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1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express Saved From the Crusher Gets First Wash in Decades

Junkyards are usually packed with mundane classic cars, but some hide a few rare gems. Not as rare and valuable as a 1960s Ferrari or a 1930s Bugatti, but I've seen hard-to-find muscle cars or 1950s American rigs emerge out of scrapyards, barely avoiding the crusher.
1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find 7 photos
1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express junkyard find
YouTube's "Junk Car Reviews" is one of those guys who got really lucky and scored a neat 1979 Dodge Li'l Red Express that was dumped for cheap at his friend's junkyard. And it's not a rusty truck that's been ruined beyond restoration. Nope, this Mopar is almost a full-blown survivor that's only a few parts and repairs away from becoming road-worthy.

How did that happen? Well, the story goes that this truck spent some time off the road until the owner passed away. When that happened, the sons decided to junk the hauler because they simply didn't want to deal with it. It's unclear whether they knew it was a rare Li'l Red Express or not, but they took it to the nearest junkyard and dropped it for a few hundred bucks.

The owner of the scrapyard immediately called our host to tell him about a junked truck that "doesn't look like it needs to be junked." And as soon as he got a pic and realized it was a Li'l Red Express, "Junk Car Reviews" rushed to buy it and take it home.

The hauler has had a somewhat rough life. While it doesn't look bad for a truck that was stored outside for some years, it did get a repaint at some point. The red hue appears to match the original paint that Dodge applied to the Li'l Red Express, but the truck was missing its gold decals from the doors and the tailgate.

But it's a true-blue Li'l Red Express, according to the, VIN and it still has the numbers-matching 360-cubic-inch (5.9-liter) V8 engine under the hood. The gearbox is also the original one, while the differential hasn't been checked yet. The trademark stacked exhaust pipes still stand proudly behind the cabin.

Does it still run? Well, the truck no longer has a gas tank, so the truck won't fire up until it gets a proper fuel system. But the engine appears to be in good condition. The body also looks decent, with very little rust on the lower body panels. The cabin, however, needs a new dashboard and a lot of work to fix the seats and the spray-painted door panels.

But this truck is definitely worth restoring, especially since Dodge made only a little more than 7,000 over two model years and many of them got lost on the way.

So what makes the Li'l Red Express special beyond the cool livery and the stacked exhausts? Well, the 360 V8 under the hood is a police-spec unit with performance upgrades that delivered 225 horsepower and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm) of torque when new.

It may not sound like a lot today, but this truck arrived at a time when performance cars were underpowered due to emission regulations. The Ford Mustang, for instance, came with only 139 horsepower on tap, while the Chevy Camaro was rated at 185 horsepower in the late 1970s. The Corvette was one of the very few vehicles that offered more than 200 horsepower at the time.

Because trucks were exempt from the emission regulations that plagued Malaise-era cars, Dodge was able to turn the Li'l Red Express into the fastest American production vehicle of 1978. It wasn't quicker than a Corvette from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph), but it was the fastest from 0 to 100 (161 kph) with a 19.9-second sprint.

But that's enough history for today. Hit the play button below to watch this very lucky Mopar hauler get its first wash in a very long time.

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