Owner(s) : Bob Snyder

Year : 1979                            Make : Dodge                            Model : Lil Red Express

Color: Red                          

History of my Lil Red.....
One of the things I’ve notices in other club newsletters and at their websites is something often referred to as “Family Jewels.” This is really nothing more than a photo and short bio of the member and/or his/her ride. For my purposes, I’ll start off by telling the story of my truck – a ’79 Dodge Li’l Red Express – or at least what I know of its story.

I’ve been a huge fan of the LRT from its inception, having almost bought one new in the fall of 1979 from Jack Lowery Dodge. I remember vividly the test drive, heading east out of Jersey Shore, PA, towards Williamsport on US-220. The evening was cool, 50ish, and three of us sat across the front bucket/jump seat. I mashed the loud-pedal frequently on our 3-mile departure, being mildly impressed with the response. Yet, it wasn’t until we swung around and headed back west that things got really exciting. The best way to describe it was, “I thought the front wheels were going to lift off the ground and everything loose under the hood was about to be sucked down the carburetor.” I was hooked on the truck, but passed for the moment because to be in the residential construction trade in Central Pennsylvania in late 1979 was not exactly a good, financially speaking. In fact, it was just a few weeks later that I visited the USAF recruiter and went a completely different career direction.

Anyway, years passed and in the late 1990’s I began casually looking for an LRT. I wasn’t sure what I’d find or for how much, so I just kept checking out any leads I’d stumble across. About April 2000 I found an ad on the internet for a truck in Butte, Montana. Not exactly a hot spot for selling collectable classics, the advertised price was reasonable, so I made contact with the seller, Bob. A few things in the posted photos caught my attention, so I asked about what appeared to be body filler on the left, front fender. Bob confirmed it as such, but the truck was still very reasonable and rest free. Bob sent a stack of photos to help me get better acquainted with his offering, and I immediately asked how he’d like the deposit forwarded. Memorial Day weekend was set aside for the road trip from Omaha to Butte, with the plan being to drive my Dodge Neon out and drag it back behind the truck.

I couldn’t have been more pleased than to find my purchase was not just as good as expected, but much better. This one-owner had spent all but the first three years of its life tucked away in a garage, being started occasionally to keep the juices flowing. Even with the minor cosmetic damage, there was nowhere in the country I could buy a 54,000 mile pick-up truck, let alone something as interesting as an LRT for just $4,500.

The story that Bob left me with regarding the damage was that his son-in-law had borrowed the truck for a brief period of time a few years earlier and swiped the garage door frame one day, cracking and dislodging the body filler. Bob hadn’t even know it was there, but had wondered why the paint on that fender prematurely faded some years earlier, promoting a complete repaint and the purchase of two sets of factory decals, one of which was on the truck and the second handed to me as part of the purchase.

Bob also passed along that the truck had 1,300 miles on it when he bought it. Seems the dealer’s wife was using it as her driver and a marital dispute ended with the selling of the truck out from under her. It’s entirely believable that she had sideswiped something during her tenure at the wheel, racing around town and waking up the neighbors.

I’ve trusted Bob on and it can probably be confirmed by other LRT owners, it’s a little bit noisy in the cab when you’re running non-stock mufflers. Seems the trip from the dealership in Billings – about 3 hours away – ended up at the muffler shop where Bob parked the truck until real mufflers could be reinstalled. The dealer had pulled the catalytic converters and original mufflers and installed a set of glass packs. No doubt this was intended to draw more attention to the truck, as if it really needed to try harder to get noticed.

Back in Omaha and over the next several years, I pretty much drove my LRT as a truck, not worried about wear-and-tear because new paint, etc., was something I’d get to sooner or later. Delayed slightly by an un-scheduled engine rebuild in 2005, the summer of 2006 saw the body work, wood and paint get the once-over. Once again in 2008, engine problems caused a deviation from the restoration schedule. The only thing left is front suspension and interior trim and I’ll have it the way I want to keep it from there on.

I can’t complain: it gets 15 MPG on a good day, hauls most anything I need moved (it is, after all, a truck), shines up pretty good, makes the right noises and embarrasses most Mustang owners. Oh, and it still has the original Thermquad; gotta love those plastic carbs!


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