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February 9, 2009

CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot: The Dodge Warlock and Lil Red Express

By Jim Brennan


Welcome to the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. Were are going to step this up just a notch, and expand the definition of a Muscle Car to include trucks. Dodge was one of the first to flirt with the idea of producing a performance truck, and produced two of the best: the Dodge Warlock and the Lil Red Express.

The Dodge boys put out appearance packages (on both cars and trucks) several times through their history. An example of this came on the 1970 Adventurer Pickup with the DUDE package on the Sweptline body style. As the 1970′s progressed, the U.S. Government passed new emission legislation that was choking the performance out of the American Automakers and Dodge was no exception. For all intents and purposes, vehicles produced during this time were unexciting at best. During the 1950′s and 1960′s, we were used to the Automotive Industry producing distinctive vehicles that each manufacturer’s supporters would proudly purchase. After the oil embargo of 1973, the Big Four were scrambling to make anything the American public would buy. The American buying public still needed trucks so the manufacturers kept on pumping them out. But at that time, they were work vehicles and not very interesting.

In order to change this perception, Dodge decided to spruce up their truck line by putting something interesting out for public consumption with their Adult Toy Program. Beginning in 1976, Dodge put out the Warlock featuring fancy wheels, fat tires, bucket seats, authentic oak sideboards and unique customizing of both the interior and exterior. It was originally a show vehicle idea, and stirred up such interest that Dodge moved quickly to introduce it late in the 1976 model year as a limited production vehicle. Its popularity made it a regular production model in 1977. They offered four color choices, black, red, orange, or green. Black was the most common choice. The Warlock had gold pinstripe scrolling that outlined the wheel wells and body lines, along with the inside of the doors, the dash and around the instrument cluster.

Most engine choices were available, from the leaning tower of power (225 cid slant six), the 318 cid 2bbl or 4 bbl, the 360 cid 4 bbl, and the 400 cid (the replacement for the aging 383 cid). There has been discussion as to the availability of the 440 as an option. It was available in a 220hp version. Most likely a 2bbl and de-tuned from the factory, but I can’t confirm it was ever offered. Many people have transplanted the 440 in and it fits like a glove. The 426 Street Hemi never did make it to actual production trucks. You could have the A833 four speed manual or the A727 automatic transmission. The Warlock was available with either conventional two-wheel or fourĀ­ wheel drive. The D100 came with H70 x 15 raised white letter tires and the W100(four-wheel Power Wagon) was equipped with sporty but rugged looking 10 x 15 tires. Chrome plated running boards enhanced both models. Other optional equipment on Warlock models included five-spoke wheels, bucket seats, tinted glass, bright rear bumper, and power steering. All had black interiors accented by gold tape on the dash and the doors, and a “tuff” steering wheel.

The Warlock was equipped with an oak lined stepside bed that Dodge had available on all pickups from 1958 to 1981. The actual body panels and mechanicals were all standard D/W 100/150 production. The Dodge Warlock was produced from 1976 to 1979, even though the 1979 said Warlock II on the tailgate. Of the two trucks covered here, the Warlock was no where near as popular as the Lil Red Express.

Li’l Red Express Truck

Most everyone who knows anything about trucks has either heard of, seen one or owned one of the more famous Li’l Red Express Pickups. Released to limited production, it came in any color as long as it was RED! You had your choice of engines, provided it was the 360 Hi Performance. The Li’l Red Express, with it’s name emblazoned across the doors and tailgate and it’s trademark vertical exhaust stacks behind the cab. A sharp looking truck, and it was the fastest production vehicle made in America!

A little History; With the great success of Dodge Trucks Adult Toys well underway, Dodge marketing soon found its self giving consideration to another all new concept. Based on the Dodge Warlock this new truck would be designed as a high performance pickup, an all factory muscle truck aimed at pleasing the performance enthusiast. At its beginning the project was know as the “Red Warlock Project” but by the time Dodge Truck announced its release to the automotive press it had been labeled “the last American hot rod,” the hottest muscle truck to ever come out of Detroit.

Tom Hoover, Dick Maxwell and Dave Koffel, three of Chrysler’s top engineers working with the recently reorganized Product, Planning and Performance Group, began combining their efforts in developing the new truck. Starting with a basic short wheelbase step side pickup the team installed a prepared 360 cubic inch V8 and a modified A-727 transmission with a 2500 stall converter. Driving it’s power to the ground through LR-60X15 Good Year tires hooked to a 3.55:1 Sure Grip rear gear and breathing through twin 2-1/2″ vertical stacks, the Red Express proved to be the fastest American production vehicle build in 1978.

The Li’l Red, which was produced in 1978 and 1979, made a good impression on the buying public and has become a very popular truck even today.

CarDomain Members with Warlocks and Lil Red Express Trucks.
There are quite a few CarDomain Members who have one of these trucks, so let’s take a look.
First up, from New Jersey, here is Ryan O’s Lil Red Project Truck. Let’s hope he can get this classic truck back into shape!

Now a little something from Australia. Here is Greg’s Lil Red 360 Beast. He thinks it’s the only one in the land down under…

How about a Texas Lil Red Express? This is Scott’s Truck, and he says it does 1/4 mile in 13 seconds. Oh, and did I mention that it has a 440?

Here’s a Canadian ’79 Lil Red Express. Take a look at Bob’s beauty, and notice the front end was changed for the ’79 model year. Very nice.

Here’s a mint Lil Red Express from Philly. Take a look at Pat’s Pennsylvania Beaut. Real sharp!

OK What’s with all the Lil red Express Trucks? Take a look at this California Warlock Project. Kevin’s Dodge has only 95,000 miles, and we hope he finishes the truck soon.

