Some say you can't go home again, but that doesn't keep people from trying anyway, especially when it comes to vintage pickups. Consider the enduring popularity of the Li'l Red Express, a truck that for one brief and shining moment slipped through the tightening bonds of federal regulations. When smog equipment began to strangle the engine outputs of cars, for a short period of time certain trucks enjoyed an exemption.
Quick to seize this opportunity, Dodge introduced a special-edition Ram called the Li'l Red Express. In addition to the big-rig exhaust stacks and rustic wood paneling, what set this truck apart was the unfettered powerplant under the hood. Thanks to a loophole in the emissions regulations, it wasn't saddled with catalytic converters. But what the Li'l Red Express did have was a special High-Performance 360ci V-8 with a four-barrel carb. Designated by the small-block engine code (EH1), it was a modified version of the 360 police engine (E58) producing 225 horses at 3,800 rpm. Also included in the package were Hemi-style mufflers with a crossover pipe breathing through dual chrome pipes protruding over the cab. It also had a special 727 transmission and 3.55:1 rearend.
All in all, the Li'l Red Express was a throwback to those politically incorrect days when gas cost pennies per gallon, and a smoky tailpipe was merely an annoyance, not a call to action by the Clear Air Act. With the success of the 1978 model (2,188 were made), production was increased to 5,118 for 1979, but with a few changes indicating that the party had peaked: a catalytic converter, unleaded gas, and 85-mph speedometer. Other revisions consisted of a flat hood and dual square headlights replacing the round ones, and 8-inch wheels at all four corners, instead of seven and eight inchers.
Well, there is no going back to those hazy days of youth, but we can go one better: the 2009 Dodge Red Xpress. While the spelling of the name is slightly revised, this Ram is a whole new animal. True, the big and bold chrome exhaust stacks shine brightly, looming over the cab and bed as on the original and there's a golden logo on the doors that boast this pickup's loud-and-proud personality, but 30 years of truck technology is blatantly obvious.
Taking a look under that brash persona and right in keeping with the legendary Mr. Norm, this truck features power. Modern-day Truckin' fans might not be familiar with that name, but muscle-car enthusiasts will undoubtedly recall the heyday of his Grand Spaulding Dodge dealership, back in the sizzlin' sixties. Located in the heart of Chicago, this Mecca of Mopar muscle epitomized the spirit and voice of high performance. Mr. Norm revolutionized how performance cars were sold, and created innovative vehicles such as the prototype 383 Dart GTS and the famed M-Code 440 Dart, both of which were later put into production by Chrysler.