Shown is the truck in 1966 at Lions Associated Drag Strip, Wilmington, California. Note th
Leave it up to a bunch of American automotive engineers sitting around on their lunch break to conjure up an experimental vehicle as delightfully bizarre and entertainingly original as the one and only Little Red Wagon. This vehicle was the acknowledged king of the exhibition wheelstanders.
Of course, irony played a very crucial role in the creation of the Wagon, as this '64 Dodge A-100 subcompact, 90-inch-wheelbase, light-duty pickup truck didn't start out life as a wheelie truck at all. It was intended to be a serious race car, or rather, a race truck.
The brainchildren behind Dodge Truck Special Equipment Division were John Collier and Jim Schaeffer, both employed at Chrysler Corporation's Mound Road and Nine Mile Road Engineering Shack. The Little Red Wagon became the forerunner of every exhibition wheelstander ever built within the past 40 years, and there have been quite a few of them.
Jay Howell, today a successful Certified Financial Planner living in Arlington, Texas, was one of the test pilots in the early days of the Little Red Wagon project. Howell fondly remembers that at inception, the Little Red Wagon started out as a unofficially funded back-burner project. The Little Red Wagon's carbureted 425hp, 426ci Hemi engine and TorqueFlite transmission were purchased through Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge's Marysville, Ohio, parts depot, using a corporate purchase order. The remainder of the fabrication work, such as the Little Red Wagon's 2x3-inch box-tube engine cradle and subframe assembly, which featured a U-bolted Dana 44 rear axle, was fabricated by Collier and Schaefer during their off hours. Had it not been for the fact that Dodge Public Relations Chief Frank Wylie learned of the truck's existence and assumed control of the project, the Little Red Wagon no doubt would have ultimately suffered the same demise most Motor City automotive R&D projects of this nature suffer - namely a one-way trip to the car crusher. However, Frank Wylie saw great public relations potential in the Little Red Wagon and ordered the project to be relocated to the Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge Woodward Avenue Garage, part of Chrysler Corporation's Highland Park, Michigan, facility, in mid-1964. There, the Dodge A-100 was initially placed in the hands of Chrysler test engineer and Ramchargers' team driver, Jim Thornton. However, with driving assignments conflicting (the Ramchargers' team actively match-raced almost every weekend), the Little Red Wagon was assigned to drag racer and engineer Dick Branstner, who had worked for the AMT Model Corporation, based in Troy, Michigan. Dick and Roger Lindamood of B&L Drag Racing had been running the Color Me Gone Dodge Super Stock car, which won Super Stock Eliminator title at the NHRA Nationals, Indianapolis, in 1964. That year, Dick decided to quit AMT, and open Dick Branstner Enterprises. He and Frank Wylie were business acquaintances, and that's how he was given control of the Little Red Wagon project. Right about the same time, Dick hired Howell as his shop foreman, and he was more or less made an official test driver.