Dodge's "Li'l Red Express," resurrected by Mr. Norm

In today’s depressed auto industry, maybe the best upper would be a high-performance pickup that revives the American rebel spirit of the 1978-79 Dodge Li'l Red Express Truck.

The Dodge Li'l Red Express Truck was an unusual factory hot rod that used regulatory loopholes in emissions laws for light trucks which killed muscle cars. Chrysler marketed it in its “Adult Toys” lineup that appealed to young four-wheel-drives who wanted high performance.

One of the most famous players from Dodge's high-performance vehicles is putting his mark on the new Dodge Ram 1500. Norm (aka Mr. Norm) Krause has joined with Larry Weiner at Performance West Group to create Mr. Norm's Red Xpress Truck, an updated version of the Li'l Red Express Truck.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, Mr. Norm ordered and sold the largest-displacement Mopars he could get at his Dodge dealership in Chicago. Before selling them, he tweaked their carburetors and running gear to squeeze maximum power from the huge pushrod motors, creating conversion legends like the GSS 426 Hemi and GSS 440 Dart.

To prove Li'l Red Express Truck high-performance, Mr. Norm's Red Xpress Truck will come standard with the Ram’s 380-horsepower, 403-pounds-feet-of-torque 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. It can also be upgraded with either a 6.1-liter SRT-8 Hemi V-8 crate motor, with about 450 hp, or Mr. Norm's signature 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) Gen III Hemi V-8, based on the 6.1-liter, with about 600 horsepower.

More standard equipment includes Red Xpress Truck body graphics, a leather interior and floor mats with “Red Xpress Truck” logos, plus 22-inch custom wheels and tires.

Even with all the powertrain tweaks, the Red Xpress is designed to fully comply with California's emissions standards, the toughest in the country. In other words, it's a clean ride.

Pricing is expected to start at about $3,599 for the base package. The pricing for the 5.7-liter V-8. version has not been announced yet.

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