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Mr. Norm's Red XPress Truck - Click above for high-res image gallery

There weren't too many exciting sports cars built in the late Seventies thanks to increasingly stringent emissions requirements, but a few performance vehicles did manage to get produced despite the horsepower-strangling legislation. One of those vehicles was the L'il Red Express Truck built by Dodge from 1978-1979. Easily recognized by its signature exhaust stacks protruding prominently from each side of the bed, the Little Red Truck featured a 360ci V8 and could run the 1/4 mile in 14.7 seconds. That doesn't seem particularly quick by today's standards, but L'il Red was actually the fastest American-produced vehicle built in 1978.

As a tribute to the original performance truck, legendary Mopar hot rodder Norm Kraus, better known as "Mr. Norm," has put together his own aftermarket package that will turn a 2009+ Dodge Ram into the L'il Red Express' bigger, more powerful grandson. Granted, the new version doesn't necessarily have the visual impact of the original, but some concessions were made to keep the the basic package relatively affordable. To convert the bed into a stepside and mount the exhaust on the outside, for instance, would have cost seriously big bucks.

So – how does the new one compare? Our friend Mike Levine over at PickupTrucks.com has the answer. Levine managed to wrangle a drive in Mr. Norm's Red Xpress Truck, as well as an all-original '79 with just 16k on the odometer. As you can imagine, Levine found that trucks have come a long way in thirty years, but he still appreciated the unique details that went the original. Check out his comparison here, or browse through the high-res gallery below.



[Source: PickupTrucks.com]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 18 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I prefer the original.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My dad had the original way back when I was a teenager. He bought it new (one of the few new vehicles I recall him buying) and absolutely loved. It was one of the first vehicles I ever drove when I got my license and also the first one I ever turned the rear wheels into a cloud of smoke with. The back end was so light you could light up the rears VERY easily. All in all though it was a pretty comfortable truck to drive as it wasn't huge like the modern knock-off above. It was also extremely reliable as I don't ever recall him having to do a single thing to it, other than refinish the wood once every 4 or 5 years, until he sold it years later.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I remember the Dodge pickups of this era quite well, and while they were never really #1 at anything, the L'il Red Express always stood out.
      • 5 Years Ago
      B-

      Without the stepside bed and wood treatment, it just doesn;t look very retro.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Uh, they only have the paint color in common. I'll paint my Audi black and call it a reinterpretation of KITT.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Doesn't look any different than the scores of trucks running around up here in Alaska with stacked exhaust coming up from the inside of their bed.

      Modern interpretation fail.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Deja vu... did I already read this once today?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It was on the blog about year ago as well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice hood! Nice wheels! Dodge got the nicest looking pickup. However, the exhaust is ridicules, instead should just do a side exhaust under the bed. This is suppose to a modern redo right ?
      Hagbard Celine
      • 5 Years Ago
      "...could run the 1/4 mile in 14.7 seconds. That doesn't seem particularly quick by today's standards, but L'il Red was actually the fastest American-produced vehicle built in 1978."

      Was it the quickest or the fastest? I'm inclined to believe that while it may have been the quickest, it certainly wasn't the fastest. More likely, since this blogger had already used the word quick, he just thought he'd use fast instead.
      • 5 Years Ago
      At least get the wheels right...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ditto. A weak decal job with fake pipes....Meh...
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Taglane,
        Yeah but, golden wheels?
        • 5 Years Ago
        They're pretty!1!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thank you! In this day of every tuner out there being able to billet, machine, or at least design spec wheels, much less everyone coming out with retro-style wheels (Mustang, Cragar SS/American Racings, Rallye Steelies on the Camaro, et al), why has nobody come up with a properly done retro 5 slot? I had 'em on my old '78 Cherokee (factory fitted), and with proper 33 inch BFG ATs, they looked pretty sweet. Bring back the 5 slot!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Nobody said it was supposed to be a carbon copy. Just a "modern interpretation."
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