In 2012, during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, Mopar quietly introduced an extraordinary concept pickup truck that paid homage to the iconic Li’l Red Express Truck from the late 1970s. This concept vehicle, the 2012 Mopar Li’l Red Express, captured the spirit of the original sport truck and incorporated modern enhancements to create a powerful and visually stunning tribute.
A Legendary Classic:
The Dodge Li’l Red Express pickup, renowned as one of the most recognizable classic trucks, played a significant role as one of the original “sport trucks.” In 1978, it gained fame for its impressive performance, being one of the fastest vehicles from 0 to 100 mph available in America at the time.
Equipped with a unique 5.9-liter “Express” V8 engine, originally designed for heavy-duty police work, the Li’l Red Express produced 225 horsepower. This was achieved through a combination of factors, including a free-flowing intake setup, the absence of a catalytic converter, and distinctive smoke stacks rising behind the cabin.
The 2012 Mopar Li’l Red Express Concept:
To recreate the magic of the original Li’l Red Express, Mopar incorporated aftermarket components from its catalog and custom additions to the 2012 concept truck. The exterior showcased a vibrant, Bright Red paint scheme with Gold accents, paying tribute to the classic design. Notable custom features included Katzkin leather seats, 22-inch Ram R/T wheels with Gold accents, and a Ram R/T Sport hood. Unlike the original trucks, the 2012 version featured rear exhaust stacks emerging from the pickup box, as opposed to the exterior of the bed.
Distinctive Design Elements:
Differentiating itself from the production model, the 2012 Mopar Li’l Red Express Concept featured several unique design elements. These included a Mopar power bulge hood, a black grille filler package, a front fascia with driving lights inspired by the Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT8’s LEDs, and a molded chin spoiler attached to the bottom of the front fascia. The sides of the truck boasted gold stripes on the fenders and bedsides, accompanied by a modern reinterpretation of the classic Li’l Red Express logo on both doors.
Adding to its allure, the show truck displayed wooden bedside trim pieces atop a polished, brushed aluminum bedside setup. The bed itself featured wooden inlays with brushed strips running its length, evoking a nostalgic touch. While the tailgate lacked wood trim, it prominently showcased the Ram logo with “Li’l Red Truck” proudly emblazoned across it, reminiscent of the original 1978 model.
A Missed Opportunity:
Despite its captivating design and impressive performance, the 2012 Mopar Li’l Red Express Concept was never released as a special edition truck. Ram enthusiasts yearned for unique offerings similar to the special edition trucks of the mid-2000s, including the Rumble Bee, Daytona, Night Runner, and HEMI® Express. Presently, Ram mainly offers special edition colors on existing models. However, many fans express their desire for more radical and distinctive vehicles like the Mopar Li’l Red Express Concept to make it into production on the current generation Ram 1500.
2012 Mopar Li’l Red Express Concept Image Gallery: