Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. We 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 Li’l 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 with rare exceptions, 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 (the 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 four-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 model received Warlock II decals on the doors and tailgate. Of the two trucks covered here, the Warlock was no where near as popular as the Li’l Red Express.
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 V-8. 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, it was a sharp looking truck. It was also the fastest production vehicle made in America at that time!
A little History; With the great success of Dodge Trucks Adult Toys well underway, Dodge marketing was giving consideration to produce 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 performance 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 end and breathing through twin 2-1/2″ vertical stacks, the Red Express proved to be the fastest American production vehicle built 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. So, once again I offer up the opportunity for you to comment on the latest additions to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage. 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.
Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!