While the Dodge Lil Red Express was not strictly speaking a muscle car, since it was a truck, it did fit the formula, and in the late 70’s it fit it better than what was left of the muscle cars.
By the late 70’s, the emissions standards were getting more strict, but the manufacturers were having problems getting their engines to meet them and make enough power to get out of their own way. Chrysler saw a way to get around this by putting a higher performance 360 into a relatively lightweight two wheel drive short bed pickup.
Since it was a truck and not a car, it had less restrictive emissions standards to meet. I have heard it said that they found a hole in the emissions laws big enough to drive a truck through. And that is what they did.
Dodge engineers took the police E-58 police package 360, added the cam from the 1968 340, and some fresh air intake snorkels to get cooler air into the engine. Along with a 2,500 RPM stall converter in the 727 torqueflite created the fasted accelerating vehicle in available in 1978. It managed the quarter mile at about 15.7 seconds according to magazine tests. While that pales in comparison to pretty much any muscle car from 1970, I wouldn’t be surprised that in 1978 most cars took that long to get to 60.
It also set the stage for latter muscle trucks, such as the Chevy 454 SS, the Ford Lighting and the Dodge Ram SRT-10. It also gave performance enthusiasts a brief glimpse that performance was not completely dead. It also shows that creative people will always find a way to make something work if they want it bad enough. The main problem I have with them is that they were only available with an automatic.
I think it would be fun to make a clone of one, with a 408 stroker small block and a 4 speed. The real ones are rare enough and valuable enough, but then again, one may be able to do it without permanently altering it. I like pickups, and muscle cars. And combining the two would be fun. Maybe after I win the lottery…