Remember the 1970’s? They were nasty. Imagine a decade where you could buy a hot-rod Dodge pickup truck with semi-stack dual exhaust straight from the factory. That actually happened. Dodge called it the Little Red Express. It ran a high-performance Police Interceptor 360ci V8 and was designed to dance through loopholes in emissions regulations.
In the two years it was produced the Express earned a little-known place in automotive history as the original muscle truck. It also stands as the crowning achievement of Dodge’s ‘Adult Toys’ lineup.
Yes, Adult Toys were also a thing Dodge did back then. The debauchery started in 1970 with the Dodge Dude.
Dodge Dude (1970-1971)
Although it’s debatable whether or not the Dude is officially part of what would become the Adult Toys lineup in the late 70’s it was an obvious precursor to the dirty movement.
First introduced in August 1969, the Dodge Dude was a sport trim package available on the standard D100 (1/2 ton) Dodge pickup. The package consisted mainly of paint and tape upgrades versus performance goodies. Regardless, the Dude was a groundbreaking example of a production truck pushing its boundaries into muscle car territory, even if only to capture the image.
The dude package consisted of a black or white body-side ‘C’ stripe decal, a Dodge Dude decal on the box at the rear tail lights, tail light bezel trim and dog dish hub caps with colored rings. The roof color options were matched to that of the body stripe and were available in a textured paint option Dodge advertised as vinyl.
To complement the faux Landau top routine dude pickups could be ordered with Chrysler’s “High-Impact” paint color schemes. Eye-popping options previously reserved for the muscle car crowd included “Medium Burnt Orange,” “Sub-Lime Lime,” “Bright Yellow,” “Plum Crazy Purple,” “Bright Red,” and “Bright Turquoise.”
The Dude package also came with interior upgrades that were hot stuff for the day and even hotter for a pickup truck, such as air conditioning and bucket seats with center console. Engine options were standard carryovers from the regular D100 pickup; 225 slant 6, 318 small block V8 and the big block 338 V8.
While adequate for light duty truck duties the Farmer Joe engines were proof the Dude package was more about blurring utilitarian practicality with performance image than burning up drag strips. That isn’t to say there was much to keep Farmer Joe from sauntering into a MOPAR retailer and outfitting his Dude package D100 with enough aftermarket performance parts to make his cows’ milk curdle.
Of the roughly 73,000 ½ ton trucks Dodge built from 1970-1971 its estimated only 1,500 to 2,000 were sold as Dude models. The rarest of the Dude breed was rumored to be a Canadian variant known as the “The Fargo Top-Hat Special”, which unfortunately turned out to not exist at all.
However the origin of the legend is based in some semblance of truth. During the time the Dude was in production there were only two ways to buy a Chrysler truck in Canada. They were sold either by Chrysler-Plymouth as Fargo Trucks or Dodge trucks by Dodge-Desoto dealers. Canadian Chrysler-Plymouth dealerships did in fact sell extremely rare Fargo trucks equipped with the Dude package; Canadian Dudes if you will.
Adding to the mystique of their obscurity Dodge D100’s equipped with the Dude trim package were odd ducks even in the production truck scene of the day, proof that Chrysler was interested in seeing if the aftermarket hot-rodder image of the muscle car era might translate to trucks.
Chrysler was on to something. The Dude set the basis for what would soon evolve into the company’s Adult Toys truck and van packages of the late 1970’s, a time when emission regulations were doing their best to kill all that was fun in mainstream American motoring.
While it lasted the Adult Toys vision produced sought after and little known rarities of the post-muscle car washout, such as the Dodge Warlock pickup, Street Van and the crowning performance achievement of the movement: The Little Red Express.
Read on and get educated. These rigs were nasty in the best way: