it, a forum post from a guy that had just bought a used one, but no photo or other info. I'm tempted to call a couple of local dealers and ask if they have archival info.

      • Another one lost to the sands of time was the Datsun "Z-Hawk", sold by Seattle area Datsun dealers. All Silver 280Zs with Seahawks graphics and a plaque bearing Jim Zorn's signature.

        • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

          ; Also look who's working the hoist 😀 <img src=";

          • Is somebody going racing in an EXP?

            • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

              Remember RacinG73? That's his lemons car, will race first time at Road America. I've 'helped' him a few weekends.

              • Did he retire his dirt track car?

                I've tried to drum up a LeMons team once or twice, but the races are generally so far from KC, and my friends' lives so full of family stuff, that it hasn't come off. Most of the budget racers I know run Solo or karts.

                • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

                  No, but lemons has taken a lot of his energy, time, and resources lately. He finally has a really good engine built too for the dirt track car, but I get the sense that he has the road coarse bug now. He was really clever, at first he raced with various good teams as a third or fourth driver and got a good handle on how lemons goes and what good teams do. We are pretty fortunate here with RA and Joliet so close, but still it was hard for him to get the third and fourth driver. It really helped that it was an EXP though in that regard, lemons is funny like that. My wife will not let me drive, it was a sore spot for a while cause of how little tact she had about her regards about my ability for driving, which yeah is not really there, but the tact part was hard.

                  Anyway, yesterday morning we finished playing a board game and then I left to help Racin again. I got a call on the cell phone asking if I could still turn around, that my oldest wanted to come and help too. So of course I turned right around. It really made my day. Thing is there, he seemed sort of bored to me, but afterward I heard him and his sister talking and it seemed he really did have a good time. He's just sort of hard to read, without any prodding he might get by with a hundred words a days, so I really happy we got to spend that time together we otherwise wouldn't. And he did not puke from all the junk food either.

                  • Count your blessings. Despite being a prolific poster here, I'm a person of few words. Sometimes I wish my children were too.

  • cruisintime

    I have been posting a 2 owner, 96,000 mile LRE on Craigslist for weeks asking $7500. no bites . Posted in both US and the Dominion with zero results. The market is just that flat.

  • CalculatedRisk

    There was a LRE in my neighborhood when I was young. The owners son was an A-hole hell bent on making my high school experience miserable. That punk inherited the truck when he got his license and stuck it in a ditch about 2 weeks later. Guess thats Karma for you, just a shame a nice truck had to suffer.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Lots of muscle. Not a car. Not much of a truck. Caught a fun ride in one over Raton Pass one night.

  • Obliged to post this again. This is the article that established the L-REX as the fastest in the land. I must have read it a hundred times.

    <img src=";

    • cuda340

      looks like a great article, can you upload a larger version or the whole article? thanks!

  • MVEilenstein

    Lil Red Express was arguably the last muscle car ever made.

  • the_priceman

    There was also the Midnight Express, only in black, with the 440, for one year only

    • dukeisduke

      Hopefully more enjoyable than being stuck in a Turkish prison. :-O

  • dukeisduke

    I used to see a mint LRE in the morning on the way to work, but I haven't seen it in several months.

  • I Think Not

    This is a tough one to call. While it drives the correct wheels, packs a V8, and makes the right noises, it can be out-performed by a modern Honda Accord 4-banger manuel.

    Not out-desired, mind. Just out-performed. The LRE gets my vote, but not the Warlock.

    • klaw_smutco

      Manuel who?

      • I Think Not

        Manuel Transmisión, of course!

        • ptschett

          I'm told his brother Otto is rather shiftless.

  • Hopman

    If I could find one with with a good body & bad motor, I'd be temped tp buy it & drop a modern hemi & six-speed in. Forget about Express, it'd be more like next day air!

  • Brian

    Dodge shrank them down in the late 80s. Somewhere around 90 were made, I believe.

    <img src=";

    • Fred

      I was working in a Dodge dealership during this time and tried really hard to have our manager order at least one of these, but the budget wouldn't allow it? These were being done by a conversion company at that time and took a 2wd, reg cab, Dakota, and tool off the box and put on their own fiberglass box and added the stacks. It looked good and I know it would have sold! If we would have ordered it with the 5.2L V-8 at that time it would have been an even hotter ride! Not sure of any production numbers as this wasn't something direct from Chrysler Corp. Good post!

  • tonyola

    I'd say the LRE counts without qualification. The Midnight Express is questionable.

  • Saturday , at a Scottsdale, AZ meet: …

  • Craig

    Dodge built the First sport/muscle truck in 1964,it was tagged the CSS,with an available 426 wedge with 365 Hp. Another first for MOPAR and their trucks,Chevy,not until 1990,Ford,1993.I think they were a little behind the curve.

  • demort71

    I have a 78 and also owned a 79 Lil Red Express. They do great burn outs! Also very noticeable any where they go!


      Hi my father gave me his 79 dodge midnite express an I don’t see nobody else that has one An I’m trying to get it back on the road but keeping it original as possible can you help me with some good leads it need a lot of work done

      • Daniel Keane

        LMC Truck & Dodgeconnection

  • Purple haze

    I have a little red express / warlock delete one of 3 with a 360 hp 2 375 hp and reverse transfer case 321 posit front and rear

  • Carguyhd

    How about adding the Midnight Express!

  • Mark Beerman

    I own a 79 warlock ( its brown with the gold decals)that needs a lot of work any recommendations where to find all and every part for this awesome truck

    • Daniel Keane

      Dodgeconnection & LMC Truck



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