So, once again I offer up the opportunity for you to comment on the latest additions to the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot. Can a Performance Truck be defined as a Muscle Car, or should it be left out in the cold? Debate, and leave your comments. I look forward to reading every one.


Nov 4, 2010 at 7:16 am

I have a 1978 Dodge Warlock and its a 4×4 318 board out to a 340 and i am going to make it an every day car… i love it!

The CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot Year End Wrap-Up: The Muscle Trucks of the Parking Lot – CarDomain Blog
Jan 3, 2010 at 1:27 am

[...] what are your favorite Muscle Truck of the Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot? – The Dodge Warlock and the Lil Red Express Pickup Trucks, the fastest vehicles available during the late 70’s! – The 1990-1993 Chevrolet [...]

May 3, 2009 at 11:19 am

I’ve always wanted one of these and I’m on the prowl for one. I’ve spotted one and its sitting in someones yard. I’m going to pick it up with a trade possibly

International trucks
Feb 19, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I’m coming to recognize the automotive mecca I grew up in as a child. There’s a guy just 4 blocks from my parent’s house who has one of these. By the late 80′s it was looking pretty beat up, he drove it regularly and it sat in the driveway all those harsh South Dakota winters. Some time in the last 10 or so years he remodeled the truck, and quit parking it in the driveway (he does have a double garage after all!). I saw it again the last time I was home, and it was looking very sweet. Though I do think he went with a more candy apple red rather than the original fire engine red.

Ping G10 Express 2500 Interior G10 | Tiresdirect
Feb 17, 2009 at 9:30 am

[...] CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot: The Dodge Warlock and … [...]

Feb 11, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Yes, as a Kid I always wanted one. I wish they came in 4×4. The stack pipes have come back in style with all the diesel runners.

Feb 11, 2009 at 12:59 pm

i saw one when i was really young across the street from my auntys house. if i only knew.. lol

Feb 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

there’s one of these trucks in my neighborhood, i never thought it was stock like that with the wood and pipes. i thought it was hand crafted by the guy lol

Feb 10, 2009 at 8:14 pm

No, but there should definitly be a muscle truck section.

Zach W
Feb 10, 2009 at 6:33 pm

i like em and im no dodge fan.

Feb 10, 2009 at 4:35 pm

If they only would have came in 4×4…

Feb 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I vividly remember these trucks being sold. A neighbor bought one, and he loved it! I don’t know if I would call it obscure. More like trick! Include the Muscletruck.

Feb 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how i can capitalize on this,and get a free SOTW for my 89′D-250

Feb 10, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I have seen alot of vehicles restored every thing from cars and trucks to bycicles. I think it is cool when some one takes something that is junk and makes it unique….So is it a muscle car,,,,no it is not,,,,is it cool,,,it is definatly unique. I remember these trucks when they were new and they were not popular. Who cares, I respect the people who like them and they aren’t wrong for liking them. It is what makes the car/truck culture great,,,, that there is something for every body…….

Feb 10, 2009 at 10:48 am

It is funny how history changes our views of this truck. I remember when it was out it not that popular. Even seen as redneck but I always loved it. My father had a baseline dodge pick up

ken hartel iii
Feb 10, 2009 at 7:48 am

YES,IM SURE A FEW OTHER TRUCKS LIKE THE LIGHNING AND SS ARE IN THE MIX SOMEWHERE.ohhh if you need parts for either of these, FADROCYS in twin lake michigan has 3 or 4 of each up there.YES a JUNKYARD with muscle “vehicles” in it.

Feb 10, 2009 at 7:11 am

Look…i got a regular old Dodge truck stake bed.And if anyone gave a #$%* about those trucks.Those guy’s that own them would have done something with them.I think the closest thing to an update for any of them pages is 2005 on average!? I you need to see a a stock surplus hauler check me out

Feb 9, 2009 at 10:25 pm

performance truck yes

Tony Cassa
Feb 9, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Obscure: Yes
Muscle Car: No

Comon Jim, let’s get honest here for a second. We know this isn’t a muscle car. It’s a nice, unique and memorable vehicle, but does deserve the title of a muscle car.

Feb 9, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Muscle Truck does not include Muscle Truck. Seperate animals…

Feb 9, 2009 at 8:53 pm

It would make a good Mexican mobile

Feb 9, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Performance is one thing, but its not a car

Feb 9, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Definitely agree with this choice, but if you’re going to include these trucks, then shouldn’t the Dodge D100s of the early ’60s get an honorable mention, too? After all, you could get a 426 Max Wedge in those trucks from the factory. :)

Feb 9, 2009 at 7:23 pm

100% yes the Warlocks and Lil Reds should be included in the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot! These muscle trucks brought the excitement back into trucks with the Adult Toy Program. Definitely my favorite automobiles ever produced.

Feb 9, 2009 at 6:27 pm

I knew that they were the fastest truck at the time, but the being the fastest American vehicle period just blew my mind. Great read!!

Feb 9, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Which one has the stacks removed? The top one’s a warlock, not a lil’ red express.

joshua miller
Feb 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm

i think they definitely count as a muscle car, and they are certainly obscure!

Feb 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Gotta love these trucks.

But I have no idea why the owner of that one would remove the factory smoke stack!

Feb 9, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I think they are cool but not my thing.

Feb 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm

love these trucks. Had no idea they were the fastest american production vehicles at that point. NUTZ!

Feb 9, 2009 at 3:14 pm

That has Got to be the coolest Dodge truck ive ever seen

Feb 9, 2009 at 4:31 am

Cool read, I’ve always loved these trucks.

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