1979 Dodge Little Red Express: The Original Muscle Truck -- BIG MUSCLE

Uploaded by drive on 01.11.2012

MIKE MUSTO: Back in 1978 and 1979, performance numbers here
in the United States were at an all-time low.
There were things like the gas crisis, smog regulations, and,
well, let's face it, designers didn't know what to do with
There was, however, one shining star.
And that star came by way of a Dodge pickup truck that, well,
very few people know about.
We're very lucky today because behind me sits a 1979 Dodge
Little Red Express Truck.
It's the original muscle truck, and a truck that we've
been trying to find.
Now granted, it's a little bit out of our wheelhouse, but I
think it's something that you guys are truly going to enjoy.
MIKE MUSTO: With the aerodynamics of a barn door,
the looks of a child's play toy, and the performance
numbers that made it the fastest American vehicle
produced in the late 1970s, it's no surprise that Dodge's
Little Red Express Truck is not only one of my favorite
vehicles of all time but owner Jay Hendrickson's, as well.
JAY HENDRICKSON: It's a 1979 Dodge
Little Red Express Truck.
One of 5,188, somewhere in that general neighborhood.
She's got a high-performance 360 motor that was made for
police cars with a little bit hotter heads and a little bit
better cams.
Got a dual snorkel intake, 727 transmission.
This is almost exactly the way it came from the dealer.
I've done a few little extra things to it, but not enough
to aggravate a purest.
So I'm trying to keep it as stock as possible.
MIKE MUSTO: These trucks turned out to be a glaring
middle finger to the smog regulations of the 1970s, and
were the one true loophole in the
American performance market.
Plus, since there were under 7,400 produced in their
two-year life cycle, the Little Reds are not only
considered to be the world's first true muscle truck, but
some of the rarest and coolest trucks ever
to come out of Detroit.
MIKE MUSTO: So the 1979 Dodge Little Red Express Truck.
The fastest American-made production
vehicle in the year 1979.
Faster than a Trans Am.
Faster than a Corvette.
Faster even than a 1979 Ferrari 308.
Now, picture this, picture pulling up to that line.
Who the hell is this guy?
I've got some redneck in a plaid shirt sitting next to
me, and he wants to go.
Well, guess what?
Light turns green, you put your right foot to the floor,
light up the rear tires, and you're gone.
MIKE MUSTO: Power-wise, it's got 225 horsepower and 290
pound feet of torque.
That's not terrible even by standards back then, but it
was good enough for it to go out and run a 15-second
quarter-mile and top out at about 128 miles an hour.
Granted again not the fastest thing, but enough brunt that
when you put your foot on it--
MIKE MUSTO: --it does go.
And it makes you laugh.
You know why?
Because it shouldn't.
There's nothing about an Adventurer pickup truck that's
remotely exciting.
Now remember that this truck was designed
back in the late 1970s.
Designers had to resort to gimmicks to
sell cars and trucks.
What that meant was they put stickers on everything.
The Trans Am, for instance, had a screaming
chicken on the hood.
The AMX Hornet had this crazy hornet.
And the Mustang Cobra, well, I guess it had a
Cobra on the hood.
Now, contrary to popular belief--
and this is for you Honda guys--
stickers don't make your car go faster, a motor does.
Now that's where the guys at Dodge got it right.
You see, the Little Red Express found a loophole.
It got around all the smog equipment that plagued the
other cars.
That's why designers and engineers were able to give it
a 360-cubic-inch small block out of the police interceptor
from Chrysler.
Aw, look at that.
MIKE MUSTO: You know what the beauty about
stuff like this is?
It's simple.
Look under this engine bay and what do you see?
You've got a nice small block V8, plug wires that you can
get to, a power steering pump that you can get to,
alternator, carburetor.
Everything's right in front of you.
You can check it.
You know how things work.
If for some reason this truck stopped working, or what have
you, nine times out of ten something fell off.
And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be able to throw
up this hood, look underneath and be like,
oh there's a problem.
These engine bays were uncluttered and simple to
understand, which was a theme that flowed throughout the
Little Red.
Looking around this truck, there's no mistaking that you
are actually driving a vehicle that came from a work truck.
I mean the dash is very utilitarian.
There's no radio.
You have a big speedometer, alternator, fuel gauge,
temperature gauge.
No air conditioning.
Things that were just standard for pickup trucks.
The fact that the truck is so dressed up is a bonus for
those who wanted a fun truck that they could race on
weekends, but then haul a four by eight sheet of plywood with
during the week when they had to go to work.
MIKE MUSTO: So let's talk about the
handling of this thing.
What's it like to drive?
Well, if you settle down and go into pimp stance, not bad.
It's a nice cruiser.
The suspension is soggy enough that it soaks everything up.
It's actually a really nice compliant ride, and I can see
why people bought these things.
You pull up to any place today and people are going to look
at this thing and they're going to think it's a kid car.
They're going to look at it and go, well, why did you put
the stacks on it?
Why did you put the stickers on it?
And what they don't realize is, this thing is bone stock,
bone stock from Dodge.
Stickers, side pipes, wood paneling, slotted wheels, 360,
bad ass bone stock, man.

