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by John Wayne Yakimyshyn
I was born in 1957 in a small prairie town called Vegreville, Alberta; its population, at the time, was around three or four thousand, roughly half French and half Ukranian.
My parents had an International Harvestor business, then Massey-Ferguson; installing combine headers wasn’t as much fun for a teen as burning rubber, and as my dad had five sons, I guess he felt it also. The tables finally turned one day when he installed Thrush mufflers on his 1966 Pontiac Parissiene; soon after, the wheels began turning on making us a Chrysler/Plymouth and Dodge Truck dealer — N. Yakimyshyn Sales and Service, Ltd (both my parents’ names started with N).
In 1978, Dodge sent us a small pile of Li’l Red Express Truck brochures. No one in our small farming town could afford such a truck — nor wanted one, as it was step side and short box, why would a farmer buy that? It couldn’t haul hay or grain or anything, it was a city boys’ truck.
A kid I went to school with, from Ranfurly, went to Edmonton and bought one; most every day, he would drive slowly past our dealership, in low gear torquing the engine as he roared by. That got me to thinking, — why couldn’t I order cheaper versions of that short bed truck and make the Express myself?
The factory version came with a chromed air cleaner, high performance 360, big tires, and the Adventurer package; in 1979, I ordered red rear-wheel-drive short-box custom trucks with vinyl interiors, 318 four-barrel engines, and a radio. It was a lot less money.
I was 22 years old; I hand-made side oak boards from our local lumber yard. At the local parts store, they could order side pipes used on Corvettes, which were not expensive; and I could order two complete mufflers and then just put the screen together to make an exhaust stack. It was a bit less wide than the factory Express, but for the price no one was complaining.
One problem was the graphics — how do we get the tape stripe correct? I drove to Edmonton late at night, to Crosstown Motor City, which had a Li’l Red Express Truck on their lot. I had brought about 20 pieces of see-through white paper; at 2 am, I taped them over the door of the truck and traced every letter. At home, we had a store called McLoeds that happened to carry rolls of gold tape stripe; I traced all my letters onto the tape stripe, cut it all by hand, and installed it all by hand.
I called my creation The Little Express Truck, with its hand-made exhaust, hand-made oak wood, and hand-made graphics all for the low price of C$4,500. I don’t remember how many I made, but it was between two and ten — all red, except for a single brown one. That was my last personal truck, and it had the 360 engine. The photos were taken after it was used for herding cattle, for forty years.
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