JAY HENDRICKSON: If you google Little Red Express Truck,
there's a lot of information online now.
There is a club based in Newport News, Virginia, run by
Skip Gibbs.
If you actually own one and don't belong to the club, they
put out a great newsletter.
And that would be the way to go, if you're interested in
being an owner or are an owner.
MIKE MUSTO: The Dodge Little Red Express guys who own these
trucks and know about these trucks, love them.
And there's a reason.
It's an oddball.
It really is.
You've got to remember, this was the original muscle truck,
before the Chevy 454SS pickup.
Before the Ram SRT-10, and before the
Ford Lightning even.
This was it.
This was the go-fast truck that enthusiasts went to when
they wanted to go down the quarter mile, when they want
to go light to light racing, and when they want to smoke
the tires just for [BLEEP]
and giggles.
MIKE MUSTO: I bet you I could offer a dollar to every
16-year-old with an iPhone whose ever heard of this
truck, and I bet you I'd never break a 20.
You see that's what we want to do here on "Big Muscle." We
want to show you guys cars that you
might have never seen.
I'm sure there are some of you guys out there in Europe and
the Ukraine and China and everything else, you guys
don't know what this truck is.
You have to realize, Americans, we were the
inventors of the muscle car man.
We were the big block superheroes.
So stuff like this, models that were made for only one or
two years, are very, very significant as far as the
development of everything that came after it.
The '78 and '79 Little Red.
Don't forget it, because, hell, you gotta know your
history if you're going to get into these cars.
JAY HENDRICKSON: I am attracted to unusual things
and especially unusual vehicles.
So the fact there are so few of these is a turn on right at
the get-go.
It's just a nice package.
It's a factory vehicle, it's stock, but
it's also a hot rod.
And it's got plenty of power.
I'm kind of a low-key person to begin with, so this is a
way of expressing myself, I guess.
MIKE MUSTO: So this week on "Big Muscle," we learned one,
sometimes stock doesn't suck.
Two, I get to wear plaid when I drive trucks.
And three, if you owned a Ferrari back in 1979, this
Little Red Express Truck was your worst nightmare.
The other thing we learned is that sometimes you don't need
a muscle car to have a muscle car.
So if you've got a car or truck that you want to see
featured on "Big Muscle," drop us a line
And, as always, tune in next week for more
"Big Muscle" on Drive.
MIKE MUSTO: I mean now, honestly, with this truck here
did you really think we weren't going
to do a burn out?

MIKE MUSTO: Glove box open.
Gotta love old cars where the [BLEEP]
randomly falls off.

It's character.
It gives it soul.
No, stupid, it means it's broken.